Microsoft Streets and Trips 2011 Edition

Microsoft Streets and Trips 2011 Edition extends the company's long tradition as a software navigation provider. Since the was released in September 2009, the year-accurate release of the 2011 edition ($40, as of March 30, 2011) means that you'll have significantly fresher maps for your upcoming spring and summer travel. In fact, updated maps are the only new feature of Streets and Trips 2011. Microsoft claims to have added coverage of 88,000 more miles of navigable roads. Beyond that, the user interface and navigation experience remain virtually unchanged from S&T 2010.

Streets and Trips lets you do your trip planning entirely from your laptop. And coupled with a USB GPS receiver, it can provide turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions. But as I discovered when I reviewed Streets & Trips 2010 last year, even my Asus netbook was much too large to perch on my dashboard. However, RV owners who have console real estate to spare may love the laptop/GPS combination.

Like the 2009 product, Streets and Trips 2011 excels at trip planning. For multiple-destination itineraries, it can optimize the order of the stops--a feature useful to both vacationers and business travelers. The turn-by-turn list of directions provides a cumulative time and distance estimate for each directed turn. You can schedule rest stops and--if you configure the fuel management options--estimate the cost of your trip and schedule refueling stops. The software's array of print options can provide you with printed output to supplement your on-the-fly navigation. And when connected to the Internet, you can update the maps with road construction information.

Though Streets and Trips 2011 includes 1.9 million points of interest, that number shrinks in comparison to the () POIs that many popular dedicated GPS navigators contain. The POI interface lets you search categories within a user-specified radius around a point on the map, at specific destinations on your trip, along the entire route, or around a specific driving direction. On an Internet-connected computer, right-clicking a selected POI yields a Bing map view. I was disappointed in both the size and the occasional staleness of the POI database, however. In my local search tests, I found listings for a train station that was taken out of service five years ago and for a restaurant that has had two successors in the past few years.

The software continues to work with most NMEA 2.0-compliant GPS receivers--so if you already have such a receiver from a previous version, you needn't purchase the $70 software/GPS bundle.

For some people, the convenience of using a single app to plan itineraries may make Streets and Trips 2011 worth the $40 price. The newer maps alone don't make an especially compelling case for upgrading, especially since $40 is about what you'd spend to update the maps on a .