Street Atlas USA and MapExpert. (geographic information systems) (Software Review) (Compute's Getting Started with Multimedia Applications) (Evaluation)
by David English
Given the immense storage capacity of CD-ROM, there are bound to be some really worthwhile ways to use it. That's certainly true of two extraordinary CD-ROMs called Street Atlas USA and MapExpert (Delorme Mapping, Lower Main Street, P.O. Box 298, Freeport, Maine 04032; 207-865-1234; $169 for Street Atlas USA and $495 for MapExpert).
Both applications use the U.S. Census Bureau's TIGER files to map every street in the United States. But while the census data normally takes up 14 gigabytes, Delorme Mapping has compressed the indexed maps to just 450 megabytes--small enough to fit on a single CD-ROM.
Street Atlas USA lets you quickly shift through a series of magnifications from a satellite view of the entire country to a bird's eye view of an individual street. Bodies of water, airports, highways, railroad tracks, and other major landmarks are color coded or listed by name--just as they would be on a familiar road map. But unlike a road map, you can search out an area by ZIP code, telephone number (area code plus three-digit exchange), or street name (you have to be relatively close before you can perform a street search).
The whole thing is so easy to use that before long you'll find yourself exploring all of your old haunts and confidently navigating roads and neighborhoods you barely remember.
Because Street Atlas USA doesn't let you directly annotate or print, you'll need to use the Windows Clipboard and a paint program to alter and print your maps. MapExpert (which includes Street Atlas USA) addresses this shortcoming by adding the ability to print high-quality color or black-and-white maps using color, laser, or dot-matrix printers.
You can even create wall-sized maps by printing out page-length segments and taping them together. In addition, MapExpert provides a full set of tools that let you annotate, correct, and personalize your maps. Any changes you make are saved with the map but stored in a separate file so the original is left intact.
If you travel a lot or just want to explore the streets where you live, Street Atlas USA and MapExpert are the first two places you should look. They're the perfect way to cruise the nation's roads without having to leave the comfort of your chair.