Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 166 / JULY 1994 / PAGE 108

Places Rated Almanac, Infonation. (software that rates states and cities by quality of life) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Scott A. May

Like it or not, we live in an age of information overkill. Thanks to personal computers and the so-called information superhighway, we now have easier access to more data than most people can possibly absorb. As a result, a new cottage industry has popped up that creates software that sorts, compiles, and presents portions of this data in a manner we can understand. Two excellent examples are Places Rated Almanac from Paramount Publishing and InfoNation from Software Marketing. Both products attempt to rate states and major metropolitan areas by quality of life. Whether you're looking to relocate your family, expand your business, or simply choose an ideal vacation spot, these programs are the next best thing to being there.

Paramount's title, based on the best-selling book by David Savageau and Richard Boyer, ranks 343 North American metro areas in ten basic categories: cost of living, healthcare, climate, job growth, housing, transportation, education, crime, the arts, and recreation, The Windows-based program displays the information using a variety of graphs, charts, maps, and text boxes. The program's main strengths are its clean presentation-style graphics and its easily understood interface. See at a glance where your favorite cities rate in the ten categories, or select multiple locations for direct side-by-side comparisons. You can also customize a random search function, rating the importance of each category, to produce a list of ideal locations.

InfoNation takes a more academic approach to the ratings game, so what little this DOS-based program lacks in presentation, it makes up for with remarkable depth. The designers utilized more than 40 government and private sources for their data, in most cases based on 1993 reports. In all, the product ranks 50 states and 303 metro areas on more than 600 topics. You can display data in a number of ways. Quick Rank compares cities or states on a single topic. The results can be viewed as a list, a statistical map, or a bar chart. You can also examine single states or metro areas by any combination of available topics, from birth rates and building starts to nearly every imaginable statistical dissection of the populace. Other notable features include excellent userdefined rank and filter settings, used by the program's search function to pinpoint your special interests. Also included are hi-res topographic satellite maps, featuring four levels of magnification, and custom overlays showing state lines, cities, national parks, rivers, lakes, and so on. Maps can be exported in PCX file format, and most other information can be output to a printer.


Both programs are perfect for education, business marketing, and other areas concerned with social and economic research.

Although ratings of quality of life fluctuate almost daily and category totals and percentages rapidly change, each product--particularly InfoNation--provides and overall analysis accurate enough to use in forecasting trends and making projections.

The products tackle similar topics, but from wildly different angles. If you're looking for fast, generalized rankings and attractive presentation-style graphics, Places Rated Almanac is sure to please. For those who are after more detailed resource material, though, InfoNation is the better choice.


InfoNation Software Marketing (602) 893-3377 $39.95

Circle Reader Service Number 447

Places Rated Almanac Paramount Publishing (800) 428-5331 $39.95

Circle Reader Service Number 448