Map Program Comparison

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Map Program Comparison

Every year or so I go shopping for a computer map program that is as good as DeLorme Street Atlas v6 from 1998, and every year I am disappointed.

I want a program that shows "minor" roads even at wide zoom levels. I don't want a road to be invisible until I zoom in so far I can't see where it goes.

Most map programs have a "detail level" setting, but the programmers are the ones deciding how much "most detail" really means. I want a knob that goes to eleven: I want to ask for more detail than the programmers believed would be reasonable.

Try this experiment: set your map program to the highest level of detail, make its map display window 320x240 pixels (the sizes of these images), center it on Happy Camp, California, and zoom out until you can first see the Pacific on the left side. This should get you a scale of about 90 miles across the 320-pixel window width. How many roads do you see? Is there any combination of settings that gets you anywhere close to Street Atlas 6? If so, I want to hear about it.

DeLorme Street Atlas 6 from 1998
The gold standard!
Garmin MapSource 6.10.2

Google Maps:


As you can see, there's no comparison. And this happens in rural areas all over the country: by the time MapSource (or even the newer Street Atlas releases) will show the minor roads, you're zoomed in so tight you can't see where any of them actually goes.

DeLorme Street Atlas 2009 has a feature that lets you scale the display by up to 50%, which helps some. It means you can see four times the real estate at a given zoom/detail level. But when you do that, the road marker icons and place names all get smaller too, making them unreadable. You can just about see that the roads exist, but you can't read the place names. Not good enough. What I really want is a program that lets me decide the level of detail to show at every zoom level, including detail levels that the vendor decided would be too much. They should let me decide how much is too much!

Does your map program do any better than MapSource? Center in on Happy Camp, zoom out until you can just see the ocean in an area just 320 pixels across (the size of these images), and take a screen shot. (Press Alt-PrtSc to put a screen shot on the clipboard, then paste it into a drawing program and save it.). Send me the screen shot along with your map program name and version number, plus any special settings you used. Thanks!


This page was last edited August 08, 2009.