How well do you know your local area? Probably well enough to get around as long as you do not venture too far a field in an attempt to explore the history and natural delights of this country. One way to expand your geographical knowledge could be to make use of a mapping product such as Anquet Maps. If, like me until recently, you are unaware of Anquet Technology Ltd and its product range, I should explain that this company is a British software development house that specialises in mapping software for the leisure market.
The company's product portfolio includes Natural Park series; Road Map & Atlases; plus Ordinance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer Maps covering specific areas. This review is based on this latter type of map product covering London and available on CD-ROM.
Installation of the product involves two distinct stages. First the Anquet application software is loaded and this is followed by a short pause which might encourage you to think the process has been completed but this is not the case. A dialogue box will eventually appear suggesting the location for the map data. Once this has been installed then you can start the Anquet software. You will be required to unlock the map data by the entry of a 15-character license code printed on the CD. This action will need to be completed within 30 days for continued use. Until the software is unlocked you will be reminded of this task every time you start the product.
Four different styles of maps are available with the chosen map type being displayed on the right of the program's interface. You can switch between maps based on Ordinance Survey 1:25,000; GB Map; and Road Map views plus Anquet Photo Maps that give a birds-eye view of the selected location. The quality of these is generally good although I felt the birds-eye view was rather lacking in recognisable detail. The software will retain the last used setting between sessions.
There are also options to have a split screen view of two map types showing different locations and even a 3D aspect. However this latter option is only really applicable with countryside or rural locations when landscape contours will be more relevant than the numerous roads making up urban areas. I was disappointed with this particular viewing option.
Zoom capabilities are available with the various map styles, ranging from 10% to 600%, selected from a drop-down pick list or by clicking on tool bar icons. Locations can be selected by clicking on a point on the map; entering a place name; or a grid reference if it is known. You can scroll around the map using the appropriate cursor keys or by moving the mouse.
When creating a route in a user-definable colour, you draw direct on to a map using a right mouse click to start and stop the process and left mouse clicks to indicate any changes in direction and way points. Information regarding the route will be displayed in table format along with data that includes the overall distance and estimated time. When using the product's 3D mode to visualise the route there is an option to travel over the route using an automatic flyover facility.
The data produced by this application, whether maps and/or routes, can be downloaded to a Pocket PC or Smart phone. With the appropriate equipment the Anquet data can be used with a GPS device. Maps can be printed but not in the 3D mode.
While you can use Anquet Maps to plan a route, it is not route planning software. Rather it provides the means to work out your own routes using digital maps. It will be more useful for those interested in planning regular walking trips as against car transport. Maps in this series have been priced at £80 each and require a system running Windows 2000/XP with 256MB RAM and a DirectX 9 compatible video card.
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