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Earthmate: The Amateur Cartographer's Tool Kit

Delorme's $90 Earthmate GPS LT 20 with Street Atlas 2006 USA offers far more mapping tools than Streets & Trips does. For example, you can wander with a handheld GPS unit and then download your tracks (GPS-recorded logs of your route) and waypoints into a Street Atlas map. The kit also supports voice command on a PC equipped with a microphone. I could tell the software to zoom in or out on a map; pan right, left, up, or down; and much more.

A well-organized and nicely labeled tab system makes for rapid and intuitive movement between mapping tasks. Its interface is simpler overall than that of Streets & Trips, but using some of the more advanced features can be a challenge, as can saving map files and routes.

Entering businesses and addresses for searching was painless, but the results of my search for local Starbucks and Peet's Coffee shops were a mixed bag: Peet's appeared, but half the Starbucks in town were missing.

There's also a MapShare option to post your maps and directions online. As with Streets & Trips, however, in-car navigation was disappointing: The GPS track was disconcertingly off to the side of the road, and it seemed to recalculate directions (when I missed a turn) slowly.

Bottom line: Buy Earthmate GPS LT 20 with Street Atlas 2006 USA if you love playing with maps, or if you don't want to shell out the cash for one of the portable GPS navigators we reviewed.

Tracey Capen is a freelance writer and carpenter in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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