Quo Vadis from Marcosoft

by: Dale DePriest

The Marcosoft product comes in several flavors for different Users. It includes a view program that can also be used to show basic gps navigaton data and a set of maps. The version 2.0 product was selected by Magellan for inclusion in the US version of the GPS Companion product (called Map Companion) but the base product also offers maps for Europe. For Europe the maps often include multiple copies in different languages which accounts for the large size of the download file. Since the basic operation of the products are the same I have focused on just one version for this review. The Map_companion product is reviewed with a short section on the standard product.

Quo Vadis

The Marcosoft line of QuoVadis programs include version 1.8 which a good product featuring 1995 Tiger maps of the complete US and version 2.1, their premier product, which features 1998 Tiger maps as well as maps of Europe. It is available in qrey scale as well as color versions. The newest product is version 3.0 which features year 2000 Tiger maps and maps of Europe.

Once you purchase the product you will be given access to the map section of the web site where you can download the maps. There is no graphic interface to aid in Map selection which is organized by states and counties. If you know the city you want but not the county you want you will need to do some research to get what you want, perhaps a paper map. You may need a paper map anyway to help you decide what to download. There is generally a county map and several city maps. Since a large city can have many smaller cities all around it you may need to consult a paper map to determine exactly what to load to avoid holes in your map. The easiest method is to download either the full county with all the cites or the full state. Note some states, like California, are very large and I had a bit of trouble getting it to download.

QuoVadis has also released maps for much of Europe. Check their web site for a list of the maps which are purchaseable by country.

This review was originally oriented toward the Map Companion product which is map by marcosoft and was the premier offering, but the new 3.0 product has many features that are not in the Map Companion product I reviewed. Here is a list of some of them with comments.

GPS support has been expaned to include: Any NMEA compliant gps that operates at 4800 baud, the Delorme Earthmate, the Delorme Tripmate, the Magellan GPS companion, the Streetfinder gps, and the Navman. Many of these products will also work using the NMEA setting but custom initialization will often result in faster initial lock so it is better to pick the custom setting.

The big news in 3.0 is the support of Markers. You can now save locations which are shown as user selectable icons on the maps. The edit marker screen is shown at the left lets you add notes. You can export these locations to the memopad, and they can be the target for navigation although navigation is still limited to a direction vector. Almost as big a news is a custom setting that support track up mode on the screen display. Some users prefer to have North always at the top of the screen but many other users would like to think about upcoming turns as simple left or right as they view the screen. The new trackup feature permits the display to rotate the map as needed dynamically to always keep the car headed up. In addition, as car speed increases, the location will be offset to provide more information of what is ahead of you. This works flawlessly. The image at the right shows the new map screen. The 4 cardinal points are shown on the edges and if you have track up then they will move around the screen as needed providing a rough compass to orient the map. The screen is showing the car traveling up I-405 (small arrow inside the red circle) at a pretty good speed based on the fact that the arrow is shoved down from center but the navigation arrow (large arrowhead outside the red circle) is indicating that the destination is off to the right. It looks like the the driver will need to take the Wilshire exit to head for the destination.

Other features include, setting lat/lon locations directly which can be the target for navigation. These can be updated based on your true position when you finally arrive (click on lat/lon location in the edit marker screen to bring up a form that lets you click on gps location). If you find the map is off you can click a correction.

Most of the other features are described in the Map Companion review.

Map Companion

The map companion product provides full mapping support for the U.S. and a real time gps update. It also provides minimal search and navigation support. This product is not made by Magellan but is purchased from Marcosoft. They release a similar program under the name Quo Vadis 2.0 except that the Magellan version has been modified slightly. Here is a list of the visible changes.

Other than these changes it seems to be the same as the standard Marcosoft vesion 2.0 product and as noted 2.1 which has the exact same functionality as Map Companion. A complete set of maps for the U.S. is included on the cdrom. There is a missing map (Santa Clara county) from the original cdrom that I received but this is fixed in the cdrom 1.1 version. These maps are based on Tiger 1998 data. An upgrade is available from the Marcosoft web site for GPS Companion customers to the new Tiger 2000 data.

The best feature of this product is the scrolling performance of the map. While tracking using the gps companion it readily kept the screen centered on the current position while scrolling the map underneath. This rivaled a stand alone mapping gps in performance and is better than any other palm mapping program I have tested. And it does it with vector maps that are scrollable, searchable, and zoomable. In addition it provide seamless integration from one map to an adjacent one.

The program provides the ability to initialize the gps when you move to a new location several hundred miles away. If you already used Nav Companion to do this then it need not be re-done here. The initialize screen has another feature, you can click on a button and when a fix has been obtained the program will automatically set your palm clock to the correct time, a nice touch. It also has limited ability to display gps data so that you don't have to switch to Nav companion to find out the speed, heading, or location information if you don't want to. A nice feature of Map Companion is that the text information is much larger than it is in Nav companion which makes it easier to read in a vehicle. You can also view the satellite status and several other pieces of gps data. Once you have selected the gps display screens you can use the page up/down buttons to move between pages just like Nav Companion. Unfortunately if you are viewing maps then selecting the GPS Screens themselves needs careful attention with a stylus so it is not suitable to use while driving. However, you probably wouldn't pick his program for its gps screens since Nav Companion does this better, unless you would like to look at your speed in mph and kph at the same time or need the larger display. You will want to use it for its maps.

You will need to select the maps you want to load from the cdrom and then sync them into the palm. (For the standard QuoVadis program you will download them from the web site.) You can have as many maps as the palm will hold. You must determine by county and city name which ones you want. It helps to have an atlas handy if you are not familiar with the area you want maps for since you can have holes in your map if you forget some small city. For unincorporated areas you need the county map but then you have to load the full county. The map sizes are determined by the size of the city or county and can run from under a Kilobyte to almost a Meg. If would be nice if the larger ones were split since you might want to load part of one of them as Palm memory is usually scarce. The maps are based on the Tiger database version 1998 and are not as accurate as some maps that come from other sources. I found that I could usually figure out which street I was on based on the map but the gps would typically track a route that paralleled the street but did not stay exactly on it. In addition the roads are simplified with some turns left out or not accurately represented. As I traveled along highway 85 and 87 in San Jose, California I found actual breaks in the freeway where it was totally missing. I have not seen that problem with other maps I have tested. It was a little disconcerting to watch the gps indicator travel right off the end of the road. I later learned that this problem was caused by the fact that I did not have the Santa Clara County map loaded. When several cities are close together (or a city with its suburbs) it is highly likely that you will need to load the county map to provide the short segments of roads between the cities. This makes it even more difficult to fit the maps you need into the available memory on a Palm.

Once you have your maps loaded you can use them in Map Companion. You load your beginning map and then use the zoom keys (palm page up and page down keys) to zoom in on the data. These are the only hard coded keys in the program with all other functions performed using the stylus and menus. Detail is automatically adjusted as you zoom in. Road names rotate to match the road which is nice. Zoom is fast and so is panning. Panning can be done automatically by the gps or if you prefer, or are not using a gps you can do it manually. Here we come to an heavily used stylus. Touch the stylus to a point on the screen and it will pan to center. Hold is a little longer on a spot and it will bring up a menu. The menu include choices that will let you zoom in or out at that point, will let you center that point on the screen, set that point at a target for navigation, or change the stylus mode to perform the Identify function (described later). However if you slip while holding the stylus on the screen you will start moving the display. Moving the stylus on the screen scrolls the display and will continue to do so as long as the stylus touches the screen. The direction it moves in counter intuitive for me but some may prefer it. I wish there was a preference setting for the direction it takes off when you drag it. The length of the movement determines the speed of the scrolling. This all works really well while you are stationary. In a moving car it can be a bit tricky to get exactly what you want. Zooming can also be done with graffiti by signing an 'I' for in and an 'O' for out.

The Identify function is enabled from the stylus menu. If you select this option then clicking on a point on the screen will not cause the screen to pan. Instead a click on a street or other object will tell you the name of the street or object in a small window at the top of the screen. This can be repeated as often as needed or just left in this mode. Clicking on that small window will make it disappear and revert the meaning of a stylus click to centering again. Note that this feature is not currently a part of the standard Quo Vadis product.

The map display is always North up. Track up would have been a nice option. There are some poi's, points of interest, shown on the map with icons to indicate the type of poi, and they can also be the target for navigation but you can't add your own. Nor can you import any of the waypoints you set up in Nav companion. These are very independent programs and do not use any of the data from the other program. Navigation to a point is supported but no routes. You select the place you want to go to and a circle appears with a small line somewhere on the edge of the circle. This line points in the general direction of the place you want to go to. It is up to you to figure out how to get there.

The program does support a find command and you can use to find poi's, streets, and intersections. You can stroke in a numbered address but it is ignored. You must name the map that you want to search so this means you must already know what town it is in. Since a street can be really long the unit will show a street as multiple matches. You can view the locations it found one at a time until you decide that the location you are interested in is found. You can then make that a target for navigation or perhaps you just wanted to know where it was. A navigation target is shown on the left by the X while the icon showing your position has been replaced by a smaller one with a line on it pointing toward the target. POI's can be searched by icon type such as airport, or shopping mall. You can key in the selection or pick the entry from a list or do a combination of both. Each street can have only one name so you will have to guess which one the computer knows about. Generally highways will be known by number rather than name.

While we are talking about names it is important to mention that they move around on the roads at the same angle at the road so that they are always displayed. This is a nice feature except for two circumstances. One, on winding mountain roads the name can be hard to read since the name winds too, and secondly the numbered hiways move the number underneath the circle marking your current position making it difficult or impossbile to read if you have the screen set to keep you current location in the center.

The program includes help for each screen and some data that isn't even in the supplied documentation such has how to display the name of a street that isn't named on the map at your zoom setting.

Conclusion

This program works well, performs well, and does the job it is designed to do. What more can you ask for? Well you can always ask for more but then thats why there is always a next release! Don't expect it to provide long distance maps for your thousand mile trip but if you need detail when you get there then this may just be the one you want. The 3.0 release has darker for major roads on the map as an option.
Revision
  • 01/6/28 initial revision that included Quo Vadis and Map Companion.
  • 01/11/12 revised to include Quo Vadis 2.1 and information of European maps
  • 01/12/01 added upgrade data for year 2000 maps.
  • 02/04/08 added 3.0 support.