Garmin’s nRoute
Version 2.4
Updated November 29, 2005
Review By: Sam Penrod 

May 2009-- Garmin tells us that nRoute has been replaced by Garmin Mobile PC-- but that software requires a fee.
However, in our archives you can download nRoute here...

2.76 was the last version released, but all versions are posted.


nRoute is Garmin’s newest software program that allows for auto-routing on a laptop computer, with a Garmin GPS unit.   Best of all, it is a free program, that can be downloaded from our Archive Files (HERE)
However, you must already have a MapSource product running on your computer for nRoute to work.  In fact MapSource users who have used real time tracking in previous versions, (before 6.7) are now instructed to use nRoute.


Similar to MapSource, nRoute allows for waypoints, tracks, points of interest, addresses and more, but is primarily for navigating and tracking in real time.  It is part of the software package included with the GPS 18 and GPS 10, both new GPS receivers for a laptop.  (The 18 sells in either a serial port or USB package.  The 10 allows for bluetooth connections)

nRoute is also compatible with most Garmin units.  (There have been some reports that early models such as the II Plus and eMap did not work very well.)   nRoute does however require a City Select product unlocked to a specific Garmin GPS, for automatic routing with voice directions.  I have used the Garmin GPSmap 60CS along with the Vista C and fully used all of nRoute’s capabilities.  The eTrex Venture and eTrex Legend were also tested and are compatible with the software, to the extent it will keep your vehicle visible as you move on MetroGuide versions 5&6 or other map programs such as TOPO or Trip and Waypoint Manager, which do not require an unlock.  It will keep a track log, but will not autoroute for you with these units.

To see the limited uses of nRoute and what it can do for you, if you do not have a GPS unit which autoroutes or have City Select software installed on your laptop, click here.

Because you have to have MapSource to use nRoute, most users will already have a basic understanding of how to operate the program.  Most of the pull down menus and the toolbars are the same.  But there are a few new features, specifically to be used for navigating in an automobile.


nRoute has the same preferences as MapSource, but the user created settings in MapSource did not transfer over when nRoute was installed, instead the default settings for the program are in place.
“Navigation” and “Info Bar” Tabs are new features in the Preferences.  nRoute now includes the new feature in MapSource of “Route Avoidances.”

Information Tabs

At lower 1/4th of the screen, nRoute has several tabs with different data options, similar to GPS units.  You can select each tab by using the mouse or with an F key.  You are not able to minimize or maximize this part of the screen, however you can turn it either off or on, in the view pull down menu, under “Information Tabs.”  You can either create the waypoint, route and track data in nRoute or you can import a MapSource file with that data into nRoute.  You cannot download information from your GPS into nRoute, with the exception of the track data it records while connected to nRoute.

You can create and save waypoints to be used in future navigation.   There are up to 16 waypoint categories available as well.  What I am still waiting for Garmin to do in a future software upgrade for its receivers, is to create the option of waypoint categories.  That would allow waypoints to be managed in a GPS receiver as they can be in MapSource and nRoute.  When you select a waypoint’s properties, you have the option of “Route To It” which will automatically calculate the best route for you to travel.  You can select Routing Tab in Preferences, to specify, which type of vehicle you are in such as a car, taxi, bicycle and to avoid certain roads, such as toll roads, unpaved roads, etc., that you want to use in the calculation of your route.  You can also control if you want to travel on highways or minor roads.

You can create specific routes and save them to be navigated at a later time.  Routes must be created using points of interest, addresses or waypoints.  There is no route tool, like in MapSource, where a user can drag a line from point to point to create a route.  However, you can create a route in MapSource using this tool, then cut and paste it into nRoute, into the Saved Routes area.  When you do have saved routes, a yellow line will be visible on the screen, for the routes specific point-to-point locations.  I did find this to be a little confusing while navigating, when the route lines cross or became visible on the screen.  You can however switch it so only the active route is visible, in the Preferences, under the Display tab.

You can save your track as you travel in nRoute.  Includes a track filter, where user can specify how often track points are recorded, including by time or distance.  The track properties with location, speed, heading and time are stored in the program.  You can also cut and paste tracks or waypoints from MapSource.

Favorite Finds
You can save and manage specific addresses or points of interest that you frequently want to navigate to.

Status Page (Compass)
Shows speed, heading, elevation as well as guidance text.  Also uses ETA for your destination.  I do like the feature of an address that updates constantly on this page.  You will see for example, 433 N 560 W, then as it updates the next second, 417 N 560 W, as you continue to move.  Handy if you are not navigating to where you are going, but want to see the address of a home or business you want to find, on the computer screen.  It also shows the next street you are approaching.


Driving Directions
After an autoroute is selected, you can get text directions on this page with leg time and distance.  You can also preview each leg of the route.

Trip Computer
This includes data that is found with most Garmin automobile navigators and keeps track of a trip odometer, average speed, moving time, etc.
You can also create new trips and save the data after the trip with its own name.


Satellite Page
Includes satellites received with signal strength, accuracy, date, time and position (lat/lon)


Info Bar

At the top of the map is the Info Bar, which provides text guidance information and can be customized for information such as heading and speed.  The data fields change during navigation.  These can be customized in the Preferences, under Info Bar.


There are several toolbars with nRoute.  Most are similar to MapSource, such as the tools and edit toolbars, find options and view buttons.  However for navigation, there is the Route toolbar and different options in the Utilities toolbar.

View Toolbar

In addition to the zoom buttons for the map, there are three other new options:

Vessel Visible
This feature includes a toolbar button, the red triangle.  This will keep your location or vehicle on the map at all times.  May need to zoom the map to desired scale.  User can also choose the size of the triangle in Preferences under the Display tab.


Next Maneuver
This button will preview your next turn in the route.
The icon is a right hand arrow.

Map Orientation
This allows you to switch between North up and Track up.  This should be enabled to Track Up, except when you are panning and searching the map, like you would on a paper map.  A north indicator appears in the upper left hand corner when Track Up is enabled.

Find Toolbar

This is where you can select an address, city or point of interest to navigate. Includes subcategories, etc.  Identical to MapSource as well as the find menu in most Garmin GPS units.

Find Options
There are three find options, including find by name, find nearest and recently found places.  All three use binoculars as the icon, with small variations depending on which option you want.  The find option allows for City, Address, Feature (Points of Interest) along with intersection and waypoint.  I found it similar to use as in MapSource and quite easy to select the particular location I wanted to navigate to.

Route Toolbar

Stop Route
You can stop navigating the route, but software will continue to show your location and create a track log.  Icon is a stop sign.  These options are grayed out depending on your navigation status.

Resume Route
Allows you to resume your route if you stop navigating.
The Icon is the play button symbol, like on a tape or CD player.

Route to Home  
This program does have a one button command to get you to your home, provided you have a Waypoint stored in the program which is named: “Home.”
The icon is a house.

Utilities Toolbar

There are a few variations in the Utilities tool bar from MapSource.  These are the new features:

Mark Current Position
This feature includes a toolbar button; it is a waypoint symbol and small red triangle.  It will mark your current location as a waypoint.

Select GPS
Allows you to select your GPS between either a serial or USB connection.  Will also find device, if it is not automatically detected.

Will test the voice of the navigator on the laptop’s speaker, giving you the current navigation status.  This is handy when you want an update of when your next turn is. This feature is easily accessible by tapping the space bar.

Voice Guidance

NRoute has eleven languages available; the software for the language is available for download in the nRoute area at  English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Svensk, Dansk, English (UK), Finnish, Nederlands and Norwegian are supported.  This review is only for English.

Voice clarity
nRoute uses a female voice, which sounds synthesized, but it is not too bad.  It seems quite clear and easy to understand.  Very similar to the voice in the c3xx Street Pilot series.

Voice Directions
The vocal directions seem to be good and specific.  There is a warning message before a turn and a final message.  At times, the voice is a little annoying, in that more directions seem to be given, than are sometimes needed.  You can set up in the Navigation tab in the Preferences, how much guidance and directions you want.   You can also eliminate the attention tone, a short beep before every direction.  There is also the option of Route Guidance and Status, Guidance Only or you can only get vocal directions if you prefer, upon demand by tapping the space bar.



Daytime/Nighttime Screens
Like many of the newer Garmin units, nRoute automatically switches the display for daytime and nighttime hours.  During the daytime, the background of the map is light brown.  At night, it is black.  This is useful because it dims down the brightness of the screen that can be distracting while driving at night.  You can select between one or the other in the Preferences, under the Display tab.  Options are day, night or automatic.  “Automatic” setting will use the sunrise/sunset data from your current location to determine when to make the switch.

Day Screen


Night Screen


Safety while driving
nRoute requires little attention once you have selected a destination to route to.  However, you should not use this program while at the wheel, other than to glance over for the information, if you need to clarify what the voice is saying.  Garmin has a warning message about using nRoute while behind the wheel, which pops up when you open the program.  Common sense while driving, says set your destination, before you start your car.


You can import data from MapSource into nRoute or save information in a file and open it in MapSource.  However, all the saved data is stored in nRoute.  Basically there are no actual files to open, as in MapSource.  Whatever is stored in the program when you exit it, will be there when you open it again.

Sorry, no NMEA connections with work with nRoute, it uses the Garmin format only, but again most newer era Garmin units will work with either serial or USB connections.

Simulate GPS
If you are indoors, you can simulate a GPS and simulate the computer driving the route, including voice commands.

Unlike previous versions of MapSource, (before version 6.7) with the GPS tab, nRoute does not allow the user to get the EPE or DOP data from satellite reception.  EPE is for estimated position error and measures the horizontal position fix and DOP is for (Dilution of Precision) which indicates satellite quality in relation to how many are received and their location to each other.  Don’t worry, in most cases, this data is not of much interest to GPS users.

nRoute does have a good help section, best accessed by typing in a keyword of your question in the index tab.  It so far has answered all of the questions I have had.  

Minimum System Requirements
IBM compatible, Windows 98, ME, 2000 or XP operating system, a minimum of 32 MB of RAM, and at least 15MB of hard drive space for the program and up to 2GB for map data if you do not already have MapSource map data loaded on your computer.  (nRoute shares MapSource map data that is already loaded on your computer.)

Why would nRoute be useful to me, if I don’t have an autorouting GPS?

There are a few features you may like.  First, it seems easier to use nRoute when trying to explain how GPS works to someone else by using a computer screen, rather than the small screen on the unit itself.  Second, the real time tracking of seeing your current position on a bigger screen and one that is in color, along with where you are at and where you are going can be nice.  Even without a City Select product, but with MetroGuide, TOPO or Roads and Recreation, you can hit the space bar and hear the direction you are going.  For example: “Traveling Southeast.”  What I did discover is that if you have City Select, but a GPS unit that is not unlocked to City Select, you can get more features out of nRoute.  For example with my eTrex Legend connected, I did get some basic directions on the freeway and major roads which are part of the basemap included on most mapping capable GPS units. (This is all that is visible when an unlocked GPS is connected to nRoute)   nRoute would give me voice directions of previews and when to turn, etc.  It was not as accurate as normal operation with my GPSMap60CS OR VistaC that are both unlocked for City Select, but it was somewhat useful.  So if you have a StreetPilot model or other Garmin unit which autoroutes and then have a lower grade Garmin unit to connect to a laptop, nRoute may be helpful.  You can also select ‘direct routes’ in the routing section of Preferences, which will route, point to point, with audible directions.  Again, I do wish it would auto route with MetroGuide***, so earlier Garmin units would work.  But this is a free download and Garmin seems to be protecting itself by creating a useful auto navigator for customers of its newer products for free, without cutting itself out sales of City Select or auto navigators.  *** The original MetroGuide USA, which includes auto-routing capabilites and does not require unlock codes to specific units, is compatible with nRoute and will provide autorouting using any Garmin GPS.  This software was discontinued in 2002 ***

Other Observations

It seems nRoute gave me the same directions as what my GPSmap60CS was giving me, except with voice.  This makes sense, because the software in both units is the same.  Using a handheld GPS unit, which has the automatic routing feature OR nRoute and its voice commands for navigation while in an automobile, seems to have both pros and cons.  You can experiment yourself to see which you prefer.  I did notice a little variation in the ETA, because in the GPS units, the speed is already pre-determined for the particular type of road you are navigating.  But with nRoute, you can modify the speeds for freeway, major highway, etc., in the Routing section of Preferences, which may still make it more or less accurate, depending on your settings.  This is another feature I would like Garmin to include in a software update, so you can configure your Garmin GPS unit to the specific speed limits for different types of roads in your area of the country.  Because nRoute operates with a faster processor in the laptop, it seemed to quickly calculate routes, as compared to route calculation in GPS receivers.



nRoute seems to be a good program.  It is certainly several steps up from using the GPS tab in MapSource for real time tracking.  Unfortunately, it will not auto route with anything but an unlocked City Select or City Navigator product AND a GPS unit unlocked to that product.  (With the exception of MetroGuide USA)  This means it will not work with the newer versions of MetroGuide, (versions 5, 6 and 7) even though MetroGuide versions 5, 6 & 7, will work with MapSource in creating auto routes.  nRoute will not work with TOPO, R&R or Trip and Waypoint Manager.  However if you have these products loaded in MapSource, you can select them from the upper left hand corner and see the map data and your position moving on the map, but no autorouting will occur.  MapSource still remains your best bet for using these map products.

nRoute is not easy to use while driving, so you should set your route before you start moving, because the commands and keystrokes can be hard to do while driving.  Even better yet is if you have a passenger who will agree to act as a co-pilot.   Using a mouse or even key commands will require you to take your eyes completely off the road, even though it may be only for a fraction of a second.

I typically had the GPS receiver on the dash and the laptop on the passenger seat, facing me.  I found it was easiest to just listen where I was supposed to go.  I did occasionally glance over at the screen, but having been used to having the GPS in front of me in a mount, it took awhile to get use to relying on voice and not visual directions.  You should make sure the laptop is somehow strapped to the seat, to prevent the laptop from flying on the floor, if you suddenly have to slam on the brakes or make a sharp turn.

Overall, nRoute does a pretty good job and seems to be a good program for what it is designed for, and since it is free when you download it, you can’t complain about that.

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