Updated November 29, 2005
Review By: Sam Penrod
2009-- Garmin tells us that nRoute has been replaced by Garmin Mobile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.
“Info Bar” Tabs are new features in the Preferences.
nRoute now includes the new feature in
MapSource of “Route Avoidances.”
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
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.
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.
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.
Includes satellites received with signal strength, accuracy, date, time and position (lat/lon)
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
In addition to the zoom buttons for the map, there are three other new options:
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.
This button will preview your next turn in the route.
The icon is a right hand arrow.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
NRoute has eleven languages
available; the software for the language is available for download in
the nRoute area at Garmin.com. English, French, German, Italian,
Spanish, Svensk, Dansk, English (UK), Finnish, Nederlands and Norwegian
are supported. This review is only for English.
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.
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
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.
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.
If you are indoors, you can simulate a GPS and simulate the computer driving the route, including voice commands.
EPE & DOP
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 ***
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
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