For many years, I have been a user of DeLorme's “Street Atlas USA” family of products. I started, if I recall correctly, with version 4.0 and upgraded regularly until version 7.0. Street Atlas 7, like previous versions, had a very quirky but amazingly easy-to-use user interface for what I required of it. I stuck with SA7 through three changes of laptop, until in 2007 I decided that I wouldn't mind having more-up-to-date maps. This was a huge mistake.
I should explain how I use mapping software. My principal use for mapping programs is to plan travel, like many people. But when I'm traveling, I'm looking to visit broadcast facilities, both studios and transmitters, and I like to keep a written record of what it was that I saw, so that I can go back (as I did last week) to a set of photos I took several years ago and accurately identify what it was that I saw and where, precisely, it was located. For a week-long trip, I will typically print out a hundred pages or more of maps, showing the locations of all the facilities in each market I will visit, and the roads required to get there, bound together in a looseleaf binder. In this task, I am considerably aided by programs such as Bob Carpenter W3OTC's AMSTNS and TVFMSTNS, which allow me to query the FCC broadcast station databases and write the result out in a Street Atlas-format map or as a text file. With a little bit of cutting and pasting, I could get all the transmitter locations I needed on a single map.
One significant feature of broadcast transmitter sites is that there are frequently multiple towers crowded into a small area, and even more frequently multiple stations sharing a single tower. In order to make readable maps of these places, it is absolutely essential that I (or Carpenter's software) be able to place multiple labels at the same location, using different display orientations to keep the labels from overlapping, even when printed at the 1:50,000 scale I typically use for my map books. This is an absolute requirement for me, and I was shocked to find that the Street Atlas USA 2008 was completely unable to do such a simple task. Indeed, even when “importing” maps (called “draw objects” in DeLorme-speak—apparently to them a “map” is something different) into SA2008 from SA7, the properties I had laboriously configured in SA7 were completely ignored. (These properties include not just the orientation of the label, but also its size and color, and the symbol used to identify the location on the map and its size and color.) Nor are the maps actually imported; they are merely attached to the SA2008 map, so changes in the map data are written back to the source files upon saving.
I looked for support from DeLorme, only to receive confirmation that SA2008 really is that broken. I resolved to exercise my Massachusetts warranty rights and return the program to the store where I bought it as “unfit for purpose”. The hideous new user interface I could accomodate, as the price paid for better map data, but the lack of this one absolutely essential feature makes SA2008 practically useless.
Little did I know that installing SA2008 had rendered my old standby SA7 completely unusable. Even after uninstalling SA2008, uninstalling SA7, and then reinstalling SA7, the Street Atlas 7 program would make a Windows alert noise and then go into an infinite CPU-chewing loop, making no progress beyond displaying the “splash screen”. Luckily, I still had access to my previous laptop—now some seven years old—and was able to install SA7 there and use it to print out the maps I needed for a two-week trip to the Inland Northwest in August and September, 2007.
For lack of any working mapping software on my primary laptop, I reinstalled SA2008, but almost never make any use of it. For day-to-day mapping, Google Maps is far faster and easier to use. For trip planning, given the choice between the defective SA2008 and readable (but outdated) maps generated on the old laptop by SA7, I'll take slow and quirky but usable SA7 any day. It is a vast improvement on its successors.
As a result of this experience, and as a long-time customer abandoned by DeLorme, I recommend against buying any DeLorme products, and I strongly recommend against buying Street Atlas USA until and unless its defects are remedied.Garrett Wollman