SAN FRANCISCO (05/01/2000) - Business mapping programs do much more than tell you how to get to your next appointment--the data they provide can help you understand your business better, too. We compared Microsoft Corp.'s substantially upgraded MapPoint 2001 with the latest release of an old pro, DeLorme's XMap Business (shipping copies of each). The one for you depends on your mapping needs.
Both MapPoint and XMap include street-level data for the entire continental United States, plus demographic information, direction and routing capabilities, and some business-specific data. Both programs install from one CD and then require you to use a different data disc when running the program.
Both also offer support for GPS devices and for personal digital assistants.
Not surprisingly, MapPoint supports only Windows CE devices; XMap works with both CE and Palm devices, with the help of a free download from Solus.
In speed and performance, the $250 MapPoint has the clear edge. We tested both programs on a zippy 600-MHz Athlon PC with 128MB of RAM. XMap won't even load if less than 50 percent of system resources are available, and it takes twice as long as MapPoint to perform routine operations like calculating crosstown driving directions.
If you plan to use demographic data in your mapping activities, MapPoint again has the edge, thanks to its licensing agreement with Claritas, a leading provider of such statistical information. The Claritas database includes 1980, 1990, 1999, and projected 2004 demographic breakdowns, while XMap is limited to 1990 U.S. Census data.
MapPoint can also integrate with Office 2000 applications. Specifically, it can act as an OLE object. Both programs import data from Office 97 versions of Access, Excel, and Outlook; MapPoint also supports SQL Server 6.5 or above.
For its part, XMap can perform most MapPoint functions despite costing $150 less. Though its eight CD-ROMs (versus two for MapPoint) may make it look more cumbersome, those discs contain a lot more data--a complete set of national white- and yellow-page directories, so you can search for addresses by phone number. MapPoint includes only a handful of business listings--primarily hotels and restaurants--and no white-page directory data. XMap also lets you run very detailed searches by yellow-page category for specific types of businesses--a feature we found extremely useful when one of our editors needed to track down an auto mechanic convenient to her home.
If you use mapping tools primarily for reports and presentations, or if speed and performance are high priorities for you, MapPoint 2001 is your best bet.
But XMap Business is preferable for most users. Between its significantly lower price and its trove of nationwide phone-book data, you're getting a great deal.
Microsoft MapPoint 2001
PRO: MS Office 2000 integration, speedy, current demographic data.
CON: Pricey, very limited local business listings, no Palm support.
VALUE: A fast, useful tool for presentations and reports.
Street price: $250
Product Info No. 705
PRO: Includes U.S. white- and yellow-page directories, inexpensive, supports Palm and Win CE devices.
CON: Sluggish performance, resource hog.
VALUE: Strong overall package if performance isn't a big concern.
Street price: $100
Product Info No. 706
Microsoft Mappoint 2001 offers a host of new features, including new street-level maps of cities in both the United States and Canada.