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What's the best database for driving directions?

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(called via 1-800-39-ONLINE; click to listen to the audio)

Hey...this is Gary Steed.

I'm looking for some advice on a blank database for keeping directions on.

Thank you!


I'm not sure whether you're going to referring to these directions in the database from a computer screen, or from a mobile phone, so let's design your solution so that you can do both.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you this, but please be careful when driving and referring to any screen, whether it be a phone or a laptop - it can be arresting visually, and that can put you in danger while driving. Refer to the database before you get going, and if you have to refer to it en route, try to pull over or have your driving partner shout out the directions.

OK...rant off.

I happen to have a navigator in my car. I often simply grab the address of the place I'm going and 99 times out of 100, simply dropping the address into the navigator works just great.

But, there are times when detailed directions are important, and sometimes, Yahoo Maps or Google Maps just aren't yet updated.

So lets create a database that resides on your laptop, but actually can be synched to a PDA or smartphone.

You have a couple of choices when it comes to database systems. You could choose a standalone database system like Filemaker Pro:

...which will work great, not only for keeping directions in a database (all the work is done for you in Filemaker, as one of the prebuilt templates is just for directions and mapping), but any other databases you decide to create.

Read on... (more ahead)

But in your situation, I'd choose a different path: an integrated email and contact management system like Outlook on Windows, or Entourage on Macintosh (part of Office for Macintosh):


In both of these systems, you can use the Notes function to keep detailed directions to your contacts' locations. Those Notes can include images, updates, shorthand you understand, completely customized to your liking.

Further, and more importantly, you only have to enter those directions and notes once. Why? Both applications, Outlook and Entourage, have the ability to synch to your Palm or Windows Mobile PDA or smartphone, and most other phones have the ability to synch their address books to your contact management. I so this very thing with my Palm Treo 700p from Verizon.

Once you get your data in, you synch your phone to your database, and then you have a choice - the directions will be in both places.

Here's a hint: set the display of the directions in the Notes fields to be as big a font as you need to quickly glance at them while driving - no squinting that way.

There you go...work once, use many. But please keep your eyes on the road.

Thanks for listening, and for calling in and asking!

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