Contact Info:

Rand McNally
1-800-275-7263 Bottom Line:

The Price:
  • $40
The Pros:
  • Comprehensive, portable Road Atlas
  • Useful interstate exit information
  • Both fun and useful

The Cons:
  • Poor map detail at low zoom
  • High RAM requirements Ratings*:

*Maximum Rating is FIVE (5) InfoPalms

PalmPak Travel Card: Rand McNally Road Atlas Review
By Kevin Crossman

Rand McNally and Palm jointly market the Rand McNally Road Atlas. It is available for any Palm OS device with an expansion card slot for SD/MMC and at least 1 MB of free memory. Currently, that means the m125, m500, m505, or HandEra 330. MSRP is $40 and it runs in color or grayscale.

The card contains over 640 thousand miles of interstates and major roads in 48 states. You can search interstate highway exit information for restaurants, gas stations, lodging, ATMs, and points of interest - including thousands of attractions, national parks, and places to shop. There are also city-to-city driving directions for 12,000 cities and the product allows you to calculate mileage and driving time.

This application created a splash in November when it was named the winner of Best Mobile/Handheld Software Application at Comdex. The idea of replacing a giant paper product with a postage-stamp sized memory card is appealing. The product is easy to use and delivers very well on its features.

The maps look great in color. You can zoom from 1 mile/inch all the way to 129 miles/inch. It should be noted, however, that zooms above 8 miles/inch do not provide very useful detail due to the Palm's low-res screen.

The Interstate Exit function is extremely interesting. By selecting any exit (shown as a green arrow icon) on an Interstate highway you can obtain information on gas, food, lodging, ATMs, and points of interest. Only name brands are noted by name (e.g. McDonald's, Motel 6), otherwise there is just a listing of "miscellaneous" for independent "Mom and Pop" hotels, restaurants, and gas stations.

If you regularly visit certain map locations you may save your maps for viewing at a later time.

The city to city driving directions and mileage calculation work well. The search function works well, too, showing you services within a certain radius of a location, or searching by name. The search function is somewhat limited in that it searches only on the first words of a point of interest, rather than any word in the name.

There are vast array or shopping centers and other attractions (shown as an orange icon) but at times the listings are less than complete. For example, the San Jose Children's Discovery Museum is listed but the Winchester Mystery House is not (this is one of San Jose's most famous landmarks and tourist attractions).

The program comes with some hefty RAM requirements. Rand McNally recommends 1 MB of free RAM as a minimum with 2 MB optimally. Part of the RAM requirements are due to the slow map draws unless you copy the contents of the state you're viewing to RAM. This improves performance to better-than-acceptable levels. The program used about 1,200k of RAM when I saved the California map. Maps can easily be saved and deleted from memory.

The product ships with compatibility with GPS systems. Unfortunately, I am not aware of any currently available GPS units which attach to any of the Universal Connector Palm Handhelds. However, Navman is supposed to be releasing one soon.

Most of the limitations of this product are inherent by the Palm device screen and size. What it offers is an extremely portable version of the Road Atlas, handy when traveling or even just for fun. I found this product to be a great example of how to use SD/MCC technology well. I loved it but, of course, your mileage my vary.

This product will be demonstrated by Kevin Crossman at the January 3rd meeting of the Silicon Valley Palm Users Group, Kevin Crossman is not affiliated with Palm or Rand McNally.

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Hook up a GPS

tipds @ 1/2/2002 1:59:40 PM #
Am I mistaken, or shouldn't Palm users be able to connect a GPS using the serial cable? I use a Sony Clie now, but I'm pretty sure the same think can be done with Palm brand units. They both support EIA-232 type connections.

Tip DS

RE: Hook up a GPS
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/2/2002 2:25:31 PM #
Sure, you can connect to the Palm via a null modem adapter. There seem to be quite a few available including the one for the Palm III from Pawgo ( unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be anything available for the m125/m500/m505 yet.

RE: Hook up a GPS
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/2/2002 2:43:02 PM #
Depends on how you want it connected... snap on or just cable attached.

I have the Rand McNally StreetFinder GPS for the Palm III that works quite well with the other map programs out there, both on my old Palm IIIx and new HandEra 330. Mapopolis works very well and supports the HandEra's hi-res screen... a big plus in my book.

If you go with a simple cable attached unit, then there are companies that sell converters that will allow Palm III serial devices to attach to other types of handhelds... but I can't remember their names (search this site).

RE: Hook up a GPS
Berliner @ 1/2/2002 3:36:16 PM #
I got my Garmin emap connected to the m505 via the serial cradle and a null modem adapter (which hooks to the Garmin).
It's a little bulky in the car (and no reloading...), but it works.

I am curious how the driving directions would look with a GPS hooked up. I assume there is no GPS simulation mode, right?

Kevin, good article, thanks for that.


...Wherever you go, there you are...

RE: Hook up a GPS, and my opinion
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/2/2002 4:18:21 PM #

In the program there is a GPS demo option from the menu. It shows a little purple (I think that's the color) crosshair moving along a route. The map kind of moves with it and you can also drag the map at the same time. In case you wanted to drag the map ahead of the GPS area a little bit. I didn't drag the map so far that the crosshairs went off the screen, but I can test it out later and post more if no one has added anything by then.

Pretty cool little app. It just doesn't get down very detailed, to the street level for instance, which is a bummer. I suppose it's not expected on a little 16MB card, but oh well. Maybe the could sell regions with more detailed info on em.

RE: Hook up a GPS
Berliner @ 1/2/2002 4:54:16 PM #
Thanks for the info.

And since there is no street level information (and no route definition), I will also not get driving directions as in "in 1.2 Miles go right" - is that assumption correct?


...Wherever you go, there you are...

RE: Hook up a GPS
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/28/2002 2:14:04 PM #

Pawgo is shipping for all palm models now
Null modems for all models

Does it work for Clie?

I.M. Anonymous @ 1/2/2002 4:20:59 PM #
Clie has the MemoryStick slot GPS, will this work on a Clie?

RE: Does it work for Clie?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/2/2002 4:23:01 PM #
I've tried copying it over to a clie but it says to "Please insert the Road Atlas Travel Card."

Any ideas on how to get around that?

RE: Does it work for Clie?
kevdo @ 1/2/2002 4:33:49 PM #
No, you need the MMC card in your Palm OS device for this to work. (I didn't mention it in the review but the card is a 99.9% full 16 MB MMC card)

BTW - the PalmPak Games Card doesn't work for the Clie either.

-Kevin Crossman

RE: Does it work for Clie?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/2/2002 4:39:41 PM #
You can't fool it into thinking the card is inserted? How does it know? If I have all the files copied ont my 64MB card, how does it check to see if it's "THEIR" card or not? Card device ID or something or what? Isn't there any way to "trick" the program?

RE: Does it work for Clie?
Ed @ 1/2/2002 5:24:32 PM #
Sorry guys but conversations on how to to circumvent the piracy preventions on software aren't appropriate here. I'd suggest you send some email to Rand McNally urging them to release this app on a Memory Stick or as a stand-alone application.

News Editor
RE: Does it work for Clie?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/2/2002 6:17:34 PM #
He makes a good point!

RE: Does it work for Clie?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/2/2002 8:55:15 PM #
Security concerns are fine, but switching out cards is irritating as well. I have the dictionary card and am going to get this new map card (also got the game card which was a) free and b) useless) I would love to be able to copy the contents of both to one big card.

Oh well, I am sure that someone will figure it out soon enough and I will implement it guilt free since I am paying for both.

I.M. Anonymous @ 1/2/2002 10:46:42 PM #
I saw Milpitas on the map & couldn't stop thinking: Didn't we trade Milpitas for some oil during the Gulf War?
Hmm... maybe we could us it to house some of those Taliban prisoners..
Just a thought

RE: Does it work for Clie?
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/3/2002 2:34:18 AM #
Ed, there was no real talk of doing anything illegal. One could argue that the discussion was along the lines of - "I bought the CD for my home, and I want to copy it to a tape for my car."

RE: Does it work for Clie?
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/8/2002 4:10:27 PM #
Is there a memorystick GPS for the clie T615C?

Will R.M. offer updates?

I.M. Anonymous @ 1/3/2002 8:47:25 AM #
One of the annoying things with atlases is that they get out of date, or are out of date when you get them. Will there be updates that can be downloaded from the R.M. site to get these maps more accurate over time? Being able to put these updates on their MMC card would help too.

RE: Will R.M. offer updates?
kevdo @ 1/3/2002 10:32:15 AM #
I doubt it. The best we can hope for is a yearly new edition, just like the paper product. Remember that the paper product doesn't have updating info throughout the year, either.

-Kevin Crossman

Still Needs Work

I.M. Anonymous @ 1/3/2002 1:02:40 PM #
Rand McNally crammed as much as they could into a 16MB MMC card, but the map detail and exit information are limited. I also noticed some miss-located roads and a missing interstate exit in the DC metropolitan area. I find it a useful substitution for those little pocket-sized road atlases, but it won't replace my paper maps or Garmin 12MAP GPS. Think of it as an electronic index to the Rand McNally paper road atlas with a lot of COOL appeal.

The look up function need some work to allow you use Graffiti letters to zero in on a location name rather than having pick from virtual alphabet buttons then scroll through tables and pick on a name. When you tap the USA start up map, and select Washington DC from the start up map and list, you still have to pick on W in the city index and select Washington again before it takes you to the Washington map. Clunky. This is a work in progress, and I look forward to future versions. You may want to skip this one.

Handera 330??

I.M. Anonymous @ 1/3/2002 1:48:39 PM #
Does this work on the Handera? I thought we needed OS 4xx to get it to work?

Great review.

RE: Handera 330??
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/3/2002 2:06:48 PM #
>> Does this work on the Handera? I thought we needed OS 4xx to get it to work?

Possibly not. I picked up the Dictionary/Thesaurus that Palm sells, only to find out the PRC file would not execute on my 3.5.x HandEra 330 (said it needed OS 4). I guess we'll have to wait for HandEra to post the OS 4 upgrade.

Anyone else know?

BTW... If you want a really cool mapping program, w/GPS support, optional door-to-door directions, support for hi-res screens, etc... check out Mapopolis ( Works very well and you can subscribe to updates at a reasonable cost.

Rand McNally Atlas

I.M. Anonymous @ 1/29/2002 1:54:23 PM #
I received my new Atlas card and got "fatal exception" the very first time of use on my 505. This is very disappointing considering I received this from the Palm Store....waiting for Palm Support to help out on this one.

Rand McNally GPS for the Palm III for Trail Hiking??

I.M. Anonymous @ 4/9/2002 11:19:14 PM #
Does anyone know if the GPS will give me readings off road? I want to use it for hiking and geocaching and my research hasn't made this clear to me. Thanks

better than a null

I.M. Anonymous @ 5/28/2002 2:10:47 PM #
Better than a null modem is the pawgo adapter

Warning.. Road Atlas doesn't work with Magellan GPS

I.M. Anonymous @ 6/19/2002 1:29:17 PM #
I just purchased the Magellan GPS Companion to go along with my Rand McNally Road Atlas. Apparently the Magellan unit does not work with the Road Atlas PalmPak because the Road Atlas application is looking for a different baud rate data feed.
RE: Warning.. Road Atlas doesn't work with Magellan GPS
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/8/2002 11:28:37 AM #
If this is true, then I will be truly disappointed. The No.1 reason I purchased the Palm and GPS, was for using it with the Rand McNally Road Atlas.
RE: Warning.. Road Atlas doesn't work with Magellan GPS
I.M. Anonymous @ 9/29/2002 1:13:33 PM #
The Road Atlas card is programmed for a GPS with a different baud rate than the Magellan GPS Companion (allegedly the NavMan GPS for the M500 does work). This would seem strange given that Magellan and Rand McNally have a marketing arrangment that bundles the Street Atlas software with the Magellan GPS Companion. Be forewarned that the Rand McNally Street Atlas software claims to be compatible with Windows XP. That hasn't been my experience.

Using Rand McNally Product

uedahideo @ 12/17/2002 3:43:33 AM #
There is a "StreetFinder/TripMaker Deluxe" which is relased as of 2002 and supports PalmOS with color!
You can use any map of Hawaii on the PC, but cannot download into the PDA, since somehow these map are not configure for the PDA format size, yet. (May be 2003 version)



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