PathAway 3.0 GPS Navigation and Mapping Software

Reviewed by: David Coppola, send e-mail December 2003
Published by: MuskokaTech, go to the web site
Requires: Palm OS Version 3.5 or higher based handheld, a compatible portable GPS unit, a connection cable between your GPS and handheld; Pocket PC version available soon
MSRP: $49.95 US (full version); $19.95 US (upgrade)

What is the Global Positioning System (GPS)? The GPS network consists of a bunch of satellites orbiting the planet for the sole purpose of determining your exact location, speed and direction of travel. It was originally developed and deployed by the U.S. military. Can't afford one of those fancy new car GPS options that are available on many high end autos? We'll don't fret; we have reviewed a solution that can literally put that GPS technology in the palm of your hand. If you're a gadget fanatic and you're always looking for the latest and coolest things to try out, so how about hooking up a portable GPS unit to your Palm device? Yes it is possible.

The PathAway 3.0 software acts as the interface between the GPS receiver and the Palm handheld. PathAway is meant to be an all-purpose tool for GPS that can be used for a multitude of things including aviation, boating and automobile navigating. Here’s what you need to get started:

    1. A Palm powered device with OS 3.5 or higher. We tested with a Palm Zire 71 and Palm M505.
    2. A portable GPS unit such as Garmin, Magellan or Delorme. We used the Garmin eTrek.
    3. A connection cable that links your PDA to the GPS device. We found our cable at PC-Mobile.
    4. Car mounting bracket for the GPS receiver. (Optional)
    5. Car mounting bracket for the Palm device. (Optional)
    6. Extra memory SD expansion card for the Palm handheld. (Optional)
    7. PathAway 3.0 software.

We had no installation problems with PathAway 3.0. It synched up to our PDAs without any troubles. Once that was completed we hooked up and activated the data transmission between the Garmin eTrek and the PDA. Instantly, our location, speed and bearing were displayed on a conveniently supplied demo map that covered our location. One of the greatest features that propels PathAway ahead of the competition is that the program has the ability for you to create and import your own maps. You can scan paper maps, download them from the web or import then from CD-ROM. A separate application called PathAway Tools converts any map to the PathAway Palm format quickly and easily. PathAway Tools also allows you to import or export points of interest, tracks and routes from your GPS handheld for further analysis.

Part of the software evaluation included a two hour out of town road trip. We used the PathAway Tools to convert three maps that we scanned into our PC. One map was a larger overview of the area we were traveling and the other two were detailed city/town views. Once our scanning was complete, we synched the maps to our 256mb SD memory card, calibrated the maps and hit the road.

On screen navigation was a breeze - the PathAway menu system is very user friendly. One cool feature allows you to zoom in and out on the map that is being displayed. We also found the hide toolbar feature quite useful as it creates additional map viewing area on the Palm display. The ability to customize the dashboard is also another asset of the program. For example if you don't want to view your elevation, you can simply hide it by tapping on the variable in the pop-up menu.

During the road trip, we marked points of interest as part of our testing along our route. We simply tapped on the screen to mark a point and stored it into memory. On our way back, we used these marked points to create a mini-route in which we could guage our speed, time and distance traveled against our car odometer and speedometer. When we neared our marked point of interest, an alarm/proximity feature, which we activated beforehand, alerted us. We're happy to report that the PathAway numbers were very accurate.

Just a word of caution: We found it best that if you are planning to use any of these devices in a car/boat/aircraft alone you must be sure to have your trip planned out. Fiddling with the GPS receiver and trying to tap on your PDA while driving down the highway at 60 mph isn't a good idea. When we did our test I had someone drive the vehicle while I was in the passenger seat evaluating the software. One minor nuisance that we encountered was with our Palm Zire 71 universal connector. The cable that was ordered online from to connect the hardware was designed to fit all Palms that have the universal connector such as the M500 series, Zire 71, etc. Ours did not fit snuggly on the Zire 71 but worked perfectly on the M505. At first we thought it was a bad cable, so we ordered another one: same problem - perfect on the M505, terrible on the Zire 71. We borrowed another Zire 71 and the cable would still not fit snuggly. Closer inspection revealed a very small difference in the connector mount on the Zire, sufficient to cause poor lockup of the cable's spring clips. Either Palm must have changed the design slightly (unlikely) or more likely, the fabricator who made the Zire 71 base connector mount shaved the tolerances a wee bit too close.

Aside from the connector hassle, overall it was a great pleasure to review the PathAway GPS software. It’s great for those who want to dabble with GPS technology.

Cons: Maps can take up a lot of space, so it is recommended that you have an extra storage expansion card handy. Maps viewed on older Palm displays using lower resolution screens are hard to read.

Pros: Great import and mapping abilities. Loaded with features. Superb online help and documentation. Supports Palm OS 5 and higher resolution displays. Works with Bluetooth devices such as EMTAC. Affordably priced and great upgrade price point when a new version is released. Recommended.

Update: Pocket PC version is now available.

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