Navigating Street Atlas USA - dummies

Navigating Street Atlas USA

By Joel McNamara

The first thing that you notice about Street Atlas USA is that it doesn’t use a familiar Windows, menu-based user interface. Instead, it uses a unique user interface with its mapping programs; after you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy to use.

Be sure to quickly browse through the PDF help file that comes with Street Atlas USA, which you can access by clicking the HELP button at the top of the window. Street Atlas USA has a rich set of commands, often offering you several different ways to perform a single task or operation.

Exploring the Street Atlas USA interface

The Street Atlas USA user interface is made up of four different parts. They include the

  • Map: The main map takes up most of the screen and is where all the action takes place. You’ll find roads, bodies of water, parks, businesses and services, and other features displayed.
  • Control Panel: The Control Panel, located to the right of the map, contains commands for moving around in the map and zooming in and out.
  • Tab functions and options: Primary mapping commands and options are underneath the map in a series of tab items. For example, click the Find tab for searching commands and options.
    You can shrink the size of the Tab area to show more map area by clicking the down-arrow icon in the right corner of the Tab area. If the Tab area has been minimized, clicking any tab will automatically expand it.

Overview Map: The Overview Map appears to the right of the Tab area and contains a small map with a larger overview of the main map that you’re viewing.

You can customize the Tab area by clicking the HELP button in the window title and selecting the Tab Manager menu item. Use the Tab Manager to show, hide, or reorder the tabs.

Zooming in and out

With Street Atlas USA, you can view the entire United States and then zoom in for street-level detail. As you zoom in, the Data Zoom level, which is displayed at the top of the Control Panel, increases. Data Zoom level 2-0 shows the entire U.S., and Data Zoom level 16-0 shows the maximum amount of detail for a location.

Beneath the Data Zoom are three buttons that control zooming. These buttons, each with red arrows and pictures of the Earth, are from left to right

  • Zoom out three levels: Click the button with three arrows pointing away from Earth.
  • Zoom out: Click the button with the red arrow pointing away from Earth.
  • Zoom in: Click the button with the red arrow pointing toward Earth.

In addition to the zoom buttons, Street Atlas USA also uses Octave controls, which are up and down arrows next to the Zoom Data level value, allowing you to have finer control over zooming in and out. Click the up arrow to zoom out; click the down arrow to zoom in.

When you click an Octave control, notice that the Zoom Data level number changes. The number to the right of the dash next to the Zoom Data level is the octave value. For example, if the current Zoom Data level were 12-3, clicking the Octave down arrow would zoom in and change the value to 12-4. (Octaves range between 0 and 7, just like a diatonic music scale.)

You can also zoom in on a specific area by holding down the left mouse button and dragging down and to the right. This draws a rectangle and will zoom in to that area when you release the mouse button. You can zoom out by holding down the left mouse button and dragging up and to the left.

Moving around in Street Atlas USA

Mouse around a little inside a Street Atlas USA map. Notice that as you move the cursor around, information appears on the lower edge of the map. Anytime you move the cursor over a map feature, whether it’s a road, river, or even some open space, a line of text appears at the bottom of the map with a brief description of the feature.

The numbers in parentheses that appear before a street name description show the range of street addresses in the general vicinity of the cursor. This is handy for getting a quick idea of addresses on a particular street.

You’re probably going to want to see more map than what appears on the screen, and Street Atlas USA has several ways to move the map, including

  • Centering: Click a location to center the map over the cursor.
  • Dragging: Whenever you move the cursor to the edge of the map, it turns into a hand icon. Hold the left mouse button down and drag the map to scroll.
  • Arrow keys: You can use Alt+ the keyboard arrow keys to move the map in the direction of the arrow key you pressed.
  • Compass Rose: In the Control Panel, beneath the zoom tools, is the Compass Rose. This is a series of nine buttons with yellow arrows. Click a button to scroll the map in the direction of the arrow.

If you click the middle button in the Compass Rose, the previously viewed map is displayed. You can view up to the last 256 previously displayed maps by clicking this button.

Getting POI information

Getting Point of Interest information from Street Atlas USA is a snap. Here’s how.

When you zoom in to level 15, you start to see POIs on the map, such as restaurants, gas stations, theaters, hotels, and other businesses and services. At Zoom Data level 16, symbols appear that let show you what the POI is. For example, a plate with a fork and knife means a restaurant.

If you don’t know what a symbol means, click the HELP button in the window title and choose Map Legend from the menu to display a list of all the map symbols and their meanings.

When you move the cursor over a POI, the business or service name, its phone number (if available), and the type of POI are shown at the bottom of the map. You can also get more information about a POI (or any map feature) by moving the cursor over the POI, right-clicking, and choosing Info from the pop-up menu. Information about the POI appears in the Tab area, which you can view by clicking the Info tab.

Don’t treat the POI database like an up-to-date phone directory. If you look up restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses in your city, you’ll probably find a few listed that are out of business and others that are missing. Street Atlas USA and other map companies try to keep POI data as current as possible, but because businesses come and go so often, it’s difficult to keep up with all the changes.