Know your routes

Add real-time GPS route editing to Google Earth with this free geographical utility.

Hybrid GeoTools' 3D Route Builder enhances Google Earth's built-in Path Editor with sophisticated GPS route planning capabilities, fine-grain, real-time control over 3D paths, and editing for location, altitude, and time stamp. It can use existing data or generate new GPX, KML, or Garmin TCX data from scratch.

This free program's interface combines typical Windows elements, including icon-based control and navigation toolbars, with a media player feel; in fact, it calls itself the "Media Player" of GPS playback in the animated ad banner that divides the interface's controls from the main display window. Clicking Embed GeoTool opens Google Earth within a split view in the main window. If you've never used a GPS device or handled GPS data, it suffices to say that 3D Route Builder simplifies and enhances the process of plotting and editing routes based on data you acquire and import, including real-time data, though you must configure 3D Route Builder for your particular device's format. Pop-up settings dialogs and a Web-based Help file make it easy, though. We plotted a simple route through a familiar neighborhood, and 3D Route Builder displayed the geographical data in the left pane and the interactive 3D terrain image in the right. It's just as easy to plan a route across Africa or Antarctica, though, with the proper data.

Google Earth is too cool on its own, but 3D Route Builder builds on its capabilities to produce a tool that will be of great interest and utility to a wide range of GPS users.

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