Gain perspective with mobile maps and GPS

Getting lost can ruin a vacation by causing lateness and sour tempers. This collection of mapping and GPS software for mobile devices (and one for the laptop) can equip you with tools to orient yourself while you're away from home.

Getting lost isn't for everyone. While some people thrill from the challenge of navigating unknown geographies, the non-orienteering among us pout, or worse, panic. Vacations, with their endless opportunity to discover new territories, tend to spark the maddening frustration of getting, and staying, lost.

Take these mobile apps with you this extended Fourth of July weekend, or on any vacation, for seeking and finding your current location and future destination.

Loki for Firefox and Loki for Internet Explorer are browser toolbars that can act as a laptop GPS by locating your whereabouts. In addition, Loki can help you find businesses and landmarks nearby. Loki for Mobile performs the same trick for Windows Mobile devices.

Another option, Google Maps for Mobile, has become a staple for many holiday-makers. The app, which can be downloaded from PRC or CAB files, or from the browser of any Java-enabled device, displays interactive street maps and offers step-by-step driving directions.

Like Google Maps, Earthcomber is available in downloadable and Web-based formats for Java devices and integrates movable maps with clear directions. See my hands-on review (linked above) for more details.

Not all vacationers, however, navigate the urban terrain. Rugged, Palm-carrying activity-seekers can benefit from cotoGPS and Cetus GPS, both with advanced features, for tracking altitude, speed, distance, and celestial positioning.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.