Jetting off to Paris, but don't want to be unfurling cumbersome travel maps on the Champs Elysées? Maybe it's time to ditch your oldfangled maps for a handy new schmap. This innovative, free travel software, downloadable from schmap.com, lets travelers
Co-founded by Britons Paul Hallett and Nick Fletcher in 2004, Schmap boasts a sophisticated mapping engine that combines comprehensive local listings with zoomable, interactive city plans. Locations such as restaurants, museums and boutiques are marked with different icons; favorite attractions can be bookmarked and later printed out as a handy itinerary. A distance-measurement tool lets you count the footsteps from Rome's Spanish Steps to the Trevi Fountain without leaving your chair, while Schmap's listings update to match whatever quadrant of the city you're looking at, so you don't have to comb through bistros in Brooklyn while searching for Chinese food on New York City's Upper West Side.
Schmap adds a slew of new city guides every month users download 18,000 of them a day and says it will start adding Asian destinations by the end of the year. A
new software version launching next month will let users create and share their own guides using Schmap's mapping technology, thus allowing every amateur art critic and street-corner gourmet to post their own roundups of local galleries and restaurants. And while the software only works on desktop PCs for the moment, Hallett says a version for handheld devices is coming next year. Think they'll call it Schmobile?