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CitySync

Sun Aug 27, 2000 - 7:20 PM EDT - By Douglas Morse

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Would you recommend CitySync?
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Product Info
Details
> Name CitySync
> Company Lonely Planet
> Size 400K +
> Fact Sheet & User Opinions
Availability
> Available
Pricing
> $49.95


Using CitySync

You get 12+ cities to choose from (go here for a current list), but your registration number allows you to unlock only four of them. (An additional one is free when you register)  I think 5 electronic cities for $49.95 is a bit pricey. (And $19.95 for one is obviously too high. A paperback guide with more information is less.)

First I explored the center of the universe, and my hometown, New York City. I unlocked it because I really wanted to put the program through the wringer. I was presented with a well written, slightly humorous overview of the town. It was a style of writing that pervaded the guide. It made the guide fun to read and enjoyable to navigate. And the guide is extremely well organized, allowing several ways to search, navigate, and organize your information. It’s internal logic was easily understood.  I read through the places to eat, to stay, and of course I checked out the sights.

The guide contained a surprising amount of information on places everyone knows, such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The guide called it  “…New York’s most popular single-site tourist attraction. Upon entering the Great Hall, pick up a floor plan and work out what you’d most like to see before fatigue sets in – the riches of the Met are quite overwhelming.”  It also contained information on Customs House, a place I had heard about vaguely, but stumbled upon just the other day while prowling about downtown. “Simply one of the most sumptuous beaux arts buildings ever built, [guide-speak purple prose, yuck] the Customs House has an interior festooned with marine murals. In the rotunda towards the back right of the building, there’s an uncredited cameo sketch of Greta Garbo…”

Despite the flowery guide-speak, some very interesting information was available to a user -- there was actually enough to get me to go back there. Soon. So I pressed the info button and got the address, phone number, hours, transportation information, and admission price. You can also press a ‘datebook’ bubble and have the program enter the info into your datebook on the date and time you’d like to go. You can then click the ‘map’ button and be presented with a nearly indecipherable jumble of black and green that purports to give you a hint of local geography. It doesn’t.

If there’s ever an argument for a color pilot with a larger screen, this is it. Usable maps on the Palm would be excellent. There may even be some out there that I just haven’t seen.   What makes these particular exercises in cartography worse is that the Lonely Planet/Concept Kitchen folks have insisted upon keying them with triangles and squares and whatnot with numbers inside them, all in an attempt to give even more information.

Even as a New Yorker, I could hardly tell where I was. And the subway map is somehow more atrocious. Enough said!

I have a  few other quibbles. Of course, no guidebook can be totally complete. But no information on the Staten Island Ferry – ridiculous!  (At least I couldn’t find it.)   I read the guide's information on the Statue of Liberty ferries and some of us who know the quick and dirty way to see the statue (without waiting in line or paying an admission fee) should have been consulted. Take the Staten Island Ferry and you get a free water ride with a great view of the statue. The fact that the Staten Island ferry isn’t mentioned (though several museums on that odious island are) is simply a mistake.

I also took a gander at both the Chicago and London guides. The same strengths and weaknesses as New York. Maps, almost useless. Extensive information, well organized with occasional things missing. There is no simple way to pull up all of the London theatres and the list (once found through a search) is remarkably incomplete. And that’s the reason many of us go to the darn city. Restaurants, by necessity, in all of the cities, are only a partial list. A good list, reviewed and sortable by location, price, and cuisine is available, but I wonder about some omissions. Where are some of my favorites in New York: Chat and Chew or Vatan? If you come to New York, check ‘em out.

Paper competition >>

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