Offline driving directions

Utah 008

Not every new feature deserves a blog post, but this one felt like it did.

Offline maps seem like a great idea in theory, but they don’t always result in a reliable experience. This is true even on Windows, which has a pretty solid offline maps engine. On Android, with Google Maps… well, best of luck getting that to work reliably. And even if you have the actual maps, we’ve noticed that getting driving directions while offline isn’t always that reliable, especially when crossing state boundaries or navigating certain backroads.

Well, the good news is that when you’re working on the world’s best travel companion app ™, you can actually make a difference. Starting with Backroads version 1.0.6, the app no longer asks for driving directions every time for every drive in your trip. Instead, it asks once during planning, when you’re online, and saves the directions as a GPX file leveraging the app’s existing track / attachment support. That means that every automatic drive we generate gets a track file, which includes turn-by-turn maneuvers as waypoints. This file is available offline, and will render your route in a navigable fashion on the tracking page, even if you have no offline maps at all and have no idea where you are.

As a bonus feature, the app will even read the directions to you when you tap the waypoint. It’s not turn-by-turn navigation read by Cate Blanchett, but hey, it’s not bad.

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