How to Get Turn-by-Turn Navigation on a MacBook Air


When choosing between a MacBook Air (s aapl) and an iPad 3G, you might think you’re giving up GPS if you go with the MacBook.  That may not be entirely true, depending on what you want to do with GPS.  There are plenty of Mac-friendly Bluetooth GPS receivers and data loggers that can provide both realtime and recorded GPS data to your MacBook Air.

The one I’ve been using most late is the Columbus v-900 Bluetooth Data Logger ($99 on Amazon). Once paired with your MacBook Air, you can track your movements, record waypoints, and even plan a route.  Voice-guided, turn-by-turn navigation with live, updated routes is also possible on a MacBook Air thanks to an application titled RouteBuddy.

Pairing Your Bluetooth GPS Receiver

As with all Bluetooth devices, paring with a Mac is straight forward and easy.  Once this setup task is complete, the GPS receiver will be accessible to GPS-enabled software like RouteBuddy.  To pair the Columbus V-900 GPS receiver (and most others, too), follow these simple steps:

  1. From System Preferences, click on Bluetooth in the Internet & Wireless section.
  2. Click on the “+” icon in the bottom left corner of the device list to add a new Bluetooth device.
  3. Select the device from the list and click Continue.
  4. Once paring is successful, click Quit.

Once pairing is established, you’ll have to access it through your software of choice, since OS X does not have the same CoreLocation service available to it as iOS does. And because connectivity to the receiver over Bluetooth happens via the serial interface, only one application at a time can access GPS information.

Making location available to RouteBuddy is easy. It just knows that a valid GPS receiver has been paired and turned on, and starts using it automatically upon launch.

RouteBuddy for Mac With Detailed Road Maps and a POI Database

RouteBuddy and its iOS companion app RouteBuddy Atlas are the perfect pair for planning and documenting a trip.  The Mac version can do turn-by-turn navigation, and the iOS version focuses primarily on topographical maps and creating waypoints and tracks.  The road maps that RouteBuddy uses are based on Tele Atlas mapping data, the same service that Google (s goog) uses for its maps, and the one acquired by TomTom in 2007.  Once you’ve purchased and installed RouteBuddy for Mac (currently on sale for $59) and the detailed road map of the United States (sold separately for $39), you’ll need to install and register your map with the software.  Once complete, you’re ready to create your first navigable route:

  1. Select two or more Waypoints that you want to create a route between.
  2. From the Map menu, select the Create Route menu item.
  3. Double-click on the resulting route to change the order of the destinations if more than two waypoints were selected.
  4. Select the route you want to use from the drop down list of selections in the library on the left.
  5. Click Start to begin your turn-by-turn navigation.

There are several other ways to create a route from within RouteBuddy, too.  You can even connect to RouteBuddy Atlas (available for free from the App Store) on your iOS device via WebDav to access the waypoints and tracks you have recorded, and import them into RouteBuddy for Mac. When navigating, RouteBuddy will even recalculate the route if you don’t follow the turn-by-turn directions exactly, just like a dedicated GPS navigation device.  The points of interest database is quite extensive, with over 4 million items.  The smaller size of the MacBook Air’s screen makes it a perfect choice for use with RouteBuddy, but always remember to keep your eyes on the road, no matter what device you’re depending on to get from point A to point B.

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Sorry, looks like Mobile PC was discontinued. Unfortunate because it was a really nice product. I suppose there was not a lot of call with handhelds leading the way. I think Delorme still exists though.

Neil Wilson-Harris

DeLorme is still PC software…

Additionally DeLorme uses out-of-date TIGER road data from the US Census (conversely RouteBuddy uses up-to-date road network data from TomTom).

RouteBuddy has many other advantages but feel free to mail if you need more advice on choosing the best software for your needs.

Neil Wilson-Harris
CEO RouteBuddy Ltd


It drives me crazy that I cannot pair an external Bluetooth GPS with my iPad, and use something like TOMTOM. I see no good reason for Apple to prevent this.

Neil Wilson-Harris


Windows software, on a Mac? :-(

RouteBuddy not only offers worldwide road maps from TomTom but also can layer Topo maps above or below Road maps at the same time.

There’s only one company in the world that can do that on Mac OS X – and that’s RouteBuddy.

(There’s only one on Windows too, but not Garmin though…)

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