Posted on February 08, 2005 at 01:32 AM
Google Labs just introduced their new Google Maps site. This is far different from any other on-line map programs I have used. Within the first few minutes of using it you will realize it is both easy to use and elegant. No more clicking on directional buttons to pan around a map. No more waiting for the page to refresh while you zoom in or out. With Google Maps you simply click and drag on the map, it moves with you. They also provide keyboard shortcuts if you are inclined to do so. Use the + or - keys on your keyboard to zoom in or out on the fly or the arrow keys to slowly pan across the map.
Maps are generated quickly and use good graphics to illustrate the layout of the streets. Even when zoomed way out on a city map, the streets are still well defined. Also, virtual thumbtacks illustrate the location in which you are searching. By clicking on the thumbtacks an info bubble pops up displaying related info to that location. A nice added touch is the drop shadow effect used to highlight the info bubble, giving it a three dimensional feel.
Google Maps also integrates the Google Local search into the map site. Allowing you to search for local businesses on the map. Here is a sample search I did for Sushi in Omaha. Notice on the right it provides links to all the relevant sushi restaurants in Omaha. The list breaks down around letter G. I suppose fresh seafood could be technically called Sushi, but unless I am missing something, I don't think sushi is on the menu at Old Chicago. And Long John Silver's? Let's not go there.
When you are finished searching for a destination, hit the "Link to this page" link and Google Maps will generate a URL in the address bar you can copy and save for later. Or hit the email button and send the link to a friend.
As you can see, Google Maps does have a few bugs to work out, but remember it bears the moniker "Beta". Here is a list of things I would like to see added in future versions:
Future Google Maps Wish List
- The ability to right click and drag the mouse to zoom in on a certain area.
- Better search results using Google Local. Only show results relevant to a specified area (Example of current behavior here)
- Move or drag the info bubble to a different location when it obscures other information.
- Ability to add more than one info bubble on a map at a time.