Friday, April 15, 2005

Annotating the planet with Google Maps

I have always been a huge fan of MapBlast and MapQuest with MapBlast being my preference because of its wonderful LineDirections! Who needs to see all those unnecessary small roads and who wants to waste ink printing color-shaded route maps that aren't going to add to the journey? I used to have the opinion that MapQuest was better in the City and MapBlast better in the rural areas. Now-a-days I don't think one matters over the other although I still occasionally can find an address on one but not the other. I even continued to like MapBlast when Microsoft bought them and tried to get me to type

I recently installed Microsoft's MapPoint (for developers) from my MS Partner kit and was so completely impressed that I figured I would never use an online mapping program again. MapPoint even updates its data to show me current construction information which allows for better trip time prediction.

Google Maps is one of the latest on the online mapping scene and I must say I'm thoroughly impressed. Google Maps is stealing my attention away from MapBlast and Mappoint. Jon Udell writes in "Annotating the planet with Google Maps" that Google Maps was receiving a negative response to his article "Google Maps pushes the envelope" as the directions were off and its coverage wasn't as comprehensive as MapBlast or Multimap. Jon puts all these concerns aside as he describes some of the potential that is soon to be realized from Google Maps. He focuses on describing how Google Map data can be downloaded into a GPS receiver and used to give walking tours of our choice!

The friend is Matt King, and his proof of concept is a JavaScript bookmarklet that uses Google Maps to display a walking tour of Beverly Hills, with waypoints labeled and linked to photos. If you try it, be sure to check out the black-and-white bunny sitting on the tree lawn of N. Rodeo Drive between Park and Carmelita. (Matt King's latest)
Google Maps has won me over mostly because I don't have to be precise in my search. I can misspell a person's name or street address and Google Maps still finds it. Google Maps will overlay a beautifully rendered line on top of satellite photos so giving directions to a visual yet spatially impaired person is now much easier. After typing an address, say the library where our support group meets which is 100 Golf Club Road, Knoxville, TN 37919, I get this map. After I zoomed and centered the map the way I wanted it to appear, I right-clicked the "link to this page" and copied the url. With the "link to this page" feature you can instant message, email or post a google map the way you want it to appear for anyone. Now with the library map up, I can click the "local search" link at the top of the screen and type "pizza" to find all the places that sell pizza near the library in case we want to have pizza for the support group. Next, click any red tear drop to see detailed information about the pizza shop and you can get directions. I'm going to enter the directions from the library. I now have detailed directions and distance with a line on the map. Next I click the satellite link to see the line over actual imagery of our route. For fun I zoom in as close as possible for the final leg of the journey. Very impressive!

Other online mapping tools include:
djuggler's personal blog is Reality Me and he consults as Superior Internet Designs