Maps and Satellite Photos @ Google

by Harold Davis

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If you haven't tried it, the relatively new mapping capabilities at Google are very cool. I like the maps. You enter an address (or portion of one). The user interface is very sparse, with a widget in the upper left to control zooming in and out and panning across a map. Like Mapquest, you can get driving directions to or from an address. Unlike Mapquest, there are no annoying ads, pop-ups, and other distractions. You can use the Google maps to find businesses or services of a specific type in a given locale.

For reasons I can't quite put my finger on, I think the Mapquest maps may actually be a little better for navigating by car than the Google maps. But one feature of the Google mapping application is, in fact, cool beyond belief. If you click the Satellite button on the upper right hand corner of the screen, you can see the aerial, satellite photographic view of any map. The zooming and panning tools work with these satellite pictures.

Start with where you live from above and pinpoint your block and rooftop. You can zoom in and out, see your whole city or state. Kids love this.

Some fine print: Google maps and sat photos are limited to the United States and Canada (more world coverage is promised soon). Coverage in rural areas can be spotty. This, however, corresponds rather well to the areas that are not much sought after (click here for a Google engineer's visualization of frequency of search by locale).

More fine print: the photos seem somewhat dated (for example, big elm trees can be seen in the aerial view of my house, they came down in winter storms over two years ago). There are the usual sporadic reported glitches in the maps (this is not unique to Google's maps).

Here's a neat application that combines Google Maps and Craig's List so you can view the location of Craig's List real estate listings.