Is it possible to say enough good things about Google lately? The company has now launched a beta version of Google Maps. Like MapQuest, it allows you to quickly and easily find maps and driving directions. But this is Google we’re talking about here, so this software does so much more than that.
One of the first things you’ll notice is that the maps loads quickly and are, in my opinion, easier to read. More importantly, they’re draggable. That means that if you want to shift the map in some direction or recenter it a certain point you don’t have to wait for a new graphic to download. Just click and drag with your mouse or use the arrow keys on your keyboard and the map moves with you. Zooming in and out works just as quickly.
Where Google Maps really blows away the competition is in its local searches. By tapping into its database of local businesses and services, it can help you find the kind of place you’re looking for. For example, searching for “pho 22201” brings up this map of pho restaurants (and a couple of false positives) in my ZIP code. Clicking on any individual location brings up a tab with its phone number, address, options to get driving directions, and sometimes links to restaurant reviews.
As noted before, the service is still in beta phase and my impression from a few experimental searches is that its local databases could use some improvement. I’m sure that will come with time. It’s already an amazing tool in it’s current form and I’m sure it will only get better. Try it out!