Hack 5. Driven to a Better User Interface

Driving directions and the single search box.

How much work does it take to get driving directions? With MapQuest, you need to click on a link to the Directions page, enter your starting street address, hit Tab (or even worse, take your hands off the keyboard, put them on the mouse, and click on the next field), enter your city, hit Tab, enter your state, hit Tab, enter your ZIP Code, hit Tab, and then repeat that Enter-Tab ballet for your destination.

In Google Maps, you enter your starting street address, city, state, and (optional) ZIP Code, then to, and then the street address, city, state, and (optional) ZIP Code of your destinationinto the single search box. Would you trade a click and seven tabs or clicks for a single to? I sure would! In addition, Google Maps provides lots of alternatives for asking directions. The usual way is to enter the beginning and ending destinations into the search box [Hack #2].

To get directions from O'Reilly Media to the San Francisco airport, you can enter the starting address and the airport code:

1005 Gravenstein Hwy N, Sebastopol, CA 95472 to SFO

You can even get directions from one airport to another. For example, for directions from San Francisco International to Oakland International try SFO to OAK. This pulls up the driving directions shown in Figure 1-14.

Figure 1-14. Driving directions from the San Francisco to the Oakland airports

When I get driving directions, I'm usually familiar with either the starting or ending location, but not both. Google provides a neat map-within-a-map effect to help navigate that last little bit. If you click on the Start Address or End Address links in the top of the results area on the right of the screen, a mini-map appears in the info window of the starting or ending address (Figure 1-15).

Figure 1-15. A detailed map of the destination

You can also click on the individual steps in the driving directions to get a mini-map for that navigational maneuver. The mini-map that appears is a complete map, with its own zoom (but not pan) controls, so you can position the map, zoom in, and print the map and directions. To add another level of cool, flip the mini-map to satellite view, as shown in Figure 1-16.

Figure 1-16. The detailed satellite view of the destination

We have a friend who lives donde el Diablo se perdido su poncho ("where the devil lost his poncho"), and having this imagery makes it a lot easier to understand what is happening as you traverse miles of single-lane former stage coach roads to pay a visit.

1.6.1. Using the Info Windows

When you search for an address or click on a local link, Google Maps produces the (hopefully) now-familiar info window, as shown in Figure 1-17.

Figure 1-17. You can search in the info window

You can click on the info window links to get directions to or from that address. When you click on one of those links, you get a mini search box into which you can type a location, as shown in Figure 1-18.

1.6.2. Other Ways to Search

As mentioned above, you can use any of the methods of entering a location mentioned in "Find Yourself (and Others) on Google Maps" [Hack #2] and probably several more that we haven't found! So you can get the direction from an airport to a city (LAX to Hollywood, CA) or between two ZIP Codes (94305 to 95472), or any combination of the two.

You can even get directions to a latitude and longitude. This can be fun if you are interested in the Degree Confluence Project (http://www.confluence.org/), which is attempting to collect pictures and stories from each of the latitude and longitude integer degree intersections in the world. So you could search for LAX to 34, -118 and get Figure 1-19, showing the closest degree confluence to Los Angeles.

Figure 1-18. The search box in the info window

Figure 1-19. LAX to the nearest Degree Confluence34 N, 118 W

Google Maps Hacks
Google Maps Hacks: Tips & Tools for Geographic Searching and Remixing
ISBN: 0596101619
EAN: 2147483647
Year: N/A
Pages: 131
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