by Laura Emery, Field Editor
If you’ve ever had anyone try to give you directions
using expressions like, “Turn just beyond the light,” or “It’s not too far
up the road,” then you know you can’t always count on such directions to get
you where you need to go.
That’s where the World Wide Web comes into the picture —
especially if you don’t own a GPS system. There are a variety of websites
that offer directions and maps designed to meet your specific needs. You can
get reverse directions, and tailor your directions to the shortest or most
direct route. Mapping sites also offer satellite/aerial as well as street
level imagery of the United States.
While the major map services are correct a majority of
the time, they are not accurate all the time. There is always a chance that
the service has not been updated to take into account new roads or roads
under construction. It is recommended that you use more than one website in
order to be sure the directions are consistent. Most of the major sites also
offer a feedback form for users to report inaccuracies in any of the maps or
directions. Once you figure out which of these websites is best for your
specific traveling needs, you need never get lost again!
Google Maps (http://maps.google.com)
is a Google service offering powerful, user-friendly mapping technology,
including business locations, contact information, and driving directions to
anyone searching for results in the United States, Canada, and the United
With Google Maps, you’ll enjoy a variety of unique
features. With draggable maps, you can click and drag maps to view adjacent
sections immediately (no long waits for new areas to download). With
satellite imagery, you can view an aerial image of your desired location
that you can zoom and pan. Integrated search results help users find
business locations and contact information all in one location. For example,
if you search for [pizza in San Jose], locations of relevant listings appear
on your map, and their phone numbers appear alongside.
Detailed directions are at your fingertips with Google
Maps. Enter an address and let Google Maps plot the location and/or driving
directions for you. Click any part of the driving directions to see a
magnified map or satellite image of that part of the route. There are also
keyboard shortcuts. Pan left, right, up and down with the arrow keys. Pan
wider with the Page Up, Page Down, Home and End keys. Zoom in and out with
the plus (+) and minus (–) keys.
MSN Maps & Directions (www.mappoint.msn.com)
includes an enhanced user interface for finding addresses, expanded
geographic coverage, and a new way to find businesses that are close to your
location. There are also options for finding addresses. You can copy and
paste the address you want to find into a free-text field instead of typing
the address into a structured form. But if you prefer to use the form, it is
still available. There is also expanded geographic coverage. You can now
find addresses and places in Australia, Brazil, and Athens, Greece, in
addition to Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland (Helsinki only),
France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal,
Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. After
you find a location on the map, you can find nearby outlets for your
favorite coffee shop, hotel, rental car agency, and more. Just click the
icon of the service you’re looking for to see nearby locations on the map.
For detailed information about a business or to get driving directions, you
can point to the pushpin that marks its location.
At RandMcNally (www.randmcnally.com),
you have a few more options than with other maps-and-directions websites.
You can use this site to plan a road trip, with its helpful sections on
places to stay, “best of the road,” road construction, weather, and things
With MapQuest (www.mapquest.com),
you can learn how to create, interpret and even customize MapQuest maps.
There are also new options for using MapQuest maps on the go with your PDA
or cellular phone. MapQuest is the leading provider of online maps. It has a
30-year history in providing high-quality cartographic services and works to
provide accurate online maps and directions. MapQuest now also features
images of road signs along with detailed directions to help you navigate.
Plus, if you’d prefer not to travel heavy-traffic highways, simply click on
the option that says “avoid highways.”
Yahoo! Maps & Directions (http://maps.yahoo.com)
directs you to enter the starting address and destination in the appropriate
boxes on the address-entry page, and then click the “Get Directions” button.
A written driving route will then appear, along with two maps. The map on
the left will show the full route, while the map on the right will show the
destination in detail. You can interact (pan and zoom) with the full-route
map to customize it to fit your needs. If you would like more detail for
your route you can enable turn-by-turn maps that will display a zoomed-in
view of each maneuver.
is a good resource if you’re planning a trip abroad.
Multimap is Europe’s most popular mapping website,
offering a range of free, useful services to assist with everyday life. Key
features include street-level maps of the United Kingdom, Europe, and the
U.S.; road maps of the world; door-to-door travel directions; aerial
photographs; and local information. It requires you to type in a street
name, postal code, place of interest or map-grid reference, and click
“Search”; then it reveals a map of the location you are seeking. If there is
more than one location with the same search criteria, it will give you a
list of options to choose from. Once you have the map of your chosen
location, you can zoom in or zoom out to see more or less detailed maps of
the surrounding area, which can be great for planning a journey. You can
even print off the page, so you have a hard copy of the map to carry with