Software engineers tend to spend a lot more time working out at the driving range than they do the putting green. Left on our own we'd all be working on stuff like 3D Birds Eye navigation or robotic building modeling; doing a local search for a coffee shop would require first getting strapped up like this Microsoft Researcher to the right so that we could predict where you wanted to find it and if you prefer decaf. Fortunately our team is lead by a seasoned cast of veteran cat herders who continuously remind us how important it is to be creating and improving the core features you use everyday at our site - driving directions, geocoding, map navigation, local search... else you might not want to return to explore Collections and create 3D tours.
When we launched the Gemini release of Live Search Maps last week there was plenty of coverage of the new gee-wiz features like 3D modeling. Now I present to you my list of the top 10 improvements aimed at delighting you; features that quietly improve your daily experience and at the same time make the more talked about features really shine. To go with another sports analogy, I present to you the starting offensive line of Live Search Maps 🙂
1. Rolled up routes or Abbreviated Directions. I guess I don't really know what to call it, I just wonder why no one thought of it sooner. The idea here is that you are usually familiar with either the start or end of your route and don't need to take a giant printout with you of all of the steps telling you how to get from your house to the highway. For instance, here is a route from University Gardens to Reagan Airport in DC. If you live in University Gardens, the first 9 of these 16 steps are burned into your head already and just get in the way when you're in the car. the final steps are the ones you really need and would normally be printed on a second sheet of paper. Live Search Maps now lets you 'roll up' the starting steps, greatly simplifying your route instructions as seen here and prints nicely on a single sheet of paper.
2. Improved Directions Printing. When printing your routes to take with you in the car, a number of improvements were made to improve readability as well as the instructions themselves. The most obvious are the font, color, and grouping changes but it goes much further. My favorite is the "You've gone too far if..." hint. When one person gives directions to another, its very natural to say something like "if you hit Thomas Street you went too far". As you can see in this route, Live maps is now doing the same thing, telling you "The last intersection is E Olive Way. If you reach E Thomas St, you've gone too far". Also, we've added highway shields and turn icons to the printout that are easy to see at a glance while driving.order-top-width:0px;border-left-width:0px;border-bottom-width:0px;margin:0px;border-right-width:0px" height=212 alt=image src="http://byfiles.storage.msn.com/y1pTcqBXnZTBA9tSlQymzkfm8dUJkP_Z-cAEBBejtp2F18yW_QKUD4FSBW4Fblyk3oLgXe3TQWGrXo?PARTNER=WRITER" width=169 align=right border=0>3. Category Browsing in an Unfamiliar area. If you're traveling to a new city one of the first things you might do is enter the city name to get a map. But what next? Chances are that you want to explore the area and see what businesses are nearby. In this version of Live Maps we've added Yellow Page category browsing and put it right on the result panel after doing a location search. You can dive into the most popular yellow page categories or click 'Browse all categories' to drill in from the top of the category hierarchy. The count of businesses in each category is updated as you move around the map. For instance, after a search for Topeka, KS I selected Restaurants and then barbeque to see business listings for BBQ places. Above the results is a 'breadcrumb trail' that helps you walk back up the category hierarchy; in this link you can see I stepped all the way back to the top, then drilled into Health and Beauty -> Doctors and Clinics -> Pediatricians.
4. Ghost nodes while drawing lines and shapes. When Google came out with their implementation of Live Search Maps' Collections a few months back (known as My Maps) they added a very nifty editing feature we hadn't thought of. I liked it so much that I offered a congratulatory beer to the engineer that came up with it; an offer that was never taken up but still stands 🙂 We've added the feature (which I dubbed ghost node editing) to this release and made some enhancements of our own making re-shaping a line or polygon smooth like butter. In edit mode when you hover over a line segment a ghosted node appears and follows your mouse. Just click at the place you want to split the segment and drag the new node. You can reshape a polygon so quickly and accurately that it won't seem like work anymore. Another fabulous but often overlooked feature in this area is the real-time distance tooltip while drawing that lets you know how big your object is. For polygons we also show you the area of your shape when you are done editing - even for complex geometries.
Live Search, Maps, Live Search Maps, Live Maps, Live Maps 3D, Gemini, Windows Live, Launch, Microsoft, Featured News