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Saturday, October 21, 2017

1860. Maps on-line

Lately, I seem to be looking for maps and directions and distances more often. When I search online for just "Maps" I seem to get a lot of choices. Many of them require me to download some files. I am always leery of unneeded downloads and have gotten into trouble in the past. What map programs would you recommend?

We well remember the days of Microsoft Maps (and other applications) that required you to load a bunch of CDs worth of content to your hard drive in order to look up locations and get directions to places. Ken still has a fresh copy of Microsoft Maps 2012 in his storage closet at home! Of course, such things are antiques at this point, and there’s no reason to install anything or run a special application to get general-purpose cartographic information (big words for “maps”).

Online versions of mapping software have replaced any sort of downloadable/installable maps, and if you find yourself installing anything to view maps online, you’re doing it wrong. The “big” maps are Bing (maps.bing.com) and Google (maps.google.com). Each service has its particular focus, and special features. We’ve tried both extensively. (It’s quite possible that you have a different mapping product that you like—there are many others besides Google and Bing—they’re just the biggest/most popular.)

With either service, you can provide an address, a zip code, or a description of where you want to go. You can ask for directions from either service. In our experience, Bing is slightly easier for sharing maps (it just seems a little easier with Bing to send someone a particular map location, but that could just be personal preference). Both map services provide mobile applications so that you can easily use their mapping services on a mobile device, as well. Note that both Google and Bing/Microsoft allow you to download maps to a mobile device, so that you can use their mapping information while you’re disconnected from the internet. This feature doesn’t work on all phones or operating systems, so check carefully before making a decision which to use.

So, the answer is simple: We don’t recommend any map program at all: Instead, we suggest that you simply use an online mapping service, and install nothing at all.

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