Google Maps

Many people don’t realise that there is more to Google than the ever popular and powerful search engine component.Recently the company have been introducing beta (test) versions of other services such as Google News, Google Local and Google Catalogue to add to their more established (but still relatively unknown) services such as Google Mobile and Google Labs.All of these services can be located by heading to www.google.co.uk and clicking on ‘more’

One feature that caught my eye recently was ‘Google Maps’ which can be located by either following the instruction above or by heading directly to http://maps.google.co.uk and whilst in many ways this service is pretty much identical to more established sites such as www.multimap.com I think there are several things that set it apart.Still in Beta test version, Google Maps cover the UK, Canada and the USA with more to be added when the service is fully functional.

When you first enter the site you are invited to enter a search term which could consist of any place name or postcode and when entered the map of the UK will then zoom instantly to give you a detailed local level map.

By clicking on ‘Directions’ you can also enter a starting point and a finishing point and Google will give you a list of directions along with a map to guide you from your starting location right through to the end of your journey.

Neither of the above two features are at all groundbreaking but what does set Google apart is that the map quality and detail does appear to be a lot better than any of the competitors available online and also that at any point you can click on ‘Satellite’ and the map view will instantly be switched to a high quality satellite image.These satellite images can be zoomed step by step from so far up that you can see whole continents right down to the level where you can actually spot houses.

I wasted best part of half an hour today playing around with this feature, entering the postcodes of friends and customers around the UK to get an idea of how the area they live in looks from space.When looking around London you can get right down to street level so that all the famous landmarks are clearly visible and whilst this was an ultimately unproductive pursuit which distracted me from the pile of work sat on my desk it was surprisingly addictive. Unfortunately the service hasn’t got Torbay satellite mapped right down to street level yet although you can get in far enough to see the rooftops of houses in the Bay.

The mapping technology also ties in with Google Local so that you can search for businesses in specific areas; for example type in ‘Pizza’ and TQ4 and you will be presented with a list of pizza take aways in the local area along with either a map or satellite image showing you where they are located.Click on any one of these and you can immediately get detailed directions on how to find it from your present location.I was pleasantly pleased that when I typed in ‘cartridges’ and TQ4 that Google then gave me a picture of my business premises from space!

I would certainly recommend taking a few moments out your day to visit this site; you will either find it a worthwhile resource which can be bookmarked and kept for future reference or a worthy ten minute distraction.

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

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