On October 15, 2007, somewhat quietly, the latest and thus far greatest version of Live Search Maps was rolled out. It has so many cool new things that it's hard to pick what I like the best, but I think the improvements that have been made to the navigation controls are wonderful. In the screenshot below you'll notice there's a blue navigation bar in the upper left of the display window. BTW, the address featured in the screenshot there is that of the building where my father's plumbing business used to be – those are 4 of the trucks in the driveway to the right of the building. Since these aerial photos were taken the building has been sold, and subsequently replaced with a new condo building.
Ah, the march of progress. But I digress; we're here to talk about new features. Here are my top 5 favorites:
- Only one search box!!! You don't know how many times I had to help out friends and family who would get tripped up by the old arrangement where there were two boxes – one for the business or category, and the second for the address. It may not seem like much to remove a text box, but there's a world of software engineering that went into the text parsing that happens when you click the 'Search' button now. And in my experience with it so far this week, it works very well.
- Photo-synth inspired integration of the Bird's Eye photos with the 2D and 3D map views. The process of keeping yourself oriented when transitioning between maps and Bird's eye imagry was once very clunky and difficult, but is now instantly intuitive.
- 1-click directions – this is so cool – it's the way I always need to give out directions when I have a big group of people coming to one location – they're coming from all different locations, they know where they are, they just need to get here… nice.
- Route Around Traffic – real time traffic was cool, but what if you're from out of town and aren't sure what the best alternate route would be?
- Lat/Long mouse tracking – watch the lower right corner of the image as you move the pointer. Didn't you always want to know where you were pointing?
You can read about all of the new features over on the Virtual Earth team blog.
Finally, I want to put in a plug for the latest version of the Mobile version of Live Search Maps which now feature Gas Prices! Take your phone (Blackberry's now too!) and browse on over to http://mobile.live.com and download it.