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The Internet: The Missing Manual by David Pogue, J.D. Biersdorfer

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Driving Directions

It's easy enough to find the address of an individual or business on the Web, but you may also need help finding your way there. Most mapping sites are easy to use: Type a street address, and the site shows you a map pinpointing its location. Most maps let you zoom in for a closer look or zoom out to orient yourself in the surrounding area. You can even print the map out to take with you or email it to someone.

If you need to not only find an address, but also get there from your current location, most sites also give you driving directions between the two points. Just type in the address you're starting from and the one where you want to end up. The site lists your turn-by-turn instructions and draws your route on a map.

Map sites aren't always 100-percent accurate; among other things, most don't account for current road construction, detours, rush hour, flash floods, or other factors that may cause you to vary your route. Still, their directions should get you there eventually and are almost always better than stopping 54 times to ask directions.

With that in mind, here's where to find maps on the Web:

  • Google Maps. Google's maps section (http://maps.google.com) serves up easy-to-read street maps, clearly indicating the location of your entered address. Google also offers unique hybrid maps that overlay markers like state and city boundaries over satellite photographs. (See the Tip in Section 4.3.)

  • Yahoo Maps. Gunning to keep tabs on current road conditions, Yahoo now adds live traffic updates (Figure 4-1) to its maps. Standard maps and driving directions are also on the menu at http://maps.yahoo.com.

    Yahoo's new live traffic feature factors in traffic delays and construction hazards along the way, so you'll know what to expect before you head out.

    Figure 4-1. Yahoo's new live traffic feature factors in traffic delays and construction hazards along the way, so you'll know what to expect before you head out.

  • MapQuest. Owned by America Online, www.mapquest.com was one of the first sites to deliver street maps and driving directions to your desktop computer—and it's continuing to innovate. MapQuest's mobile features for phones and personal organizers let you find places (including your own current location) on compatible wireless phones. They also sell a personal navigation device for your car that gives directions and displays real-time satellite-generated maps.

  • MapBlast. Part of the MSN Empire, MapBlast lets you specify maps in miles or kilometers, the shortest route or the quickest one, and has links to traffic maps as well. Microsoft's in the process of changing the site, at www.mapblast.com, into a new service called Windows Live Local with more interactive features for Windows folks.

Tip

Want to feel like Superman swooping high above the Earth? Google and Microsoft have been diligently working on interactive mapping services that combine satellite and aerial photography. To see the world from your desktop, check out Google Earth (http://earth.google.com) or Microsoft's Virtual Earth (http://local.live.com), which works for Windows computers and Macs running the Firefox browser.

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