A totally new take...
Google (goog) announced it was redesigning its Maps product at its recent I/O developers conference. Many of the software's features are still there but have been recast in an interface that occupies most of the browsing window. The service also does a better job of pulling in information from other Google services including Zagats. Would-be users can sign up for a preview here. Take a look at the changes.
The search bar
Google's new search bar hovers over the left-hand side of the screen. It attempts to auto-complete searches, much like Web search. It also lists recent searches from users' Google accounts.
Search results are shown on the map. Hovering over each destination displays the name, while clicking pulls up a so-called info card with the exact address, hours, website, Street View options and more.
Street View works much the same way it did in previous iterations of Google Maps. Users can click and drag to navigate around sites photographed by Google's iconic mapping car.
The new Maps also pulls in users' photos of hot spots and popular landmarks. For example, clicking on Alcatraz Island generates a slideshow of user-generated images of the San Francisco location. Pictures transition from one to another with a slick animation.
Users can also zoom in to see 3-D representations of cities like San Francisco and New York.
Directions work much the same as they did before, though the interface has been refined and moved closer to the search bar.
A new scheduler allows users to compare routes -- say leaving earlier and taking the bus or later on the train -- depending on when they're leaving, where they're going, and how they want to get there.
And Easter Eggs ...
Google Maps has long contained hidden tidbits. If a user pulls the camera back all the way, a slick animation of sunlight reflecting off the Earth appears, much like in the Google Earth application.