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This week, Microsoft rolled out major enhancements to yet another member of its Live family: Live Search Maps.
Now, Live Search Maps places the directions in the left pane and the map in the right pane, making it easier to follow your route. Click the number next to each checkpoint to display a detailed map. And, you can switch quickly between 2D, 3D, aerial, and traffic views and, in a feature borrowed from its rivals, add stops as desired.
In a significant nod to those of us who navigate by landmarks, landmarks in six categories (gas stations, major national hotel chains, restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores, and car dealerships) are now incorporated into the directions ("pass TACO BELL on the left in 1.1 miles"), and Live Search Maps even warns you if you've passed your last turn ("the last intersection is Main St If you reach Oak St, you've gone too far"). So, whether you're on a cross-country jaunt or just need to fill the inner geek with a quick meal, Live Search Maps has you covered.
With the optional Clearflow setting to help avoid traffic jams and an optional Traffic view, Live Search Maps acts as much like a GPS as a web-based mapping program can - except for the robotic voice (but you can do your own impression).
User-created maps (also known as "community maps") can be added to Live Search Maps and be searched by other users. As CNet puts it in their news story:
The user-created items will also be mixed in with business results, which means you or someone else could enter in a business' address and phone number before it's been officially added and have it show up in regular searches. Neat.
And, yes, Firefox fans, it works just fine in your favorite browser (as well as in IE). Give it a try and tell us how you like it.
Update 10-2-2008: Firefox fans, it looks as if the Welcome mat is out only if you're running Windows. MacOS users (see comments) are getting the cold shoulder from Redmond. If your experience varies, drop us a note.