Live Search Maps: the best is yet to come

By Kip Kniskern | In Featured, News | Posted October 4, 2007 18 comments

We haven’t talked much about the changes coming to Live Search Maps, for a couple of reasons.  The first and foremost, of course, is that its not live yet, and it’s kind of hard to talk about the changes without being able to see them (and use them).  Since Live Search Maps and Virtual Earth have been rolling out regular updates for quite a while, their release schedule didn’t quite match up.  Plenty of changes are on the way in the next few weeks, however, and we’re able to show you some of them here, thanks to our friends at Waggener Edstrom.

First and most obvious, that second confusing search box is gone!

homemaps

As you can see, the search box (singular) has moved to the left, with links to Businesses, People, Collections, and Locations below it.  The map movement control is completely redone as well, wrapping around the upper left corner.  More links to the Welcome page, Directions, Collections, Notes, Share, and Print.  Compare this to the old (current) home page:

oldhome

The effect is much more room for the map, with the map control not getting in the way, and a much smaller header.

Some major improvements in traffic and driving directions are one set of impressive new features that will be showing up soon. One simple but effective improvement is a new way of writing out the directions with either the end or the beginning directions compressed.  So in this screenshot example, if you already know how to get out of Mountain View, those directions are posted as one item in the driving directions, while the San Francisco end are more detailed:

directions1

Not having to wade through a page of directions that you know by heart is a big time – and paper – saver.  Another directions improvement is a traffic re-director.  In this example, the directions have been re-routed to miss some bad traffic:

directions2

One last new feature to show on directions – the 1-click directions feature.  This is especially handy if you are inviting others to an event, where they are coming from multiple starting points.  The 1-click directions will show directions from the North, South, East, and West:

1Click

Here, major routes are shown from each direction.  Note that in the case of more than one major route (in this case coming from the East), both alternatives are shown.  Also note the icons to the left of the driving directions, which along with the bold text, makes the directions much easier to follow when you’re making your way in traffic.

There are lots more changes coming up with Live Search Maps, too, including some very cool 3D improvements that incorporate Birds Eye photography pictures directly into the 3D map, and a way to create 3D collections that “flyover” collection points.  Like Live Search, this looks like a major set of improvements.

Posted October 4th, 2007 at 3:06 pm
Category: Featured, News
Tags: Live Maps, Live Search
  • foaf

    Sounds exciting. Live Maps is my favorite application, and it beats Google Maps even in its current state.

    I just hope they improve the search functionality! For the UK, post code search is difficult and even London Underground stations have been missed off on occasion.

    Plus the ability to change a route ‘on the fly’ with a drag of the mouse is a feature I’m longing for (GoogMaps does this)

  • Chris

    Totally agree on the UK issues. The tube stop is real problem as you normally have to zoom in to the highest level in order to see them, not useful for planning where you want to get on/off!

  • Alex

    Looking great, but I hope they do a lot of work on geocoding and such too (I can’t find my own street here in The Netherlands), and satellite images quality could be better too (Bird’s Eye View is awesome)…

  • Mephiles

    The new look looks factastic! I can’t wait to see what happens to Live QnA

  • Nick

    Fricking awesome, looks really cool. I use WLMaps all the time, it’s great, soo much better than google maps. Tho I have to say, using Multimap is better for finding stuff around a point, like a hotel next to gatwick

  • pjakubo86

    This looks fantastic.

    One little complaint is that, once again, Windows Live is deviating with their header design. OneCare, Spaces, and Hotmail all have the search box for their page embedded in the header while Live Maps’ search is underneath the header and off to the side (weird?).

    Overall though, I’m very excited about this next release and what it means for the SDK.

  • Chris

    pjakubo86 – there seem to be two types of header, one for Live Search and one for WL.

    The Live Search headers differ as you say, with the search box actually being in the page. They are consistent with this across the Live Search pages though, so I don’t see it as an issue really.

    Not sure what anybody else thinks though?

  • CalumJR

    No, Chris, I don’t see it as a problem either.

    I am a big complainer of inconsistencies in software, websites and other services lol, however, I do not see a problem with this ‘inconsisteny’ because:

    1) Windows Live and Live Search are basically two seperate services.

    2) If the search bar was in the header, it would make the header of some Live Search services (such as Live Search Maps) much bigger than it should be and it would not look nice.

    Look at the header of the current Live Search Maps user interface for an example of what I mean. It looks repulsive in my opinion as it is too big.

    HOWEVER, THERE IS ONE INCONSISTENCY:

    It may be a small thing, but I’ve noticed that each of the Live Search services (apart from the new Live Search Maps) have “Live Search” in the header. However, the new Live Search Maps has “Live Search Maps” in the header. I don’t understand why?? Lol. Am I missing something?

    Anyway in relation to the new Live Search Maps:

    I think it looks VERY nice, much clearer and much better than the current Live Search Maps. I can’t wait to try out the new update!

  • Alber1690

    That looks really nice; there will finally be consistency when switching between the search categories.

  • quikboy

    Live Maps sounds much better to me than Live Search Maps – which is way too long and rambly.

    I’m glad they fixed up the UI a bit. It was always a bit slow and bulky like. Especially when you had 3D on.

    Hopefully, Virtual Earth 3D runs more faster and smoother on more machines.

    And I hope Live Maps gets more coverage around the world – a big thing people have been asking. More coverage including – at least – a proper aerial view of a city, to where you can see the rooftop.

    Several major cities across the world still can’t see their street aerially.

    Otherwise, I hope this gets launched soon.

    Where did you get this news anyway?

  • WyzyrdMyrrlyn

    LS Maps is WAY WAY WAY WAY better than GoogEarth–u try getting a closeup of my house on Goog–you get the whole county. LS Maps gets my house. The updates sound really awesome as I am sick and tired of that huge map control thing blocking my view, esp since I was using Maps for my Eagle Project and several of my birdhouse points were under it and I had to move the map around WAY WAY WAY too much for my liking.

    @calum-r of course it says Live Search Maps–its a map feature search

  • CalumJR

    @WyzyrdMyrrlyn:

    Yes I understand your point, but shouldn’t that mean that ALL of the Live Search services should say what they are in the header. E.g. “Live Search Images”, “Live Search Videos”, because all the rest currently say just “Live Search” (apart from Live Search Maps).

    If you see what I am saying?

    (Btw, I do kno that is a small point, but I do hate inconsistencies lol).

  • Zayniac

    I just had a question for all of you, which I was hoping you could address. When I look at the drop down menu from the Orb, I notice one thing noticeably missing – Windows Live Favorites. I still use this service, and it is my favourite (haha get it?) Live service, with the exception of Hotmail and Messenger. Has MS abandoned it??

  • CalumJR

    I’m also interested in the answer to Zayniac’s question. I always use Live Favourites, but it seems to be the only (if not, one of the only) Live services to be missed out of the Wave 2 orb…

    …. unless it’s just ’cause they see it as less important than SkyDrive, Gallery, etc.

    After all, there is an “All Services” button in the orb drop-down…

  • JoeM

    Will there be or is there any news on when this will be released, and when street level view will be released?
    Thanks

  • shawncm217

    The one feature I think needs improved is custom printing. In addition to being able to print just the beginning, just the end, or all the directions, I would like to print a select set of directions. I’ve never had just the end directions give me enough of the end. Most of the time, I’d like the last two or three steps, not just the last step.

  • Tegument

    I hope they eventually bring live maps/virtual earth to the Xbox 360, the 3d rendering, couch surfability and the fact that it already can navigate via the 360 controller makes it all a natural fit! ;) Oh and howabout some local weather data on the maps via a weather service such as foreca?

  • Zayniac

    True, calum-r there is that button…
    As well, a slightl problem + inconsistency. Right now, there is only a search button….but unlike all the other searches, not [Search] “Web” button beside it! Apart from being an inconsistency, this was also the biggest problem in the old LS Maps – that it was hard to then search normally, from the Maps page, except for when they all showed up when you clicked the first search box – but you could not really click another search if you hadn’t already typed something in. It would be nice if that second button was added!