Live Search Maps: the best is yet to come

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!

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.