Playing with the Google Maps API

First steps

The Google Maps API turns out to be incredibly easy to use, due in no small part to excellent API documentation and examples provided by the Google Maps team. Within ten minutes of sitting down to look at the API, I had up my first GMaps hack going.

My first hack's interface looks the same at first glance, but the map dimensions have been increased to 2000 pixels^2, allowing full screen map display on most monitors, something that the original Google Maps interface is unable to offer. The map's also centered over San Francisco, rather than 300 miles above some godawful Red State somewhere in the Midwest, making it a good deal more useful to me.

Comparative mapping

Emboldened by my first experience with the API, I decided to try something slightly more ambitious, so I hacked up a four pane interface to Google Maps that allows four simultaneous maps to be displayed on screen together. Although you can, of course, display any location in any of the four onscreen maps, the real advantage of the interface is comparative mapping -- viewing a single location at several different zoom levels, viewing a street map and a corresponding aerial photo side by side, etc.

Planned enhancements

Since the four maps are currently independent entities, moving to a different location entails manually resyncing the position of each map, and setting zoom levels appropriately for the task at hand. Getting maps at the same zoom level to optionally move in lock-step with one another would greatly enhance the usefulness of the interface. Ultimately, I'd like to revise the interface to permit users to create custom arrangements of map panels with custom sizes and attributes.

The four pane interface in action

City Hall, San Francisco, CA

Four pane map interface centered over San Francisco's City Hall

Central Park, New York, NY

Four pane map interface centered over Central Park in New York City

UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA

Four pane map interface centered over UC Berkeley in Berkeley, California

Chicago O'Hare (ORD), Chicago, IL

Four pane map interface centered over Chicago O'Hare airport in Chicago, Illinois

Everything by Google is (C) Google 2005.

Everything else is:
(cc) 2005 Rupert Scammell

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Last updated Sat Jul 2 17:55:07 PDT 2005