Google Maps is most people's first idea of mapping software. So it's too bad that the service's interface is so cluttered, especially compared with the clean interfaces of the other top mapping sites we've visited.

One of the best things about Google Maps is that it lets you dynamically change the route of a trip. Start a route with a mouse click, choose the start and end locations, and then just drag a section of the route and drop it elsewhere on the map. In a flash, the directions on the map change - as do the written directions. That's a great feature for rerouting if you should discover a backup on your route (and you will, trust us) by clicking the Traffic button.

Right-click the route to add more yellow pushpin stops, or add stops via the written directions in the Search Results panel; or you can drag-and-drop written instructions to rearrange the route.

You can save up to 100 map locations, but doing so requires that you log in to a Google account (click Sign in to start creating one). To make your maps easier to retrieve, use Google's My Maps tab. Another option is to create a link for sending maps via email. However, the only data you can send to a cell phone is a business location.

Unfortunately, Google Maps' annotation tools are paltry compared with those of Ask City and Live Search Maps. Google does let you add placemarks and include .rtf, .html, and other files; you can draw segment lines and shapes, but you can't draw circles, and you can't embed text directly on the map.

Even worse, we spent way more time figuring out the service's controls than we did actually creating and annotating my maps. Google Maps simply isn't as easy to use as Live Search Maps or Yahoo Maps. After much struggling, we discovered that the annotation tools were available only if we chose Create new map under the My Maps tab.

We were also bewildered by the right-click options, which changed depending on the map view. For instance, a "clear map" button to start over was available in a business search, but not in the map's own search feature.

Google Maps: Specs

  • IE 6.0+, Firefox 0.8+, Safari 1.2.4+, Netscape 7.1+, Mozilla 1.4+ or Opera 8.02+
  • Google log-in for My Maps
  • internet connection
  • IE 6.0+, Firefox 0.8+, Safari 1.2.4+, Netscape 7.1+, Mozilla 1.4+ or Opera 8.02+
  • Google log-in for My Maps
  • internet connection

OUR VERDICT

Google Maps is a winner in many respects, but we don't like its cluttered interface.

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