There are so many quality driving directions and mapping systems websites out there these days that it is getting harder and harder to decide upon which one to use. As part of the “Live Search” option of MSN, the MSN Maps and Directions website is a basic mapping and driving directions website, giving accurate driving directions with distances between turns, the total distance, driving time, and return driving directions. Using MSN Maps and Directions could not be easier.
On the front page, you have the choices of selecting Businesses, Collections, Locations and Web, as well as Collections, Directions and the Welcome page. The Welcome Page gives the user a list of the most popular destinations and interests in the Country in which you are looking for Maps (currently the USA and Canada). Selecting one of the items of interest will display a map of the city that the item of interest is located in, and a picture of the item itself ( e.g. In Canada, select CN Tower, Banff, etc.).
The Directions option is rather self explanatory. You get driving directions between two points, with the option of getting the shortest distance or shortest driving time. Simply enter your starting and end positions, and MSN Maps will give you printable driving directions, with the distance between each turn, and the total distance. The Collections Page gives the user the ability to see pictures and videos of areas of interest posted by other users ( after passing a submission test) and the system, as well as previous locations that you have selected. Enter a Keyword or Tag to go along with the selected Collection, and directions between the two are given. This is great if you are looking to drive to one of the locations included in the Collections section.
Locations is where MSN Maps really gets interesting. Enter a location that you are interested in, and you can see a 2D or 3D pictorial display of the location (e.g., Niagara Falls) that pans for a complete 360 Degree view, and zooms in and out, using Virtual Earth 3D (a downloadable extra). Every location that you visit is stored in your “My Locations” area, and can be revisited by clicking on your previous entries. This is different than Google Earth in that the pictures are streaming video, and you can control the direction of the pan, as well as other controls.
The Businesses sections is, again, rather self-explanatory. Enter a business that you would like information on, and/or driving directions to and from. Each business you select is saved in the “Your Businesses” section, for easy and quick revisiting. Simply enter the name and location (close is good enough, if you don’t know the street name, try “Main Street”, as almost every city has a Main Street. You will be at the location that you last entered on Locations, but you can change the location before selecting a business within that location to get driving directions to. Entering “New York” as the location, and “Empire State Building” as the business, and you will get a map of the location, with the Empire State Building highlighted, and driving directions given to and from.
Under “Options”, the user gets the option of choosing miles or kilometres, whether or not to use pan and zoom (for the Collections page videos), whether or not to save each location you visit to your “My Locations” database, and 3D performance and settings (you need the Virtual Earth 3D download for access to this option).
One of the more simpler to use mapping and driving directions websites, MSN Maps and Directions is extremely easy to use for the person who wants to see exactly what the location they are interested in looks like, and to get driving directions to and from that location.