April 1, 2010

Bing Maps Updated with New Features

Microsoft’s mapping, location and search platform grows continuously with the addition of new features, and the latest step in the service’s evolution is no exception to this rule. Users of the Silverlight-based version of Bing Maps will be able to notice and take advantage of new additions to the platform, including walking directions, drag-able routing flags, an expanded Streetside mini-map, a redesigned Application Gallery and improvements to local search, according to Chris Pendleton, the Bing Maps technical evangelist for Microsoft.

“Everyone in NYC will be relieved that they can use Bing Maps because we now have walking directions. Walking Directions allows you to calculate directions between two points in a way that would allow you to walk down streets that wouldn’t necessarily be fit for cars. There is a limit to how far we will allow you to walk (about 20 miles) and we won’t allow you to walk on freeways, so don’t try (you probably shouldn’t do that anyway). Now you can generate directions based on how you might drive from point A to point B or walk from point C to point D,” Pendleton stated.

Drag-able Routing Flags come to resolve a problem introduced with the intimate integration between Silverlight and Bing Maps. Because the new Bing Maps website is built in Silverlight, customers can no longer right-click on the map in order to perform various actions such as adding a location. This was, however, possible in the Classic version of Bing Maps.

“Due to a limitation of Silverlight (no right-clicking) we just don’t have that feature (yet). So, if you do want to add an arbitrary flag onto the map to add a location to your route, you can now do this by dragging the flag in the directions panel (on the left) and dropping it onto the map wherever your little heart desires. You can also drag the flags around the map to recalculate/adjust your route (that was there before),” Pendleton explained.

The expanded Streetside mini-map exists in order to allow users to better put into perspective content they are navigating in Streetside. The mini-map, located at the top right-hand side corner, can be easily accessed for traditional map information to go along with the Streetside imagery. With the latest update to Bing Maps, the minimap can be expanded consistently, to the entire width of the screen.

“We’ve changed how we’re laying out the applications in the application gallery. As the gallery grows with applications, we’ll need to continue to ensure we’re providing the optimum user experience. First, we’ve separated the apps into two categories – ‘Staff Picks’ and ‘All Apps.’ Where do you think my foursquare app is going to land? :) You can also sort by a few different filters. By default the ‘Recommended’ apps are shown. You can also filter the apps by ‘Newest,’ ‘Title’ and ‘Publisher.’ There isn’t a whole lot of difference between the last few right now, but we’re built to scale out as needed,” Pendleton added.

The improvements delivered to Local Search are designed to allow users to discover more destinations in the proximity of their current location. Customers searching in Bing’s Local Search for a certain location will be able to use the “nearby” option in order to get additional information related to their query that they would have probably missed otherwise.

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