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A Review of Online Mapping Sites: MSN Maps

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This is part 6 of a 9 part series reviewing online mapping sites. Click here for the introduction to the series.

MSN Maps provides a simple interface and a simple map, though distracting advertising appears on its pages. It is not spectacular and replete with a multiude of functions but it does what it is meant to do quickly and easily. The drop down box for the country listing defaults to the United States but most western countries are available to choose from.

The map is available in 3 different sizes - inidicated clearly by boxes of varying sizes at the top of the map. There are 11 different scales at which to view the map and the map style is fairly consistent throughout all of them. Roads, major water features, railroads and airports appear on the map but little else. Minor water features, inlcuding lakes, appear as single lines. Street text appears on the single line streets, making it a bit harder to read.

A couple of useful options are offered for finding directions. As well as the shortest / fastest option, MSN Maps offers a standard map and what it calls a “LineDrive” option which strips away all non-route information and provides a simple line map of only the route. I can see this being of particular use to those who are cartographically challenged. Distance of the test route was slightly longer than the actual (42.1 kilometres versus 41.3) and the estimated time was similarly very close to the actual (34 minutes versus 32).

In short: MSN Maps’ LineDrive option for its directions map is about the only thing to set it apart from any of the other maps services. For those who are cartographically challenged, this may be enough.

Tomorrow: Rand McNally

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