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Bill Thayer

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Google Maps Onsite

The search engine company outdid itself with this wonderful feature, and I take advantage of it onsite.

To the viewer unfamiliar with them, though, most of the amazing options are invisible: they just look like plain-vanilla maps where I might as well just have put a photo or a woodcut. But do you know that you can zoom in or out, from a world map all the way down to the city block level? Do you know that you can pan over to parts of the map that don't show onscreen when you first see it (and zoom in and out from there)? Do you know that you can switch to a satellite photograph of the area or a map with just a click of the mouse? Do you know that clicking on the markers can give you information about the places they mark, including links to other webpages? If not, you owe it to yourself to look at the generic basics of these maps as explained by Google. At the very least, you should realize that the slider in the upper-left corner of all my Google Maps, including this one, can zoom you in and out; and a simple double-click on any location (avoid the markers, though) will zoom you closer in by one level, recentering the map on that place.

As for my own custom-tailoring of the maps, it will get better and more informative as I go; but I've already added some value to the basic Google framework, and so it's already useful to provide some explanations of my own about one feature (which otherwise might often seem pretty mystifying): those markers.

Here's a sample map, portmanteauing two days I spent in Umbria (see diary, Nov. 7, 1998 and Apr. 24, 2004) and further slightly edited for demonstration purposes:

The most visible features are the itineraries, distinguished by their colors: the southern one, from Bastardo to Montefalco, is a walk; the other, from Spello to Trevi, is a ride in a car (meaning they matter somewhat less, since I almost always would have seen less than on foot). Sections outlined in the paler color — coincidentally here, at the end of both the walk and the ride — mark approximate paths: i.e., by the time I got to my computer, I was no longer absolutely sure of my precise route.

As for those markers, in a mini-rainbow of colors, they too provide information before you ever move your mouse or start clicking anything:


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a key place, often the starting or ending point of an itinerary mentioned in the text: in my diary, these are usually either train stations or my lodging for the night.


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mentioned in the text as a place where the writer has been; a stop on an itinerary.


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mentioned as a place where the writer has been — but in some earlier or later part of the text, on another webpage; part of the same itinerary.


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mentioned in the text as a place which the writer saw but did not visit, or otherwise passed by.


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mentioned in the text as a place which the writer traversed without stopping or really seeing; or an otherwise incidental place.


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a place which I want to call special attention to: sometimes a dangerous feature, or the fork in the road where you must be careful which way to turn.


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in my diary: the place where I had lunch. If you liked the experience I had at lunch in the diary account, you can locate the restaurant on the map immediately, and maybe (see below) get further information or a weblink.


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in my diary: the place where I had dinner.


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a place mentioned in the text by way of reference, or not mentioned at all but providing context.


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a place highlighted for some reason, maybe only temporarily.

Even less apparent is that these markers include more information — sometimes just the name of the place, but sometimes a capsule paragraph or two — and can also be links to another webpage or even a large site devoted to the place. For now, gliding your cursor over the marker won't reveal it: you will need to click on the marker, and a window will open inside the map. Try it on the sample map above; notice that even the smallest 
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	markers may link to very large sites, and conversely the larger markers might just have a bare name.


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Page updated: 12 Sep 14