“Eww! What in the world is this?!”
If that was your reaction after laying eyes on the new desktop version of Google Maps announced Wednesday, then you should be happy to learn that there are several online alternatives that work great.
So, if you’re really interested in moving on from Google Maps, pack your travel bag and allow us to be your guide to finding a map service more your style. (We’re not going to include Yahoo Maps, which, like us, is made by Yahoo, but that’s good, too.)
Here are our picks. Don’t forget to use the restroom before we leave.
Microsoft’s foray into mapping is probably the most like Google Maps, so it’s certainly worth trying if you’re looking for a replacement. The site uses Bing to search for nearby food, coffee, retail and other services. (During our tinkering with Bing Maps, we learned that there are a good number of pizza places in NYC, as pictured above. Who knew?)
Some things we like about using Bing Maps, besides the search abilities: (a) You can sign into your Microsoft account to save places and frequent points of interest, (b) the Bird’s Eye view is gorgeous and (c) Streetside is a formidable Google Maps Street View competitor. Downside: We did notice the lack of bicycle navigation.
MapQuest is the elder statesman of the Internet mapping world, launched way back in 1996. Nowadays, the site is packed with links to travel companies and services of that ilk, which can be handy if you’re looking for things like hotel accommodations or a car to rent. But behind it all, MapQuest is still a very capable mapping service.
You can explore in satellite or traditional map mode, view real-time traffic conditions (complete with live camera views) or pop in a destination to get detailed driving, biking, transit or walking directions. And, unlike Google Maps, sending your directions to your car’s Garmin GPS unit is fairly simple: Just download a plug-in, hook it up to your computer via USB and click the Send button in the top-right side of the map.
Google bought Waze to incorporate its social network service into Google Maps, which helps you navigate routes that skirt poor traffic conditions. But, by visiting the Waze desktop site, you can instead use Waze and skirt Google Maps.
The Waze desktop version is a nice-looking and simple way to get travel directions. Just punch in your current location and desired destination, and you’ll be given the quickest driving directions, based on current traffic conditions. Though, as Waze doesn’t really have much of a search function, you’ll need the addresses of all your points.
TomTom Route Planner
The desktop navigation service from GPS maker TomTom is lightweight and basic. Just type in your points (the site does offer a limited search function), and TomTom will find you the best driving route, while factoring in live traffic delays.
Like most other mapping sites, you can link or email yourself directions. TomTom’s desktop service also lets you connect your TomTom device and send the info directly to any TomTom unit.
Don’t laugh: We all remember the negative attention that the mobile launch of Apple Maps received (visit this Tumblr for lols). But that was a year and a half ago. The company has since squashed a lot of the bugs and released a version for its Mavericks operating system that we think is a nice alternative to Google Maps.
The app looks great, with 3D photo renderings of many city layouts, and also uses Yelp to search for local businesses. Once you map out directions, you can either share them by standard email or text, or also use Apple’s AirDrop to beam them to your iPhone or iPad.
For now, Maps is packaged with and only available for OS X Mavericks. It’s a solid alternative for those who are living the iLife.
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