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Mapping Web Sites

The four online mapping sites I tried--Google Local, MapQuest, Windows Live Local, and Yahoo Local Maps--work in fundamentally the same way: You type in starting and ending addresses, and receive a map and written turn-by-turn directions. Every site except MapQuest lets you turn a searched location into a start or end point for directions, via a menu that pops up when you roll your pointer over the location's map marker. The coolest new feature, offered by Google Local and Windows Live Local, is dazzlingly detailed (albeit dated) satellite imagery of the U.S. landscape; using it, I zoomed in on my neighborhood and easily picked out my house.

I tested the sites by evaluating the ease of finding and getting directions to a location, and the accuracy of the directions. I also looked up two recently opened businesses in my neighborhood (Starbucks and Peet's Coffee), a good test of whether each site's points-of-interest database was up-to-date.

To compare the sites, see our chart, "Free Mapping Services Improve Graphics, Features."

At a Glance
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