Google Revamps Map Interface

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Google has added new tools to its maps interface that make it easier to move between views in the program. Now you can hop from a satellite view to a map view to an earth view with the click of a thumbnail. What's more, you can impose on a view various "layers" -- traffic patterns, geotagged photos and videos, webcam locations and such -- with the same simplicity.

When you hover over the thumbnail of a view in the widget, a second thumbnail of another view will appear. For example, if the map view is displayed on your screen, hovering over the widget will display thumbnails for the satellite and earth views.

Clicking the satellite thumbnail, displays a satellite view of your map.

Clicking the earth thumbnail, displays a view from Google's earth app.

Below the thumbnails, there's a button labeled traffic. Clicking that button displays a menu of the various layers that can be imposed on the view.

For example, clicking on the traffic choice will show you the current traffic patterns in your map area, allowing you to avoid congested throughways.

You can also use the menu to see photos and videos that have been tagged to locations on the view, as well as bicycling routes, location-linked Wikipedia entries, real estate for sale and a number of other layers.

The new navigation widget is a welcome improvement to Google Maps. It groups together the many features of the application in a way that's easy to find and friendly to use. Better yet, it makes a great app even greater.

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