Google Maps, which has been the subject of a big redesign since May 2013, is now finished and available to users as a default online application to help them get around from point to point.
The redesign's completion and the availability of the latest Maps services were announced by Brian McClendon, vice president of Google Maps, in a Feb. 19 post on the Google Lat Long Blog.
"Over the coming weeks, the new Google Maps will make its way onto desktops around the world," wrote McClendon. "Many of you have been previewing it since its debut last May, and thanks to your helpful feedback, we're ready to make the new Maps even more widely available."
Google had unveiled a series of innovative updates for Google Maps at its annual Google I/O developers conference in May 2013, including a more interactive look and feel for Maps. The new Google Maps takes a novel approach to how people use online and mobile maps. Maps gains the ability to respond to user inputs instantly—making recommendations on places to visit and highlighting information that matters most during a map inquiry. The new generation of the Maps service essentially creates maps that are unique to each user and his or her needs, based on the input from the user.
"It's now even easier to plan your next trip, check live traffic conditions, discover what's happening around town, and learn about a new area—with Pegman's help if needed," wrote McClendon.
Amid the changes and improvements in the new Maps is the ability to search for "coffee" in a neighborhood on a map, and be shown local results and snippets right on the map, he wrote. "When you click on a cafe, the map will suggest related results that you may not have known about."
Also improved are specific directions that can be provided, whether you are traveling by car, bicycle or mass transit, wrote McClendon. "Find the most efficient route for you, with your best options laid out on the map, including the time and distance for each route. And with the new real-time traffic reports and Street View previews, you'll become a commuting ninja."
Improved rich imagery in the latest Maps version "takes you to notable landmarks, sends you flying above mountains in 3D, and gives you a sneak peek of businesses you plan to visit," wrote McClendon. "The new 'carousel' at the bottom of the map makes all this imagery easy to access, so you can explore the world with a click."
The new version is still subject to updates and improvements that will continue over time, he noted. "With any product redesign, there may be bumps along the road. We're hoping that you're as excited as we are to navigate uncharted territory in pursuit of the perfect map."
Google is always expanding the reach of its Google Maps services.
Earlier in February, Google updated its Google Maps Android API Utility Library with two key new data visualization features—marker clustering and heat maps—that are aimed at improving the tools developers have when they are building apps for Google Maps on Android.