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Mini-Map Sidebar

August 10th, 2007 at 4:00am — Rating: Firefox pointFirefox pointFirefox pointFirefox pointFirefox no pointLink

Mapping seems to be the thing that has everybody's attention nowadays and this extension was no exception.

Overview

The Mini-Map Sidebar is an extension that incorporates a lot of mapping utilities inside a compact extension. The extension includes mapping sites and utilities such as Google, Yahoo!, Live Local, Tagzania, and Platial.

Installation

The installation was flawless and showed no errors, which was a great relief. To activate the extension, press CTRL-SHIFT-E or select it through the View > Sidebar dropdown menu.

When you first display the Mini-Map Sidebar, it is probably the most attractive sidebar interface I've seen, but at the same time, seemed a little intimidating.

One of the first things I wanted to do was, of course, find my home through this interface. At first, I didn't know how to enter an address. After hovering over the icons a couple of times, I found what looked like a font enlarge icon, but it was actually a "pan to an address" function.

After typing in my address, it immediately appeared on the map so I was ready to add my new location. I clicked the "Add Address" option on the far right and a dialog appeared.  One thing I noticed was that I had to enter the address a second time in the dialog box. If it was filled in for me, a title would be all that is needed to save your record.

The drag and drop area immediately turned into a list box with tabs at the bottom.

Features

Now the fun begins. For those who use Google Maps, you should feel right at home. All of the functions in Google Maps are available through the interface: Zoom in, Zoom out, Road map, Satellite Map, Hybrid Map, and Traffic Information.

When you save an address, the drag and drop area turns into a list box with all of your addresses available. Right-clicking on an address in the list is where the fun begins.

The To and From addresses are provided if you are looking for directions. One nice feature is that when you add an address to your list, you immediately have access to that address in the Directions tab. Also, if you don't want to use Google Directions, you can select Yahoo! Directions or Microsoft Directions. That's another feature that I like about this extension is the ability to choose which service you want to use.

For you Google Earthers out there, there is even a place to store your most common GeoRSS/KML coordinates.

Conclusion

The Mini-Map Sidebar takes some of the most common features of a mapping site and provides a consolidated mapping tool that delivers results.

One complaint I have was the toolbar. When a toolbar is created in any kind of software, the most commonly used functions are placed at the front of the toolbar. It should almost be a sequence of what you want the user to accomplish (Pan to an Address first, Add Address second, etc.). With the toolbar in this extension, it took a while for me to become familiar with how it was put together, but once I understood that, I was able to move forward.

Overall, I think the extension has some great features and deserves a rating of 4 out of 5.