In the world of online mapping services, Ask Maps and Directions 2.0 is unique for providing multipoint directions within any Web browser, but it's not a standout. Like its competitors, Ask Maps provides satellite imagery so that you can see landscapes and neighborhoods from the sky, but this sometimes sluggish tool lacks business directories and options for personalization.
Still, we like the uncluttered look and feel of Ask.com's mapping pages, which closely mimic those of Google Maps. The right-hand maps pane lets you choose views of road maps, aerial imagery, or topography, and it offers options for printing, e-mailing, bookmarking, and linking to chosen maps. The left-hand pane displays step-by-step driving and walking directions, but no business listings. We're pleased that many of Ask's aerial views, particularly in urban locations, brought us closer to the ground (as close as six square inches of land per pixel) than Yahoo Maps beta did.
Ask Maps' AJAX technology enables it to work in any Web browser, but we occasionally suffered page-loading delays as long as eight seconds--even slower than the delays within Yahoo's flash-enabled maps.
Luckily, Ask offers keyboard shortcuts that allow you to drag around a map with arrow buttons and zoom in or out with the plus and minus keys. Pressing a number button will take you to that numbered step in your driving directions. And you can right-click the mouse on a location to get driving directions to or from that point. Change your mind about where to go? Just click a route point with the left mouse button and drag it to a new spot. You can also rearrange directions by dragging location points up and down within the left-hand pane.
Like Google Maps, Ask Maps lets you search for a place within a single text field, which we prefer to the sometimes confusing two-field approach of Yahoo and Windows Live. Ask also recognizes three-digit airport codes and allows for some natural-language queries, so you can type Miami to Orlando to New Orleans to plan that road trip.