Right “out of the browser,” Google Maps and Google Earth enable you to find, map, and display practically any location on the planet. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg: both applications are fully programmable. Hacking Google Maps and Google Earth shows how to make them jump through hoops for you.
Part of Wiley’s increasingly impressive ExtremeTech series, Martin Brown’s book teaches techniques for both “serious” and fun hacks. Want to create a real estate presentation that communicates a property’s potential by adding information that isn’t on the map? Want to simply find all the pizza joints in your ZIP code? Either way, Brown’s your man.
After reviewing Google Maps and Google Earth’s base functionality, Brown introduces Google’s APIs for controlling them. Programmers may find these APIs surprisingly simple, but as Brown notes, “the [interface’s] simplicity hides some powerful classes, objects, and interfaces.”
An “instant gratification” section puts those APIs to work. There’s a chapter on extending the examples Google provides and another on two widely used techniques for extending Google Maps’ functionality: overlays and mash-ups.
With overlays, you place information on top of a “hot” (interactive, controllable) map -- for instance, layering hotel locations over a Google street map. With mash-ups, you bring together information from multiple sources to build new applications. The author’s example: integrating transit maps with Google street maps, then adding still more data and tools, such as route guides.
Next, Brown offers a series of more sophisticated hacks and applications, from overlaying statistical data to building community sites, generating Google Earth feeds to integrating Flickr photos. You’ll find applications for planning, history, and archaeology, too. You may never control the earth, but this is the next-best thing. Bill Camarda, from the September 2006 Read Only