Why have all the map tools changed…again?

If you’ve recently used any of the map tools on randymajors.org (such as Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps or County Lines on Google Maps, etc) you may have noticed some changes.

So why fix it if it ain’t broke?!

The biggest reason is that all the map tools were about to break due to Google shutting down their Fusion Tables technology, which is what I had been using to draw all of the maps.  So after some very, very heavy-lifting for many weeks (just ask my wife!) I was able to move all of the map tools to another Google technology.  Hopefully it’s mostly transparent to you, the user, as the new tools still use a Google Maps-based map.

But some things have changed.  The biggest difference you may notice is how you search for a place (e.g. a city, address, etc.).  To search for a place, all map tools now have a “Search places” box above them, like this (outlined in redhere to highlight it):

Search places on Google Maps with Historical County Lines

The cool thing is that as you begin to type a place or address, it will help you autocomplete what you’re looking for and you can just click the choice you want from the drop-down list that appears.

The other biggest change is based on lots of feedback that people wanted the map to occupy more of their screen.  I moved the website over to a new “responsive” template, which is a fancy-techy term for a website that works to optimize itself for all different screen sizes and devices.  The new layout of the site enables the website to occupy the entire width of your screen, which in turn makes the map bigger.  Also, instead of the “information boxes” appearing within the maps at the bottom of the screen like this…:

Historical County details as found in Newberry Atlas

…now, you’ll see the same info just above the map, like this:

Historical County details as found in Newberry Atlas now at top of the map

With the change to the new website layout, the listing of tools are now on the upper left side of the page , like this:

Links to most popular tools on this website including Google Maps with county lines, city limits, ZIP Codes and township range section

If you DON’T see that list of tools on the upper left side of the page, it means that you are likely running on a lower resolution or smaller screen, and so you get this little “hamburger menu” instead in the far upper left corner of each page on the website:

Menu button to expose links to Google Maps with county lines, city limits, ZIP Codes and township range section

Just click it and the left menu bar will appear, including the listing of tools.  This is done so that the left sidebar doesn’t take up valuable space on your screen.

There is also a change in behavior when you click the maps.  Now, the place you click on the map is always marked by a blue dot so you know where you clicked, and the information pane above the map is updated based on the location of the blue dot.

Also new:  MOBILE!  The map tools should now also be usable on high end mobile devices as well.  You’ll get the same basic layout, like this (from iPhone) with the added benefit that the text should now be readable (it really wasn’t before):

Mobile version of Google Maps with county lines, city limits, ZIP Codes and township range section

I hope these changes are on-balance good for you.  At a minimum, they’re at least better than the website getting shut down because of the Google Fusion Tables sunset :)

With so many changes, no doubt some will take some getting used to.

And I likely didn’t get everything just right, so please please let me know what is and isn’t working for you in the comments below, or in the “Get in touch with Randy Majors” form in the very bottom left of each page.

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