eMaps - Desktop Client for Google Maps

key review info
  • Application: eMaps 2.1.5
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application features
  • eMaps provides maps, satellite imagery, driving directions, local search for numerous countries around the world.
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Having a service like Google Maps at your fingertips, free of charge and easily accessible from anywhere in the world is truly extraordinary. eMaps is a simple application that provides some of the most useful Google Maps features on your desktop, in a clean and user friendly environment.

Although being able to access Google Maps from a web browser of your choice is quite useful, dealing with the website interface can be a drag. The actual map space is reduced by the browser’s toolbars, the website search bar or by the big lateral panel that needs to be active when using features like Get Directions or My Maps.

eMaps is a small but effective application that follows very intuitive usage rules and provides a wide area for browsing the available maps, while allowing the user to access several useful capabilities like getting addresses, directions, creating default locations or browsing the Street View service. The best part is that all of these features are available through non-intrusive buttons or keyboard shortcuts.

The Looks

eMaps' interface is extremely simple yet functional. Most of its main window is reserved for browsing the map, while its extended capabilities can be accessed either through the toolbar situated on top, or via the application’s menus (in most cases the menu entries also have associated keyboard shortcuts).

eMaps comes with its own set of default icons included in the toolbar but you may also create your own combination through the Customize Toolbar panel. Although this is a quite common practice, in this particular case it is extremely useful. This way you can add buttons for almost all features right on the top toolbar.

On the other hand, the default window button situated on the top right corner allows you to hide the toolbar altogether, offering even more browsing space, while you can use keyboard combinations to enable additional functions.

The Works

eMaps provides the basic browsing controls when it comes to map interaction (drag and drop to move the map, move around using the arrow keys or zoom in and out using the scroll or the controller buttons), while on the bottom left corner you can see the map scale. The easiest way to find a certain location is the search bar included in the top toolbar, but you must know exactly what you are looking for since it does not display search hints.

Keep in mind that eMaps is not currently intended to replace the Google Maps webpage altogether. Although it is under active development, eMaps has limitations and probably the most obvious one is related to the data you can see via the browsing window.

When it comes to map types, the application allows you to see the geographical representation of the Earth, physical maps, satellite images or a hybrid combination (e.g. it shows satellite images along with the roads and buildings names). Additionally, you may also access representations of the Moon, Mars or the Sky.

While displaying Earth's map, eMaps allows you to see geotagged photos, videos, webcams or Wikipedia articles for each location. What you cannot see are the Google Buzz entries, the bicycling routes or the real estate listings.

Going further, it is true that eMaps is offering support for getting directions on how to travel from point A to points B, but it is only able to provide car routes, while the website also includes data about how to use public transportation, or the best roads for walking or bicycling. On the same note, eMaps can display the current traffic status but it does not provide support for using the traffic prediction tool available on the Google Maps website.

Likewise, eMaps allows you to set the default location at startup, save the current map as JPG or send it to your printer, but it cannot extract the hyperlink so that you can send it to your friends.

Still, you can easily draw a line or a shape on your map (their color can be changed through a simple click, but the same action also enables panels that specify the line length or shape area), clear the additional data, see the progress status or reload the map.

When it comes to the Street View service, eMaps is performing exemplary: the processing time is as good as the website one, and you can quickly switch to the image gallery or to full screen mode. The bad part is that it does not offer the option to have a minimap displayed on one of the browser’s corners in order to know where you are at all times.

On the other hand, eMaps allows you to get the address of a certain location on the map by placing a simple marker, set several pins of different colors that can be saved as places (this way you can create quickly accessible shortcuts for multiple locations) or view files that provide geographic content using the Open URL function.

The same type of files can be opened using Google Earth, and many could argue that Google Earth would be a more suited application for desktop usage. The fact is that eMaps' simplicity may be better suited for the needs of some users, taking into consideration that the app requires very few resources (its archive is under 200Kb and it runs flawlessly even on a Mac with OS X 10.4).

The Good

eMaps is extremely easy to use and provides quite a lot taking into account the required resources. The best part is that the application is offering a user friendly environment where one can access the Google Maps service without having to deal with a webpage's space limitations.

eMaps allows you to use most of its capabilities through a clean toolbar or via keyboard shortcuts, making the functionality elements less intrusive and allowing the user to browse the maps without any constraints.

The Bad

eMaps does not provide support for some of the features offered by the Google Maps website, an understandable fact if taking into account that the project is released under Donationaware terms.

The bad part is that its limitations are not clearly stated anywhere: the included Help document is quite limited, which means that the user must explore on its own in order to see exactly what eMaps can or cannot do.

The Truth

eMaps may not include every function available on the Google Maps website but, if you are looking for a low resources desktop application that allows you to browse the maps from your desktop, efficiently using all the space it can get, it can definitely do the job.

Here are some snapshots of the application in action:

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user interface 5
features 4
ease of use 5
pricing / value 5

final rating 5
Editor's review

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