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When you think about using a maps app, your mind almost certainly pictures the ubiquitous Google offering How Does Google Maps Work? How Does Google Maps Work? Google Maps is used by millions of people every day and you might be one of them, but how does it actually work and how does Google maintain its accuracy so well? Read More . It’s testament to both the quality and dominance of the company’s product.

For the most part, Google has had it easy. Apple’s grand debut into the maps sector Is Apple Maps a Reliable Navigator Yet? Is Apple Maps a Reliable Navigator Yet? After replacing Google's navigation, Apple Maps endured a rocky start, heaps of criticism and some very funny jokes – but has all been forgiven? Read More was less than impressive, and Microsoft has barely marketed its own competitor.

But is it time to give the Windows app another chance? When was the last time you fired up Microsoft’s Maps app? Give it a try. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Here are seven of the coolest things you can do with Maps.

1. Traffic Overlay

A way to check traffic is a given on any map app, but it’s refreshing to see how effectively Microsoft has implemented the feature. It can be broken down into several subsections.

To toggle the traffic overlay, click the traffic light icon in the top right-hand corner of your screen. Predictably, green roads are free-flowing, red roads are gridlocked, and different shades of yellow indicate varying degrees of vehicle density.

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If you specifically want to check your route, you can set you home and work locations, and save other favorite destinations.

2. See Live Traffic Cameras

Seeing a traffic overlay is great, but how can you be sure of its accuracy? The last thing you want is to head onto a major interstate thinking it’s flowing freely, only to be jammed up for a few hours.

You can negate the problem thanks to live traffic cameras. Obviously, these are only accessible on certain roads in certain cities. Microsoft has no control over their availability or operation. However, if you live in a major metropolitan area, you can be confident you’ll find some feeds for your route.

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A camera icon within the Maps app indicates their presence. Click on the camera icon and a window with the feed will pop up. If you can’t see any camera icons, try zooming in on the app.

3. Monitor Roadworks

Roadworks are another major headache for commuters, but once again the Maps app can help.

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An orange diamond indicates any problems. Click the diamond icon and a new window will give you information about the works, including severity of the impact on traffic, a description of the project, and an expected completion date.

4. 3D Cities

Google Maps has had pseudo-3D cities for a long time. Most large conurbations have the distinctive gray outline of buildings, but there is no way to see what the buildings themselves look like in 3D without using Street View Take Virtual Walks in Google Maps Using Street View Player Take Virtual Walks in Google Maps Using Street View Player Google's Street View is great for getting a sense for a location, but you can get an even better sense by using Street View Player. Read More or Satellite View.

Microsoft Maps renders buildings in 3D then faithfully plots roads, neighborhoods, locations of interest, and other services onto the rendering. It’s a great way to get your bearings, explore your local area, or just enjoy a city’s skyline. All the app’s other tools, such as directions and traffic reports, work in 3D mode.

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To turn on the 3D Cities view, click on the 3D cities icon in the top right-hand corner.

Windows Maps vs. Google Maps: 7 Features Windows Does Better microsoft maps 3d city activate

At the time of writing, Maps only offers 3D cities in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

5. Windows Ink

Some people are terrible at following directions. You can give those poor souls a helping hand thanks to the Windows Ink toolbar. It allows you to freely draw on the map in a variety of colors. If you have a touchscreen machine, you can use your finger to make the annotations, but a mouse also works.

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You can also use the Windows Ink toolbar to measure distance in free-hand. In the image below, you can see I’ve traced out a route around Long Beach. Once you’ve finished your line, the app displays the total distance alongside it.

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To activate the Windows Ink toolbar, click on the pen icon in the top right-hand corner. If you’re using a mouse, make sure you click the Touch Writing icon on the far-right before you start to draw.

Windows Maps vs. Google Maps: 7 Features Windows Does Better microsoft maps ink toolbar

6. Multiple Searches

If you’ve ever spent a lot of time using Google Maps, you’ll know one of the most annoying features is its inability to layer different search results over the top of each other.

For example, if you want to search for your hotel, then the nearest train station, then the name of a restaurant you want to go to, you need to perform three different searches and interpret the results independently from each other.

Microsoft Maps removes that inconvenience. The results of any search you perform remain on the map until you close the relevant tab at the top of the screen. In the following example, I’ve searched for Subway and McDonalds. The app displays both results at the same time, and I can flick between them using the tabs.

Windows Maps vs. Google Maps: 7 Features Windows Does Better microsoft maps layered results 669x500

7. Streetside

If you rely heavily on Google’s Street View service, don’t worry, Microsoft has you covered. You can activate Streetside view and enjoy an almost identical experience to the Google product.

In the vertical toolbar on the right-hand edge of the screen, click the Map Views icon. In the new window, slide the toggle next to Streetside.

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A blue line on the map highlights any roads which have the Streetside view available. Double click on a street to jump to a photographic first-person viewpoint. To move around the map in the first-person view, double-click on the location you want to move to.

But There’s One Drawback…

There is one massive downside to the Maps app: it’s not available on either Android or iOS. Clearly, this limits its usefulness for a lot of users. One can only hope Microsoft releases a compatible version How Microsoft Took Over My Android Phone How Microsoft Took Over My Android Phone It's honestly surprising how many Microsoft apps are available for Android -- and they're really good! Read More in the near future because it’s a fantastic service with features that rival — and, in lots of cases, surpass — the omnipresent Google app.

How do you use Maps? Which features do you think are the most useful? Are you tempted to make it your primary app for finding you way around? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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  1. Launce
    May 27, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    The ability to download entire countries in Windows Maps is terrific.

    I just wish there was a way to save a route/trip I've planned, without having to re-create it every time.

  2. Joe32-64
    April 18, 2017 at 4:04 am

    What's about the reviews like Google has for every place?
    What's about how to get by bus/train from one place to another and having correct timetable?
    What's about streetview for every little street across the world?
    etc
    etc
    etc

  3. cmcollins001
    March 5, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    According to Google Maps, I live in an apartment complex at the end of a paved street. According to Windows Maps, I live in the woods surrounded by more woods.

    To me, that's the biggest drawback with Windows Maps.

  4. Thor (not from Asgard)
    March 1, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Guys, in the end it is all about how many oermission Google gets from Here Maps. Whereas for Bing Maps it is a totally different story. ;)

  5. peter pan
    February 28, 2017 at 6:57 am

    The biggest flaw is its user face with small font. It looks great when you try it at your desk, but nearly useless when you mount your phone to the windshield. Shame. Because it has some great features and a better offline navigation tool than google map.

  6. JT
    February 26, 2017 at 5:59 am

    Google maps is great but it's not perfect. More importantly, it seems like recent changes have made things worse rather than better. Google's habit of not showing the street names of the streets I want to see named. Bottom line is there's room for innovation and if MS is doing it, I'd like to give them a shot. Way to drop the no Android caveat until the end there.

  7. Someone
    February 25, 2017 at 10:05 am

    That drawback though...
    Still, I'm not interested in drawing, I know how to use a map. I'll stick with Google maps!

  8. Jack Smith
    February 24, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    There is little chance people will give up their Google maps.

  9. Davin
    February 24, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Just like Apple Maps is limited to iOS only, Microsoft Maps is limited to Windows only.
    Hopefully, Microsoft will make it available to other platforms like they did with Cortana