How MapQuest Works

Using MapQuest

Let's use MapQuest to plan a trip to HowStuffWorks headquarters in Atlanta, GA. Everything we need to get started is right on the homepage:

The first thing we need to do is locate the Atlanta airport, since that will be the starting point for our trip. If we click on "Search for Locations" under "FindIt," we're taken to a page with some fields that we'll fill in with what we're looking for and the area we want to find it in:

We want to find an airport in Atlanta, GA.

On that same page, there's also a list of business categories. If you don't know the name of the place you're looking for or what to call it, you can search the categories to find the right business classification. You'll find Airports in the Travel category, along with Auto Rental, Cruises, Resorts and Sightseeing Tours. Clicking on any one of those subcategories automatically populates the "What" field with that keyword.

When we click "Search for Locations," MapQuest generate a map of Atlanta followed by a list of search results for "airport."

Hartsfield Atlanta Airport is the one we want, and it's about halfway down the list. Immediately beneath the name and address, there are links that let us map or get directions to or from this location:

If we click on "Map," we've got a nice map of our starting point in Atlanta, with the airport in the center:

Right above the map is a field called "Find Nearby." If we were looking for a hotel to stay in that's close to the airport, we could enter "hotel" in this field and get a list of hotels in the area.

We generated our map using the FindIt function as our first step. We could have arrived at the same map by entering the address of the Hartsfield Atlanta Airport in the "Maps" section of the homepage. MapQuest will also map a zip code, a city, a state and a longitude/latitude pair.

We have several options when it comes to moving the map view. We can use the arrows on the map perimeter or we can simply click on the map. Beneath the map, we can decide what a click will do -- eith zoom in and re-center the map to the point we clicked or just re-center. We can also use the zoom buttons located to the left of the map to zoom in or out. Here's the farthest out we can go:

Location of Hartsfield Atlanta Airport in North America

There is a box for directions below the map. Once you've mapped a location, you can get directions to or from it by entering a starting or ending address. Our ending address is 3350 Peachtree Road in Atlanta -- HowStuffWorks headquarters:

When we click on "Get Directions," MapQuest generates a driving route from the airport to HowStuffWorks:

Our driving distance is 18.82 miles, and our driving time is 24 minutes.

If we go back up to the top of the page, we've got a few things we can do from here.

Using the "Find Nearby" function, we can find a coffee shop to hang out in until the HowStuffWorks offices open. Since our drive is shorter than 50 miles, we can request a route that avoids major highways if we want to do some sightseeing. We can also reverse the route so we know exactly how to get back to the airport at the end of our trip.

Now that we've generated exactly the information we want, we can print it, e-mail it, send it to a cell phone (using subscription-based MapQuest Mobile) or download it to a PDA (using subscription AvantGo software). We'll learn about these subscription-based extras in the next section.