Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Web Wednesday: Google Maps API

Ever wonder how to embed Google Maps in a website?  One answer is use a Google Maps API  (API stands for Application Programming Interface). There are actually several of these applications created by Google that can be used free of charge (so long as the user abides by the terms of agreement).

One API is designed to work with JavaScript, while another is designed for Flex developers to work with Flash (the developer must already have Flex).  Both of these apps allow users to not only see what content you've added, but also to zoom in and out from the parameters you set.  For example, you might set the original map parameters to marked real estate in one part of Houston, while the dynamic nature of the maps lets users zoom out to see more general location within the city and zoom in to see parks and schools.  A third API, one not requiring experience with JavaScript, can be used to create "static" maps--that is, maps that show display markers, routes, polygons, etc over Google Map content, but that cannot be zoomed in/out.  Instead of loading JavaScript or Flash content, this API simply loads an image file of a map, containing your added contents and cut to the parameters of your choosing. 

Google says that all you need to get started is an API key (for free) which you can get once you have a (free) Google account.  Then check out the developers' guide to learn how to get started.