Remember when I praised Bing maps? Not so fast

Back in July, I wrote an article about Bing maps and how improved they are. I’m going to hit rewind on that and ask Microsoft wtf?

I’ve been dizzied by an array of errors that keep popping up since the release of Windows 10. Not sure if there is a correlation, but holy hand baskets they’ve been loopy. Here’s one example from last weekend:

Screen capture of Bing map error

I typed this in a couple of times, just to make sure I didn’t mistype. Then I tried a few variations and sure enough, Bing kept directing my search for a Toronto location to NSW Australia.   I finally gave up and flipped over to Google Maps.  Shortly after that I amused myself by checking out my neigbourhood and what do you know, 22 incorrect listings in a 5 block radius. That included businesses that never existed or have been gone for years. They weren’t there in July.

Today Toronto seems to be back in Canada where it belongs, but my neigbourhood is a bizarre potpourri of incorrect info. Some have been corrected, like the nonexistant pub they had sitting on a curb, but the restaurant that is 4 blocks north and shoe store that closed over 5 years ago, among other errors, are still front and centre. I’ll keep you posted on any improvements, in the meantime, enjoy the utter silliness of Bing booboos.

Bing Maps – all grown up

Bing Maps – all grown up

Bing maps has been a utilitarian map for awhile but the new beta shows an all grown up feel to the site.  It has all the useful tools, but the improvements are impressive. The feature I like the best is the ability to sync my saved sites between my devices. So, if I’m at home, looking for an address and directions, I can save it on my laptop and it will appear on my phone or tablet. When you’re traveling about the city as much as I do, this is a welcome feature.

The interface is cleaner, less cluttered feeling. When you’re working off a small screen, this is a relief. It still has the directions feature, which will tap into local transit. As well, when available, it will still help find a transit route between cities. What I did notice is a far more sophisticated traffic alert system.

Bing Maps preview

When I mapped a route between Toronto and Burlington, up popped a warning about heavy traffic. A revised travel time estimate was offered. Looking down the list, it even showed where the slowdowns were and how heavy the traffic was. The old Bing simply acknowledged slow traffic but didn’t offer a detailed breakdown.

If you flip over to the public transit directions, as with the previous version, you get detailed instructions and a number of choices.  Most of the cities I tried did seamlessly show transit options. But not all cities supply transit info, so it’s a bit hit and miss. It still lists Via Rail options so it takes a lot of the humbug out of plotting a trip.

There is a better date choice now. You can drop down a calendar, tap the date and adjust the time to adjust your depart date with far less fuss.

One feature Microsoft did correct was the infuriating default that threw the address into the business/name category rather than the location search bar.

Balzacs on Bing Map

Bing now uses one integrated search box rather than forcing the user to cut and paste ever search. That’s a “feature” that won’t be missed.

The  detailed view is nicer, from a purely visual point of view. Here’s my favourite hiding spot in the city – Balzac’s coffe across from St. Lawrence Market. Bing pops up it’s location, reviews, photos and business hours. The old Bing did much the same, but the interface always felt too cramped and cluttered so I didn’t use it much. This is fresh, clean and much more information is offered.

If you are taking a road trip, you now have the option of calling up “search nearby” to find interesting sites to see along your way.  I’ll be testing that out in the next few weeks and will let you know if I stumble across anything fascinating.

As expected, it will also be fully integrated with Cortana and is Windows 10 ready. Overall, a much needed makeover with some excellent new features. If you want to test drive the new Bing Maps, go to Bing, click on maps. Click on the link “Try the new Bing maps” for full access.