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Showing posts from July, 2019

No more bouncing maps and evasive red dots!

Just a brief note here to let you know of a fix to an issue that has been reported by a number of users of all of the randymajors.com map tools (such as the County Lines on Google Maps, Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps and all the others).

The issue was related to the maps "bouncing" and the red dot (shown below) moving even though the user didn't intend for it to move.
Red dot that shows current location on all randymajors Google Maps mapping tools

In particular, if the user was panning around the map (e.g. dragging the map with their mouse) in order to see something just off the edge of the map, prior to this fix, the red dot moved and the map bounced (changed center) as you panned.  Basically, it was taking whereever you ended the drag of the mouse and making that the new map center.  Furthermore, it would take that new center point represented by the red dot's new location and then update the information pane above the map based on that new location. 

Several people found that behavior to be in the range of unexpected to annoying.  

An example may help further explain the issue:  If you searched for Phoenix, Arizona using the "Search places" box above the map, then once the map appeared with the red dot on Phoenix, you panned (or dragged) the map in order to view what is southeast of Phoenix.  In the past, the County Lines on Google Maps tool would move the red dot to where you ended the "mouse drag" and change from reporting the name as Maricopa County (where Phoenix is) to reporting it as Pinal County or Pima County, depending on how far your dragged the map.  

Also, just single-clicking the map would re-center the map where you clicked and update the information panel.

All that (bad) behavior is gone now!

So, with the new behavior, here's a run down of what does and does not move the red dot (and update the information pane above the maps).

Moves the red dot and updates the information pane:
  • Typing a new place or address into the "Search places" box above the map
  • Single-clicking the map to "explore" the place you clicked
Does NOT move the red dot nor update the information pane:
  • Panning the map by dragging it with the mouse (or using two-fingers to move the map on iOS) 
  • Zooming in or out using the "+" or "-" buttons in the upper left corner of the map (or pinch-zooming on iOS)
These last two changes enable you to explore around the edges of the map view by dragging the map around WITHOUT changing the red dot's location and information pane.  

And you can now single-click around the map to see information about where you clicked WITHOUT the map center "bouncing" around and changing unexpectedly.

Using the same example above, now if you search for Phoenix, Arizona using the "Search places" box, the red dot will appear on Phoenix and the information pane will report Maricopa County.  Now if you drag the map to the southeast to see something on the edge of the map, the red dot will stay put in Phoenix, the map won't bounce, and the information pane will still report Maricopa County.

That was a bit more wordy than I intended it to be, but bottom-line: just view the four bullets above and you should understand the new map behavior.

Or even easier:  The click and pan behavior now operates like the Google Maps you know and love.

And hopefully this new map behavior is in the range of expected to enjoyable :)

Happy mapping!

Why have all the map tools changed...again?

If you've recently used any of the map tools on randymajors.com (such as Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps or County Lines on Google Maps, etc) you may have noticed some changes.

So why fix it if it ain't broke?!

The biggest reason is that all the map tools were about to break due to Google shutting down their Fusion Tables technology, which is what I had been using to draw all of the maps.  So after some very, very heavy-lifting for many weeks (just ask my wife!) I was able to move all of the map tools to another Google technology.  Hopefully it's mostly transparent to you, the user, as the new tools still use a Google Maps-based map.

But some things have changed.  The biggest difference you may notice is how you search for a place (e.g. a city, address, etc.).  To search for a place, all map tools now have a "Search places" box above them, like this (outlined in red here to highlight it):
Search places on Google Maps with Historical County Lines

The cool thing is that as you begin to type a place or address, it will help you autocomplete what you're looking for and you can just click the choice you want from the drop-down list that appears.

The other biggest change is based on lots of feedback that people wanted the map to occupy more of their screen.  I moved the website over to a new "responsive" template, which is a fancy-techy term for a website that works to optimize itself for all different screen sizes and devices.  The new layout of the site enables the website to occupy the entire width of your screen, which in turn makes the map bigger.  Also, instead of the "information boxes" appearing within the maps at the bottom of the screen like this...:
Historical County details as found in Newberry Atlas

...now, you'll see the same info just above the map, like this:
Historical County details as found in Newberry Atlas now at top of the map

With the change to the new website layout, the listing of tools are now on the upper left side of the page , like this:
Links to most popular tools on this website including Google Maps with county lines, city limits, ZIP Codes and township range section
If you DON'T see that list of tools on the upper left side of the page, it means that you are likely running on a lower resolution or smaller screen, and so you get this little "hamburger menu" instead in the far upper left corner of each page on the website:
Menu button to expose links to Google Maps with county lines, city limits, ZIP Codes and township range section
Just click it and the left menu bar will appear, including the listing of tools.  This is done so that the left sidebar doesn't take up valuable space on your screen.

There is also a change in behavior when you click the maps.  Now, the place you click on the map is always marked by a red dot so you know where you clicked, and the information pane above the map is updated based on the location of the red dot.

Also new:  MOBILE!  The map tools should now also be usable on high end mobile devices as well.  You'll get the same basic layout, like this (from iPhone) with the added benefit that the text should now be readable (it really wasn't before):
Mobile version of Google Maps with county lines, city limits, ZIP Codes and township range section

I hope these changes are on-balance good for you.  At a minimum, they're at least better than the website getting shut down because of the Google Fusion Tables sunset :)

With so many changes, no doubt some will take some getting used to.

And I likely didn't get everything just right, so please please let me know what is and isn't working for you in the comments below, or in the "Get in touch with Randy Majors" form in the very bottom left of each page.



Happy Independence Day! Enjoy This Historical County Boundary Animation

In honor of this 4th of July, here's an animation of county boundary formation in the United States starting in 1629 up through the present day, derived from the Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps tool:
Animation of Historical U.S. County Boundary formation

And here's a close-up focusing on the northeastern U.S.:
Northeastern US animation of Historical U.S. County Boundary formation

Explore all of the historical county boundary lines in your area of interest in great detail using the Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps tool.  I'll leave you with this example centered on Independence Hall in Philadelphia, 4 July 1776:
Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps showing Philadelphia on 4 July 1776 including details from the Newberry Atlas

Wishing you and your families and friends a happy and peaceful 4th!


Show me ALL of the names!

You've always been able to search or click on the map and have information about the ONE spot where you clicked appear at the bottom of the map, like this:
Newberry Atlas historical U.S. county detail shown at bottom of map

"But wouldn't it be nice," many people have asked over the years, "to see ALL of the names of the counties on the map rather than just the one that I clicked?"  Or something to that effect.

Now you can.  Just go to the Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps tool and check "Show labels..." checkbox in the lower left corner of the map, and your map will be pleasantly filled with the historical county names as of the date you typed, like this (click the image below to enlarge it):
Ability to show historical county name labels from Newberry Atlas of historical U.S. county boundaries

This new functionality to add names has been added to the following tools:  Historical U.S. Counties on Google Maps, County Lines on Google Maps, ZIP Codes on Google Maps and Area Codes on Google Maps.

Here's an example of the labels on the County Lines on Google Maps tool:
Ability to show labels of County Names and ZIP Codes on Google Maps with County Lines and Google Maps with ZIP Codes tools


Look out in future updates for new drawing tools as well!