Maps are visual representations of either an area or of the world and can include a local map, world map, atlas or digital map. Usually maps are static and two dimensional, but are more frequently seen in 3 dimensional media through online and mobile applications that function as maps.
Maps are used to locate an area, find a route, get directions and even determine distances. They have been used for centuries with some of the oldest still functioning maps dating back to the early 1300’s. However, many maps are much older.

The orientation of a map is the direction which it shows the world. Most paper print and 2 dimensional maps typically feature a ‘North is up’ philosophy although some maps have inverted this idea and many more use triangles of the globe which can be presented in any order.

Digital maps typically place North at the top of the map and then make adjustments per the mathematical degree for orientation.

While maps haven’t always been correct in scale, the scale does affect the accuracy of the map. Both digital and print maps need scale for accuracy. Traditionally the scale rate is 1:10,000, meaning that one space on a map will be 10,000 times smaller than that same space in life. However, ratios from 1:25,000 to 1:100,000 are also sometimes used.

Types of Maps

Maps include topographic maps which show elevations of land, political maps are used to define borders between states, countries and counties, population maps shade areas according to the number of people living there, road maps display roads and etc. Most electronic maps road maps featuring roads and other travel routes alongside geographical information such as city location, mountains, rivers and etc. This is the most common type of map and often features relief to display elevation and can be used to find directions, routes and more.

Most maps will feature a key or a guide to the various symbols on the map. With digital maps these keys are sometimes difficult to find but often still there. All maps use symbols to represent areas, locations or etc., and the smaller the map is, the more symbols they use. One exception to this rule is 3D maps which often feature full size depictions of actual images, meaning that there are no symbols.

Maps in GPS

GPS or Global Positioning System uses maps and satellites to locate an electric device and then guide it to a location using digital maps. GPS devices are one of the most popular forms of maps today and can be found in phones, vehicles and sometimes in devices created for tracking purposes.

Most maps, digital or otherwise, are generally accurate and can be used to find direction, a location or etc. However, it is still possible to find errors, especially with relatively new maps or digital versions that have not yet had time to correct errors.

Learn about the history of GPS for Vehicle Navigation

Popular Map Websites

  • AutoPilot – Create GREAT road trips throughout the USA and Canada! This easy-to-use trip and tour planner produces personalized itineraries that display the things YOU want to see along the way.
  • Lycos Maps – Lycos is your source for all the Web has to offer – search, free online games, e-mail, build free websites, videos, movies, news, weather and more.
  • MapBlast! – View an interactive map and get turn by turn driving directions. Find traffic details, road conditions, street maps, Multimap, satellite photos, and aerial maps.
  • MapQuest – Use MapQuest for driving directions and maps. See local traffic and road conditions, find nearby businesses and restaurants, plus explore street maps and satellite photos.
  • World Atlas – World Atlas Atlas of the World is an educational resource for world maps, atlases, and in-depth geography information. Teachers and students: free maps of Africa, Europe, USA, Canada, Florida, Caribbean Islands and much more.
  • Yahoo! Maps – Rated the best online mapping experience.
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