Google Maps API Tutorial

© 2009 Mike Williams

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The Mashups Book

Beginning Google Maps Mashups with Mapplets, KML, and GeoRSS

If you're new to JavaScript, or have never programmed in any computer language, and are having difficulties following this tutorial and the Google documentation, then get this book.

Beginning Google Maps Mashups with Mapplets, KML, and GeoRSS by Sterling Udell takes you through the basics of Google Maps, explaining almost every line of code in considerable detail.

Unlike the previous Google Maps Applications book you don't need any prior knowledge of anything to be able to get into this book. The concepts that you'll need to use are explained from scratch, assuming no prior knowledge of JavaScript, XML, KML, GeoRSS, PHP, mySQL, etc. Similarly, any mapping concepts that you might need (such as degrees, minutes and seconds of latitude and longitude, or the Mercator projection) are explained in some detail. Using MyMaps to create KML files is explained almost click by click.

The downside of explaining everything from scratch in so much detail is that the book ends up not covering an awful lot of ground. If you already have some knowledge of Javascript, and are capable of following online tutorials and the Google documentation, then you'll probably find large chunks of this book redundant.

One common problem with books related to the Internet is that they get out of date really fast. The Google Maps API continues to grow, with new features being added all the time. That doesn't apply to this book very much because it doesn't push the boundaries of what's available. In fact, the author recommends that for live sites you load a specific version of the API code, so as to be protected against possible future changes in the API. The examples in the book are written to use release v2.124, which came out in August 2008.

Throughout the book, the author encourages the use of appropriate standards and best coding practice.

The book is divided into four parts.

Part 1: The Geoweb and the Google Maps API explains the basic philosophy behind the Mashup concept - that machine readable Geodata in standard formats can allow that other people to map the data in useful ways that the creator of the data never thought of. It covers creating your first Google Map, using GGeoXml to add someone else's data to it, and adding some extra features like driving directions and traffic overlays.

Part 2: Mashing up Google Maps with Mapplets covers creating and publishing simple Mapplets. The author provides a modified version of my EGeoXml extension which uses iGoogle Gadget calls to read KML files from any domain, thus allowing XML files to be rendered within the mapplet.

Part 3: Ready for the big leagues An assortment of slightly more advanced API topics is covered, plus the ability to use PHP and SQL to dynamically generate KML and GeoRSS feeds. Finally there's a case study of a comprehensive project.

Appendixes These cover:

  • Mapping concepts: like latitude, longitude and the Mercator projection
  • A Javascript primer: a pretty decent attempt to cover Javascript in only 23 pages
  • Debugging tips
  • A list of online resources

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