An Introduction to Flash Maps for Interactive Mapping

By Scott Clark

Most of us have seen or used a Flash-based map on a website that allowed us to drill down by clicking on the map, with each "level" providing us with additional information. The term "flashmaps" is the term used to describe such a mapping application, and various companies provide developers with tools to create such flashmaps.

In this article, we're going to look at free flashmap Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) from Yahoo, Google and MapQuest.

Google Maps API for Flash

Google Maps API for Flash was designed to enable Flex developers to embed Google Maps in Flash apps. Like many of the flashmap APIs we're looking at, the Google Maps API for Flash is an ActionScript API. It provides tools which allow developers to manipulate and add content to maps using various services. Using the Google Maps API you can embed a map within your application and enable users to zoom in or out, pan and move around within the map, just like you can when you search for an address in Google and are presented with a map. If you click on that map, you are taken to a flashmap that uses the Google Map API.

Google Earth

Developers have access to a Developer's Guide and API Reference, and can download the Google Maps API for Flash SDK to get started, along with an Google Maps API Key.

When you work with the Google Maps API, you actually have access to a whole family of APIs that includes:

MapQuest Flash Maps API Using AS3/Flex

The MapQuest Flash Maps API offers functionality that is very similar to the Google Maps API, including:

  • mapping
  • geocoding
  • reverse geocoding
  • routing
  • searching

MapQuest

The MapQuest Flash Maps API can be downloaded as a zip file, and also requires the use of an Application Key. It includes detailed documentation as well as a discussion forum for developers.

Yahoo! Maps AS3 Component

Yahoo! Maps AS3 Component was recently upgraded from Yahoo!s AS2 version, and includes support for other Yahoo! APIs that provide geocoding, local search and traffic APIs. Like the other APIs we have discussed, the Yahoo! Maps AS3 Component requires you to sign up for an API key. Once you have the key, you can download the component and begin working with the sample applications

Yahoo! Maps

Yahoo! provides ample documentation to allow you to begin using the component within your Flash or Flex applications.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are plenty of options for working with flashmaps if you are interested in working with open source APIs. Many websites, including FoxNews, eBay, Adobe, Sprint and Verizon, have chosen to use the flashmaps provided by FlashMaps.com. They provide various tools and packages to fit each developer's own particular circumstances. In our next installment, we will look at FlashMaps.com and the extensive and flexible options they provide developers for Flash mapping applications.



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