Minimap Sidebar

I’ve spent the week experimenting with the Minimap Sidebar, a Firefox extension that adds a variety of mapping-related tools to the browser. It’s an amazing piece of work, and almost every “I wonder if it will do this” turns out “wow, it does.”

For example, I was able to grab my “personal landmark collection” from Plazes by logging into and visiting the KML feed of my Plazes. Because Minimap will import KML files, I then simply imported the KML file and now have a local copy of every place I’ve visited in the last five years. Here’s what it looks like zoomed in to Charlottetown:

Minimap Map Tab

Minimap also allows you to copy and drag addresses from any web page into the sidebar to have the addresses shown on the map and added to your personal collection:

Minimap Sidebar Address Dragging

Keen eyes might spot that it’s an OpenStreetMap map displaying there: that’s because Minimap supports all manner of Google Maps as well as OpenStreetMap as the base map. Other cools things that Minimap supports:

  • Import of locations from KML and GPX files.
  • Export of locations from KML, GPX and CSV files.
  • Automatic detection of microformat-represented locations in web pages with option to map.
  • Integration with Yahoo’s Fire Eagle web service.
  • Tagzania integration.

And because Minimap is just a regular old Firefox extension, the complete JavaScript source code is freely browseable and modifiable (indeed you can grab the source using Subversion). And because the extension is GPL licensed, you can built on it to create and release your own custom browser-based mapping toolkit.

Minimap’s performance when you throw a lot of locations at it degrades somewhat; I’m assuming that this is, in part, because it uses RDF to store locations (my RDF file — it’s flock_maps.rdf in the Firefox profile directory — runs to 13,000 lines long for the 736 locations I have stored). I’ve been in touch with the extension’s author about the possibility of migrating the storage engine to SQLite and he said this is in the works (and, further, pointed me to SpatiaLite, which I didn’t know about and that looks very cool).

All in all a brilliant piece of work and an extension that, if you’re interested in GIS, location, mapping and how they all relate to the web, is worthy of a look.


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