What is the Map Machine?National Geographic's Map Machine is a gigantic collection of all the National Geographic maps in a searchable online database.
Map Search CategoriesThere is so much to the Map Machine that it's best to look at it piece by piece. Start with the Map Machine categories to get a big picture view of all that National Geographic map search has to offer. There's a lot here, and it's all searchable: world maps, satellite maps of Mars, Globe Explorer aerial imagery, and much, much more. Featured Maps are on the MapMachine home page, along with a link to the National Geographic map store.
Map Search with the Map MachineIt's easy to find maps on the Map Machine; my problem was that there's so MUCH good stuff that it was hard to tear myself away.
To get started with your map search, select a "theme." This could be anything from World to Physical to Political.
You can then further narrow down your map search by selecting a sub-theme - Agricultural, Environmental, etc.
Informational layers on each map that you find (this could include roads, place names, political/cultural boundaries, etc.) can be turned on or off according to your personal preference. Every map has its own set of custom tools that you can use to tweak the map to your exact specifications.
In addition, each map that you customize can be saved, purchased, or emailed to a friend-all very user friendly features.
Quick Map SearchUse the Quick Map Search engine tool to find a place (city, country, region continent, US zip codes, etc.), browse antique maps, find country facts, and look at literally almost every mappable place on Earth. The small QuickMapSearch box is on every single page of the National Geographic maps and geography section, and you can use MapMachine's quick map search to search within map categories (of which there are quite a few), as well as save your map searches, a nice feature.
Printer-Friendly MapsGet printer friendly maps for personal or classroom use. Includes every continent, a world map view, the Middle East region, and more. Decide which level of detail you'd like to include and then you can click on the link at the bottom to view either a .gif or .pdf file.
Country ProfilesNational Geographic's country profiles offers an interactive map of the world. Just click on any region you'd like to explore and you'll see detailed links for every country in that particular region. Individual country profiles include information about the population, an atlas plate, a printable outline map, and the CIA World Factbook entry. Good stuff here that's perfect for anyone doing needing research information.
US Street Map SearchThe National Geographic US Street Map is an interactive (you can zoom in and out) map of United States roads and highways.
Use the map tools to click and drag a particular search area, use the QuickMapSearch box to search within the US Streets map, or customize your map: enter text into the box marked "customize map" and then click on the map to place a text marker.
Why should I use the Map Machine?I had to really work hard to think of any cons about this map search service. National Geographic, as usual, has put together a stellar informational site and it's nice to see that the Map Machine as a search service does work so well.
One con I could think of is that it would be nice to have more search syntax available. Map searches can get somewhat complicated and it was difficult to narrow down my searches; the search tool just didn't seem to like it if I put more than a couple words in (and forget about searching by phrases). However, this is easily remedied by just going straight to the source: view all map categories and create your detailed search from that point onwards.