Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Brabys has gone Digital, let’s catch up

The printed Brabys Directory has been a household item for over 30 years and I’m sure you’ve got a copy floating around your house as much as I have.

A C Braby (Pty) Ltd went digital in 2005, going into cahoots with Always Active Technologies(Pty) and Business Connextion (Pty) Ltd to launch Brabys Maps at . This is a most handy website for anyone needing to find their way around South Africa’s metros.

On the homepage you are welcomed by a map of South Africa and expected to click on a province. Brabys then loads a zoomed in version of the province and now you can specify a city or county. Only red-rimmed areas have Brabys maps loaded, so outlying areas such as Wartburg are unfortunately not yet uploaded, but Pietermaritzburg, Lions River, Umngeni, Howick, Midmar Nature Reserve, Merrivale, KwaMavana and Edendale are mapped. Now you are guided into ever closer maps, until you are at street level. Street names, suburbs and highways are clearly marked and you are able to immediately print or email the map for your own (non-commercial) use. This is a brilliant budget GPS tools for those of us whose pocket doesn’t stretch as far as an on board Garmin.

You can check a larger view of the map area which is 500 x 350 pixels, with a zoomed effect adjusting to 758 x 758 pixels. Zooming in or out can be done with the slider on the left.

If you want more than a quick map, here are some extra features BrabysMaps offers: you can switch any map to an Aerial View, or you can click on a particular location in the map and read the GPS coordinates off at the top. So you can even pass on the GPS coordinates to a Garmin owning advancing visitor and ease their way to you.

But wait, it gets better. Switching to the Directions tag at the top of the window allows you to put in two locations (A and B) and BrabysMaps will find you a route from the one to the other, with each turn and distance clearly marked. You can even choose different routes. Again, the result can be emailed or printed. Yep, free of charge.

In the top right corner is a blue windows which lists businesses by category. Choosing a category, for example Accommodation, and a subcategory such as Hotels & Other Accommodation, you will see red dots at certain places on the map where businesses in these categories are located. Hovering over the dots shows the business’ name and if you click on this, BrabysMaps will fetch all loaded details for this business.

But why stop there? If you ever wanted to know how far a crow flies as opposed to the extra miles streets add to our mode of transport, click on the How Far tag and again put in two locations before you hit the Calculate button. You will see the “As the crow flies” distance versus “Travel distance” as well as an estimated travel time.

If you find yourself using this website lots, you can register and bookmark your favourite places and routes for frequent and quick retrieval.

I was even able to embed a map into another website, giving ululations to BrabysMaps. This was made easy by a tool that allowed me to copy the javascript (aka doubledutch) which magically displayed the map on the other website. I did have to tell BrabysMaps my name and the website I pasted their map into. That’s a fair exchange, if you ask me.

Brabys disclaimer notes that its contents is proprietary to Brabys and only for general information and use, not for commercial use.

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