OS X Mavericks Preview: Maps help you find your way and integrate with iOS

The Maps app in iOS is an indispensable tool, whether you're traveling in familiar territory or exploring a new place. Now, for the first time, Maps is coming to OS X when Mavericks bows this fall. Will it keep you from getting lost?

Certainly, OS X is no stranger to map applications or web sites - almost all of us have opened up Google Maps or another similar service in our web browser, when you're trying to find a way from Point A to Point B or anywhere in between. But Maps as a standalone application from Apple has been a no-show. That's changing when OS X Mavericks hits the streets later this year.

Maps in Mavericks looks and acts very much like its iOS counterpart. In fact, it uses the same datasets. The difference is in the size of the screen you're looking at it on, the speed of the network you're downloading data from (Wi-Fi, versus whatever your cell service provider has available), and the rendering power of the computer behind it.

Mavericks Preview: Maps Points of Interest zoom

The three of those things combined make Maps on Mavericks a real pleasure to use. When you zoom in to an area, it very quickly renders and populates with points of interest, and it's lightning-fast to respond to search queries too.

Opening the Maps application should look instantly familiar to anyone who's used it on iOS. You can pinpoint your location, look at your surrounds in a 2D view, switch to 3D if you prefer, or combine satellite and 3D imagery to use the "Flyover" feature Apple pioneered in iOS 6, where cityscapes are rendered in photo-realistic 3D.

A Search field lets you find specific addresses, but it can be also used to find points of interest. So if you want to locate a restaurant, museum or shop near you, enter whatever info you're looking to search on and Maps will try to locate something nearby.

Once you've plotted the location of your destination, You can add it to your Bookmarks list (synced between the maps apps of any other OS X or iOS devices connected through iCloud), get directions or add it to your Contacts database. You can also link to Yelp, if you're interested in checking out reviews from other customers before you go.

Like Maps on iOS, Maps for Mavericks provides point to point directions, and will show you real-time traffic conditions. If traffic's bad, Maps can suggest alternate routes. Once you've got your route plotted out, you can send them in a message, e-mail the information, post it to Twitter or Facebook if you've connected those services, add it to Contacts, bookmark it, or send it to your iPhone.

Mavericks Preview: Maps Calendar integration

Maps also introduces some much-welcome support for mapping functions into other applications. Take Calendar, for example: Now when you type in an address for a new appointment, Calendar uses that map data to locate the address, show you a thumbnail map (which opens the Maps app) and can even pad your schedule with travel time.

Maps illustrates a couple of very important points that Apple isn't stating directly but wants to underscore. One is that Maps integrates really well into other Mavericks apps, like Contacts and Calendar. Presumably, there will be other ways to integrate that connectivity into other apps, too, because like iOS Maps, Maps in Mavericks doesn't directly support mass transit travel information.

Secondly, Maps does its best to erase the division between iOS and OS X. You can send map data to your phone, for example. And bookmarking a map in the Maps app will sync that bookmark to the Maps app on any other device, iOS or OS X, connected via iCloud.

Some pundits were afraid of the "iOSification" of OS X, but this proves that managed thoughtfully, Apple just makes data and applications work together regardless of platform, and that's great for the increasing number of users who have both Macs and iOS devices, and want things to just work.

When OS X Mavericks is released, will you use the Maps app? Do you think this cross-integration between iOS and OS X is a good thing? Tell me your thoughts in the comments. And please click these links for more Mavericks info.