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9.15.98  
MapQuest Shows You How to Get from Here to There
If you're headed for a sales call, here's a detailed look at the neighborhood

Before you head off blindly on a sales trip to parts unknown, check out MapQuest (www.mapquest.com). It's a finely detailed, geographic Website that's particularly suited to the small-business traveler.

True, other map sites let you download maps, too, but MapQuest has given more thought to the dread of being lost -- and how to avoid it. Its tricks include plotting door-to-door driving directions anywhere in the U.S. with exacting measurements ("Take the I-495 EAST ramp 0.1 miles"), and with a couple of clicks, it can add hotels, restaurants, ATMs, theaters, and an array of other local sites in case you should become sleepy, hungry, strapped, or bored.

The site, as it stands, is fairly drab, but a new format, now in testing for an Oct. 1 launch, is more attractive, clearer, and very simple to use. The most basic service, Find a Map, lets you search an area as narrowly or broadly as you want, in a U.S. or foreign city. The maps allow you to zoom in on ever-smaller areas by clicking anywhere on the map displayed. (The information is less specific for foreign than U.S. cities.)

At the bottom of each map is a list of options -- attractions, dining, banking, recreation, transportation, lodging, and personal preferences. Click on one, then the "update map" box on the right-hand side of the screen, and, presto, icons will pop up wherever such facilities exist. At the bottom of the page, select Plan a Trip -- and locate hotels and restaurants in your price range in a particular city. Once you've completed your map or maps in any section, you can send the map to whomever you want via E-mail.

Perhaps the best service for entrepreneurs is that MapQuest helps customers find your business by allowing you to put its map of your location on your home page for free. It also allows you to link to the MapQuest site, where you can display your map and up to five locations if your business has multiple branches.
 

By Jeremy Quittner in New York
jeremy_quittner@businessweek.com

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