TerraServer, formerly known as MSR Maps, started as a Microsoft-owned map site that specialized in topographical and satellite maps of the U.S. Now operated by PrecisionHawk, this site has a collection of maps created by the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and compiled over the years. The complete collection of U.S. maps on TerraServer, makes it one of the most comprehensive map sites.
The TerraServer website is simple, with a large map window and a black border. The main part of the homepage is an aerial map of the U.S. The images are in full color and show screenshots of different views throughout the years. For example, some images clearly reflect winter, while others show summer. Views include satellite imagery and historical photos, so you can see how an area has changed.
There is also a thumbnail version of a U.S. map on the left margin that is clickable, and it takes you to a larger map that can be panned and zoomed. Alternately, you can search for a place using the search fields on the top left.
TerraServer has topographical maps and two different types of satellite maps for areas throughout the U.S. When you perform a search, the results display with the different options for map views.
Next to each map is the date the image was created. Most of the satellite imagery on the site is at least 10 years old, and the majority of the topographical maps are even older. However, with drones becoming increasingly popular, TerraServer is rapidly updating all of its maps with drone-obtained images.
The maps on this site can be printed, emailed or saved as a JPEG. You can also order prints through the website. You have to use your computer’s default email account to email the maps. If you don’t have that email set up or don’t know what it is, it might be quicker to save the map as a JPEG and email it manually. The best way to access this online map site’s full functionality is to create your own account. Without an account, your options are limited.
Using TerraServer, it is easy to search for a specific address, and the site conveniently displays your search results along with different map view options. The maps themselves are trickier to navigate. You must use the directional arrows and the zoom bar to change your view; you cannot drag the map or zoom using your mouse wheel. The options for saving, printing and emailing your map are easy to find, and appear along the top edge of the map.
TerraServer Maps has FAQs – the link appears on the About page, with assistance for new site users. Some of the FAQs answers include links to tutorials on using the search features.
This online map site is good for online maps of U.S. states and cities, and the Famous Places section makes it easy to look at aerial photos of some of the most beautiful landmarks in the U.S. While this site does not provide street maps, its satellite and topographical maps are useful for exploring new areas around the U.S.