What is It?
Manifold Toolbar adds geographic browser capability to Internet Explorer
so you can instantly view a map or satellite
image of just about any place on Earth directly in IE without having to
launch any other applications. Wow!
Enter a location into the toolbar and it takes you there, filling your browser window with overhead photos or street maps from servers like Virtual Earth, Yahoo! Maps and many others.
The toolbar works with open source image server modules that allow you to automatically utilize a variety of image servers. Pan and zoom to see almost any place on the planet using satellite imagery or street maps.
In the example we've zoomed into Rome to see the Colosseum.
- Download the Toolbar Install the toolbar by double-clicking the downloaded file. (The Toolbar uses Microsoft .NET - you need to have
Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 or more recent on your machine.)
- Restart IE. Turn on the toolbar with IE's View - Toolbars command or the Tools - Toolbars command. (Windows Server 2008 users will have to turn off Internet Explorer Advanced Security Configuration to see the Manifold toolbar choice in the list of available toolbars.) You can now enter locations and press Go.
- The toolbar will automatically download available image server modules from the Manifold repository. The toolbar visits Microsoft Virtual Earth by default. The down arrow by the manifold logo opens a menu of different server choices.
- The toolbar works with 32-bit IE versions. 64-bit Windows systems allow you to launch IE in either 32-bit or 64-bit versions. Launch the 32-bit IE choice to use the toolbar.
Addresses: Enter a street address in the address box and press Enter
or press Go. Partial addresses (city, state) are usually OK. In most
countries outside the US street addresses won't work: you'll usually need to enter a
city name and country. You can use:
- Street addresses in the US, Canada and some European countries.
- City name, Country for most cities in many countries, using
- Longitude and Latitude in "xx.xxW yy.yyN" format. "E" and "W"
designate East and West longitudes and "N" and "S" designate North and
Navigation: Click and drag the left mouse button to move the view around. Click and drag the right mouse button to zoom to a box. Zoom in and out with the scroll wheel on your mouse. Choose a different server to switch instantly between road view and satellite photo view for almost any location on the planet. It's addictive!
Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052
- Redmond, Washington
- Paris, France
- Bern, Switzerland
- 31.1313E 29.9756N takes you to the
Pyramids in Egypt.
- 122.1288W 47.6437N takes you to Microsoft in
Virtual Earth recognizes English place names as well as
the English versions of local names. So you can enter "Munich,
Germany" or "Muenchen, Germany" or "The Hague, Netherlands" or "Den Haag,
Netherlands". Both "Moskva, Russia" and "Moscow, Russia" will work,
but the former gives you a more zoomed-out view showing the provincial
region known as "Moskva" instead of just the capital city of that name. Many locations in the world have incredible resolution, where individual people can be seen from space!
Multiple Hits: The toolbar will try to show as many "hits" as possible that match the name or location provided. Entering "Paris" will show pushpins for towns
worldwide called "Paris." Entering "Paris, USA" will show pushpins for towns in the US called "Paris." Virtual Earth recognizes
region names, but if you enter "Florida, USA" you'll find that there are
many towns in the US called "Florida" which will show up as pushpins instead
of showing the state of Florida. Entering just "Florida" finds the
various places around the world called "Florida." Right click on a pushpin to remove it.
Menus: Use the
pull-down menus from the manifold.net button to change options, such
as which image server is being used. The
menu list will include all image server modules
available, including all of the server modules that were automatically downloaded from the Manifold repository as well as any additional modules you have manually installed.
Views: Street map views can be barren in
some parts of the world. Change from street
map view to satellite image view by changing the server from "Virtual
Earth Street Map Image" to "Virtual Earth Satellite Image." Choosing a different image server can produce very different views. Different image servers can give better
resolution in some areas, and some servers might not cover all areas. NearMap, for example, has incredibly detailed imagery for major cities in Australia but does not cover the US.
Pushpins: A pushpin marks the address or
location specified. Hover the mouse over it to see an information
readout. Hold the CTRL key down and double-click on the pushpin to
get rid of it, or right-click on the pushpin and choose Remove pin. To get the pushpin back, repeat the search.
See real estate and famous addresses, like the Malibu home at right!
The toolbar automatically detects proxy settings when Virtual Earth
modules are used. If your Internet connection uses a proxy server and
you have problems connecting using image server modules other than Virtual Earth, take a
moment to configure proxy settings in the toolbar's Options dialog.
Cache: The toolbar fetches image tiles to form the desired view. It automatically fetches higher or
lower resolution tiles as needed. Tiles are saved in a cache folder on disk so
that once fetched a particular view will display faster, even if the
Internet connection is lost. You can choose the cache folder in the
Options dialog. If you have
installed, the toolbar
will automatically use the same cache folder so that downloaded tiles can be
shared by either application. To save space on disk, delete some of
the files in the cache folder every now and then (most people can run for
years without worries about disk space used for cache). Cache is good
- it makes your frequently-visited places appear much faster.
Red X and Missing Tiles: Not all image servers cover all parts of the Earth.
Virtual Earth does a good job but in some parts of the world won't zoom in
beyond a certain level, so you'll get blank tiles. If you get blank tiles
from one image server, try a different image server. Tiles with a red X mean
that image could not be fetched from the image server. This could mean
an interruption in Internet service, a server that's too busy or no images
available at that resolution for that place from that server.
Sometimes servers are slow. Be patient as it may take some time when
zooming in for higher resolution tiles to come into view.
Update Window / F5
On rare occasion some image servers, like Google, may serve erroneous or out-of-place image tiles, resulting in a checkerboard pattern where some parts of the image are out of place. The effect has been extensively studied and it is not the toolbar or the image server module, but a wrong tile sent by the server. To fix that, use the pull down menu and choose Update Window
or simply press F5
. That will re-fetch fresh tiles and clean the wrong tiles from cache.
Transparent and Hybrid Servers:
Image servers usually provide either satellite photos or street maps. Some image servers provide "(Transparent)" versions with clear pixels in the white space between street labels and streets. These are used for special effects such as a simplified map and can vary widely in their appearance. The WikiMapia transparent version isn't very different but the Yahoo! transparent version is. Some servers, like Virtual Earth, provide a hybrid presentation showing both streets and satellite imagery, like the image of the White House at right.
Third parties publish Manifold image server modules that allow use of many different
image servers. Any image server
module that conforms to the
Manifold Image Server interface
The toolbar will automatically download and install all available image server modules supplied by manifold.net. Developers interested in writing their own modules can get free source code for manifold written modules by visiting the
Manifold Image Servers page.
In addition to the automatically-installed server modules, you can manually install your own choices. To install a new image
server module, place the DLL file for the module in the installation folder
for the toolbar, which is C:\Program Files\Manifold Toolbar by
default in 32-bit Windows systems and in 64-bit Windows systems is C:\Program Files (x86)\Manifold Toolbar. The next time you launch IE, the toolbar will have the new
image servers available.
Using the Bing search engine to search the web you've found a Manifold Image Server module for Google
(for example, like the ones contributed by users here
that you've downloaded into a file called Manifold.ImageServer.Google.dll
or some similar name. If you are running 32-bit Windows, copy that .dll into your
C:\Program Files\Manifold Toolbar
folder and restart IE. If you are running 64-bit Windows, copy that .dll into your
C:\Program Files (x86)\Manifold Toolbar
folder and restart IE. Now, when you launch IE you'll have an option to browse Google to see satellite photos or street maps or terrain maps.
Third parties have published open source image server modules for
Google Maps servers, and many other image servers. Some servers such as CloudMade are very easy to customize by changing the default URL string to provide radically different appearance (styles) or content. For example, the image at right shows a detail from a CloudMade Cyclemaps server by James Kelly downloaded from the Manifold user community forum. It shows topological relief of interest to cyclists.
find servers by searching on the web. If you have downloaded the toolbar from some page other than this page, it's likely the same page you
downloaded the toolbar from will have a choice of additional image server
module packages as well. Modules exist for a wide variety of public
and private image server sites and technologies. Some may require
payment or agreement to a serving company's
terms and conditions, but most are free.
Tech tip: Not all image server modules allow instant switching from one module to another just by changing modules. With most you have to press Go again. If you've installed third party modules like the examples above, to switch between them choose the desired module and then press the Go button one more time.
A geocoding server takes the address entered into the toolbar and reports
the latitude and longitude for that address. Some geocoding servers
work better than others.
The toolbar uses the Microsoft Virtual Earth geocoding service by default
because Virtual Earth geocoding is fast and very cool. Other geocoding
servers can be installed, just like installing an image server module.
Any geocoding server module that conforms to the
Manifold Geocoding Server interface will work.
Programmers interested in writing their own image server modules or their
own geocoding server modules should read the interface specifications cited
above and study the source code for existing third party image server
modules, many of which have been published as open source projects.
If you have the technical skills to work with
open source projects, you know how to find them. Start by visiting the
Manifold Image Servers page.
The toolbar will let you know when a new update is available.
Download the new version of the toolbar. Exit all IE sessions. Uninstall the toolbar using the
Windows Control Panel's Add / Remove Programs applet and then install the new
version. Launch IE and the toolbar will be updated.
The current toolbar download is manifold-toolbar-1.0.5.msi which adds support for Vista x64, fixes a
few bugs and works a bit faster.
Tech tip: It is a good idea to delete old image server modules and to clean out the tile cache when updating the toolbar. That way, the latest image server module versions will get downloaded automatically when the updated toolbar launches. By default, the toolbar places modules and tile cache folders in the Users folder. If your login name is Jane the folder will be C/Users/Jane/AppData/LocalLow/Manifold - the .dll files in that folder are the image server modules and the subfolders with names like VirtualEarthSatelliteImage9372 contain the cached tiles from browsing. Delete all the files and subfolders, and then when the toolbar starts up again it will automatically download new .dlls and start fresh tile caches.
This product is not supported by manifold.net. Hey! It's free!
The toolbar is free for any lawful use. You can make and use as many
copies as you like, give it away, sell it, package it with other programs,
make it available for download ... the works! Just preserve our links
and copyright, retain our logo and don't hassle us about support or
warranties (there are none). See the license for details. You
can re-publish this page on your web site if you retain our links.
At right: OpenStreeMaps / Mapnik server display.
manifold.net and Manifold System
manufactures the world's coolest Geographic Information System (GIS) product,
Manifold System. A GIS product is like a super-powerful mapping system that's
connected to a database as well. Visit the
Manifold Home Page
learn all about Manifold GIS products. We created the Manifold Toolbar for
Internet Explorer to show off the Manifold Image Server interface, which is
often used within Manifold System to provide background maps or imagery in
If you are into mapping and want an easy-to-use program that
can create base maps of the United States or Europe and show things like
customer locations or other simple business data, we recommend Microsoft's
MapPoint product. It's easy to learn and works great. If you need
more sophisticated capabilities, such as modifying maps or creating your own
maps or linking them in sophisticated ways to data,
then step up to Manifold
It only takes a couple of days of study for the average Windows power
user to learn Manifold, yet the package is so powerful that it is the first
choice for GIS professionals and enterprise users as well. If your
organization has been spending too much money on old fashioned GIS packages,
take a look at Manifold as your path to modern GIS.
Microsoft pioneered geographic imagery web content with TerraServer and Virtual Earth, now known as
maps. Virtual Earth by any name is the latest and greatest geographic web resource.
Microsoft has supported use of alternative browsers, even going so far as to
document how to use the totally open source NASA "World Wind" browser (an
alternative open source browser that looks a lot like Google Earth) to
browse Microsoft Virtual Earth sites. Very cool!
At right: Wizard Island in the center of Crater Lake National Park, Oregon as seen in Virtual Earth.
manifold.net recommends use of Microsoft Virtual Earth (the default
installation) instead of Google servers for several reasons:
- Virtual Earth has a more even appearance in large scales.
- Virtual Earth does not interrupt service to active users, as Google
has been said to do.
- Virtual Earth does not "watermark" images with a disfiguring logo as
- Virtual Earth has better resolution in many (but not all) locations.
- Microsoft has supported developers working on alternatives to
Microsoft's own geographic browsers.
What about Google?
Google has threatened open source programmers who used their own code to browse public Google sites, so manifold.net will not provide any Google image server modules. However, many third parties have. All of the tile based image servers are very similar, more or less the same as what Microsoft did with the very first image server, Terraserver. Once someone knows how to write code to connect to Terraserver, which Microsoft very graciously provided as an example to the programming community, you'd have to be a really awful programmer not to know how to connect to Google as well. There must be thousands of different open source code projects to connect to Google Maps by now. If you search around (for maximum irony, use Google or just be mean and use Bing...) you'll have no difficulty finding image server modules that work with Google.
A better idea, though, is to not use Google but instead to support the open community by using
CloudMade is the fantastic new startup by the founders of the
project. They give you personal control and commercial opportunities way better than Google while at the same time supporting the open community's effort to take back the streets, literally preventing through open community involvement the privatization of public streets data by vendors like Google. Yahoo! also supports this effort, so support Yahoo! as well. CloudMade, Yahoo! and Virtual Earth are all automatically supported by the toolbar so you can use them right away.
At right: Sydney Harbor, with the famous Opera House as seen in a hybrid view using Virtual Earth. Go anywhere on the planet!