Manifold® Toolbar Quick Reference
Download
Examples
Image Servers
Geocoding Servers
Updates / Support
License
Manifold
Virtual Earth

manifold.net home

 
What is It?
The 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.

Getting Started
Installation:

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:

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!
Examples:  Try examples like these.
Place Names: 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!

Proxy Servers:  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 Manifold System 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.

Image Server Modules
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 will work.

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.

Example: 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.
You can 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.
Geocoding Server Modules
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.

Updates and Support
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!

License
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.  Enjoy!
At right: OpenStreeMaps / Mapnik server display.
About manifold.net and Manifold System
manifold.net 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 to 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 mapping projects. 

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 System

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 Virtual Earth
Microsoft pioneered geographic imagery web content with TerraServer and Virtual Earth, now known as Bing 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:
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. CloudMade is the fantastic new startup by the founders of the OpenStreetMap 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.
Enjoy!
At right: Sydney Harbor, with the famous Opera House as seen in a hybrid view using Virtual Earth. Go anywhere on the planet!
Go to Top of Page
© 2008-2011 All Rights Reserved.
Manifold Software Limited, Hong Kong