There are enough drawing tools on Ask City to keep you busy for hours gussying up your maps. You can add text notes or draw segmented lines, squares, circles, and polygons, in any of 10 colours. It's easy to undo individual additions or to clear the map completely.

One great Ask City feature is that it lets you add a stickpin to any location and fill it with an image and notes. You can save snapshots of up to 10 maps (including all your gaudy annotations). Click Permalink to save a link to the map, or send others the link via email.

And you can convert pretty detailed maps of UK cities into aerial photos. It's all very intuitive and pretty cool.

Interesting-looking options in the Search panel enable you to look for a local business, movie theatre, concert, or other event, or generate maps and directions. In late July we searched for "Harry Potter" and "Pasadena" and Ask City's middle Results panel listed 10 local cinemas playing the movie, each pinned on to a map in the right-hand panel. Try to find a restaurant in somewhere called London, however, and you'll struggle.

The business-search features of Ask City are not yet working in the UK. Which is a shame. It looks useful and the three windows let you dynamically view changes on custom maps. In the Results panel, for example, clicking the name of a business - say, a restaurant or hotel - usually brings up a Citysearch review.

Once you search for a specific type of business ("manicures," for example), Ask City supplies a list of businesses in the area, with the neighborhood highlighted on the map. Very cool. In the US.

Directions do work, however, although you have to manually input the location. Another appealing Ask City feature: click any of the written directions in your route to have that area appear on the map, along with a second, smaller inset map corresponding to the specific route section. You can add up to 10 stops to the map at a time. And in our experience, the routes suggested were sensible.

If you'll be walking, click the Walking tab on a plotted route to see directions optimised for traveling by shank's pony. We were even able to create and save a walking tour in Paris. Right-click your map to add the location, or snap to the closest address, and stick in a location pin.

The service's directions and map panels have minimize and maximize icons for resizing the contents; however, on conventional 4:3 monitors, you might need to scroll to the right to see them.

Ask City: Specs

  • Internet connection
  • Internet connection

SHOULD I BUY ASK CITY?'s Ask City works well and looks great. It's actually great fun, and pretty useful. Just don't expect to find UK businesses.