Google Maps is certainly the most popular embeddable map widget for web designers. But what about adding custom features such as tooltips and pin markers?
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This is where an awesome library like Leaflet.js helps a ton.
This is a completely free open source project initially created by one of the guys at Mapbox named Vladimir Agafonkin. Since then, Leaflet has grown to include dozens of contributors around the world.
It’s frequently updated with bug fixes and new features that improve the overall implementation on any website. This is by far my favorite mapping library because of its sheer force and design aesthetic.
It has so many features that I couldn’t possibly list them all, but here are the most interesting ones:
- Mobile hardware acceleration
- Pin markers, shape overlays, and tooltips
- Custom zoom & panning animation
- No JS dependencies
- Support for all major browsers including IE7+
Implementation is a bit tricky because you need to enter coordinates and define how large the map should be.
Users can always zoom out and pan around, so the view can always change. But it’s also based on how you define the map on the page.
There is a huge documentation page full of info for every aspect of Leaflet. Sadly, it’s so dense that I can’t recommend just diving into it because you’ll probably get lost. Instead, check out the Leaflet tutorials page which also includes a quick start guide for newbies.
You’ll learn how to embed maps, change the size/position, and how to add custom graphics on top, such as circles or pin markers.
This one intro guide can teach you everything you need to use Leaflet on a blog, company website, or any upcoming project.
There are plenty of great reasons to use Google Maps: it’s powerful, trusted, and free. But Leaflet comes with so many more features out of the box and you only need to add the CSS/JS files to your web page to get started. You can even find copies hosted online if you prefer to go the CDN route.
Don’t let the documentation scare you away. There’s a lot you can learn but not all features are necessary for a basic Leaflet setup.
And it doesn’t take much to create an amazing map from scratch. Take a peek at this Codepen demo created using Leaflet.js & Google Maps API.
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