Microsoft Corp. last week unveiled a beta version of Windows Live Local, a mapping tool with an array of useful features — plus an almost frightening ability to zoom in for a “bird’s-eye view” of certain locations. While other mapping tools such as Google maps offer straight-down aerial imagery, this new bird’s-eye view is aerial imagery at a 45-degree angle. Not only does it zoom in close enough and at high-enough resolution to see relatively small details on the ground, but it does so from multiple perspectives that provide much more detail. The images, provided to Microsoft by Pictometry International allow you to see a building or other location and then change your angle of viewing from north to south or east to west.

Other features of Windows Live Local allow you to use “push pins” to mark and annotate a location and then bookmark or e-mail the view. For example, here is a view of Motif #1, a popular subject for painters and photographers in my hometown of Rockport, Mass.

When you map an address, the menu tells you whether the bird’s-eye view is available for that location. Click on it to switch from a standard roadmap or aerial view to the bird’s eye view. Click again to zoom in even closer, or click on a compass image to change perspectives.

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Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.