Live Local (Virtual Earth) Adds Easier Birds Eye View & Distance Drawing Tool
(1) You can navigate the maps in birds eye view, as you would in street or trips view. You simply can drag the map, zoom, using the same inset map construct as the other views.
(2) You can draw a line from point A to point B on the map and the map will tell you the distance of that line.
FYI, Measure Regions With Google Planimeter at Google Blogoscoped covers a third party tool that allows you to measure the size of areas in Google Maps.