Google Maps is the best free tool for all your mapping and navigation needs. It’s comprehensive, intuitive to use, and available across platforms. Since there is no serious competition in sight, you might as well settle with it for now and use some of the awesome features, like custom maps.
Google Maps allows you to edit its maps, save them as your own map, make it public or private, and share the link. This is ingenious and I think this feature where you can create google maps of your own is not used enough! Let me give you 3 reasons why you should use it more or better yet, let me show you 3 things you can do with custom maps.
For those of you not familiar with custom Google Maps, let me briefly show how to use them. Go to Google Maps and be sure you are logged into Google. You should see a vertical menu on the left. If not, click the little arrowhead in the top left of the map to expand the menu. In the left-hand menu, click the My places button.
Google has recently added an interactive tutorial for making custom maps. The tutorial is extremely well made, so I instead of me taking you through the process with text and screenshots, I recommend you follow this quick tutorial to create a Google map for the first time. Note that if you accidentally close all tutorial windows while editing a map, you can restart the tutorial anytime via the respective text link in the left-hand menu.
Give Directions: Showing Is Easier Than Explaining
I started using custom Google Maps to give people directions to my place. This is better than just giving them the address because you can customize the map, switch between map and satellite view, mark bus stops, highlight shortcuts, add comments, and much more.
You can create custom maps with directions and comments for many occasions, for example events, hikes, trips etc.
Collect Information: Creating Literal MindMaps Helps You Keep an Overview
There are many places we regularly visit; shops, restaurants, bars, cafés, galleries, schools, or doctors, just to name a few. And if you live in a big city and have friends all over, chances are you get around quite a bit. Keeping a map of where your friends live, your favorite places, and other frequently visited sites helps you visualize locations and maybe connect the necessary with the good.
Above is a map of MakeUseOf team members. It sure brings home the point that we are a global company.
Here are some examples of how you personally can use a custom information map:
- Want to meet with a couple of friends and wonder what’s the easiest place for everyone to get to? Check the map. Maybe your favorite restaurant is smack in the middle of everyone.
- Need to run an errand and want to get as much done as possible? Check who or what is on your way. Maybe there is a chance to save time or enrich your life!
- Found a cool place and want to keep it in mind for future reference? Put it on your map and add a note to it. You can even add a picture, provided it’s hosted online.
Collaborate On Maps: Allowing You To Tap Into Collective Knowledge
Collaborative maps are my favorite use of Google Maps and they are a spin-off of informational maps. Instead of populating a map with information all by yourself, invite other people to do it with you and thus help you collect better information. Collaborating on an informational map lets you tap into collective knowledge.
Google makes collaborating on maps very easy. While you are viewing one of your custom maps, click the Collaborate link in the top left of the vertical menu to the left of your map. Now add the email addresses of the people you would like to invite, set Advanced Permissions, add a personal message to make the invitation meaningful to people, and finally send your invitation.
Need examples of how to use collaborative maps? Here you go:
- Traveling to a place some of your friends have visited before? Share your destination map with them and let them mark the places for you that they enjoyed most. Better than any guide book!
- Want to discover new places like restaurants or bars where you live? Share your custom local map with people you know and have them add their favorite places. Sure, you could just check out sites like Yelp or Qype for public recommendations, but your friends know you and will likely personalize their recommendation.
Google Maps is simply awesome On top of that, custom maps allow you to personalize maps, thereby making Google Maps even better. The collaborative aspect of custom maps is huge and can truly enrich your life away from the computer.
How do you create use Google Maps? Have you created any cool custom maps that you want people to know about? Please share!