5 Tips to Perform a Smarter and Faster Google Map Search

Tina Sieber 17-02-2011

google map searchGoogle Maps is one of Google’s most exciting and innovative services. Apart from providing thorough Google Map search features, users can view the world as seen from a satellite, wander the streets of foreign cities in street view, and add informative or entertaining content across the virtual globe.


There is no shortage of things to discover on Google Maps. However, sometimes you just want to access a map or find a location quick and easy. This article provides you with tips and tricks on how to search Google Maps faster and smarter.

1. Use Keyboard Shortcuts To Navigate Maps

To browse the map and gain an overview or find a location, keyboard shortcuts are easier to use than pointing, clicking, and dragging with the mouse. Fortunately, the respective keys are easy to remember.

  • pan left, right, up, or down = arrow keys
  • pan faster = End, Home, Page Up, or Page Down keys
  • zoom in or out = + or – keys

Before you can use the keyboard shortcuts, however, you have to use your mouse and click the map to select it.

2. Change The Default Location

Are you going on a vacation or do you frequently look up places like restaurants or other businesses in your local city? You should consider setting a custom default location. Apart from letting you access your personal points of interest quicker, it’s also a nice change of view if you don’t happen to operate in North America.

Go to Google Maps and on the left-hand side click > Set default location. Enter the address, city, and/or country, eventually pick one of the suggested results, then click > Return to set the default location.


google map search

If a default location was set in the past, you can click > Change default location.

3. Refine Your Search

This is a very small and seemingly insignificant feature, but it can have a huge impact on the amount of results you have to weed through.

Next to the ‘Search Maps‘ button is a ‘Show search options‘ text link. Click it to add a pull-down menu with categories, including Locations, Businesses, User-created maps, and Real estate. Next time your search produces too many results, filter search results for the matching category.


google map search function

4. Use The Bookmaplet Bookmarklet

There is only so much you can do with Google Maps itself and you always have to go there first. To really speed up your map searches, I recommend Bookmaplet. It enables you to view a location in Google Maps by highlighting a city name or address on a website and clicking the bookmarklet in your browser toolbar. You don’t have to leave the page, but you can open Google Maps in a new tab if you want to.

To set up the bookmarklet, go to to the Bookmaplet website and click & drag the ‘Map that address‘ bookmarklet to your browser toolbar. To use it highlight a location of your choice in any online text, it can be an address, city, or country, and click the ‘Map that address‘ bookmarklet in your toolbar.

google map search function


Per default, the ‘Open in Google Maps‘ link will open in the same tab, unless you have changed your browser preferences. In Firefox and Google, a mouse middle click will open the link in a new tab.

5. Enable Google Maps Labs Features

As Tim has pointed out in a previous article, Google tests “new beta-type features in what they call ‘Google Labs’.” There are currently two features that let you zoom into a location faster and smarter. One is ‘Show Me Here!‘, which lets you zoom to the maximum zoom level of a location instantly via the context menu; the other is ‘Drag ‘n’ Zoom‘, it allows you to mark a region you want to zoom into.

To access the Google Maps Labs features, click the ‘New‘ link in the top right toolbar on the Google Maps page. A window showing all experimental features will come up. Enable the ones you find interesting or useful, close the window, and click the button to > Save changes.

google map search


Hooked on maps? There is a lot more to discover. Google Maps tips for life contains tons of useful information on how you can use Google Maps. Below is a selection of related articles on MakeUseOf:

How do you use Google Maps and what is the most valuable feature to you?

Image credits: ildogesto

Related topics: Geotagging, Google Maps, Maps, Web Search.

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  1. Tina
    February 18, 2011 at 8:41 pm


    guess I should have concealed that ad. ;)

    I don't know why Google would show me 'dating girls' ads, let go 'Chinese girls'. What it does mean hopefully is that Google has not cracked artificial intelligence, yet!

  2. Ron Devoo Deux
    February 18, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    Loved the "Dating Chinese Girls" Google ad on the map above. Very informative, thanks for the tip. D'ya suppose they have take-out? Makes one wonder just what things you've been searching for that would cause google to feed you that kind of ad. Frankly, you sound like my kind of people!