| Google Maps is one of the coolest tools available from Google, and without a doubt it’s the best, most complete and most detailed world map on the internet. I love it and use it all the time. The satellite shots help with orientation in new territory, public transport stations are listed in my area, and when I have to give directions, Google Maps is the place to go.
So here are the three best things about it …
1. Default Location
When you go to maps.google.com you will most likely see a map of North America. Being in Europe this is not very convenient for me, so I made my hometown my default location.
To set a default location at which Google Maps will always start when you open it, simply enter a location and then click “Make this my default location” on the left. The location you choose has to be at least a city, but can be as detailed as the exact street address.
2. My Maps
With My Maps you can create your own maps, annotate a Google Map, add comments, placemarks, draw directions or just goof around, which I did as you can see below.
Within My Maps click on Create new map and you’ll see four new tools in the top left corner of the map. From left to right: select/edit map features, add a placemark, draw a line, and draw a shape. Whatever you add to your map, it will appear in a small legend on the left, including the title and description you gave your items.
Needless to say you can save and share your maps, edit them anytime, collaborate on a map with others, make your maps public or keep them private.
With the Collaborate option you can invite individuals to edit your map, you can allow them to invite others as well, and you can even let anyone edit your map.
For a direct link click on Link in the top right corner of your map.
3. Browse Popular Maps
The popular maps are both useful and fun. The Distance Measurement Tool for example is incredibly easy to use and easily reveals how far a distance it is from one point to the other, Place Finder translates your location into latitude and longitude or vice versa, Amtrak has a map with passenger rail connections and stations, another map lists all Crop Circles sightings, with Clouds you can view satellite pictures of global cloud cover, and much, much more.
Once you return to your maps you can check or uncheck the maps you have added, change settings or edit them (if applicable), and of course delete them.
4. Get Directions
It doesn’t work everywhere, but for most places you’ll be able to get directions by car. Recently also walking directions went live. Simply right click the map and select “Directions from here” at your start point, followed by “Directions to here” at your destination. Then choose By car or Walking from the drop-down menu. For the route I chose for my example Walking was not available – smart thing.
The coolest thing is that for some routes you can even view images of your trip.
5. Google Mashups
Have a cool idea for a map? Create it, make your own website and become popular, just like these guys…sort of.
- At safe2pee.org you can find a bathroom in your area (US only).
- Antipodes Map will find what’s on the other side of the world. Interestingly Australia isn’t really down under you, but in the middle of the North Atlantic ocean.
- The HealthMap lists the current global state of infectious diseases.
- QClock instantly displays the local time worldwide.
- Use grüvr to find live music nearby.
What’s your favorite Google Maps feature? What did I miss?