Ditch the map book and explore with help from Google
There was a time when even a trip across an unfamiliar town required a map. The great American road trip? Travelers needed a map for each state. These days, with the advent of Google Maps, it’s much simpler. Now you can create custom maps, send them to your phone or tablet, and have them when you need them, with nothing to carry or fold.
Creating a route in Google maps: the desktop version
- If you’re on your computer, go to the Google maps website or just type in your destination in the search bar. Under the logo, in the upper corner, you’ll see a little blue icon with an arrow; if you hover over it, you’ll see that it’s labeled “Directions.” Click on this icon.
- A text box will open with two lines on which to insert addresses. On the top line, type your starting location. On the bottom line, type your destination address, and then hit the enter key. Your directions will appear along with traveling time and mileage for most modes of transportation.
Across the top of the text box, you’ll see icons for different modes of travel: driving, taking public transportation, walking, bicycling or flying. The default directions will be for driving, but you can click any of those icons to change your type of transportation.
- Hit the enter key and directions will appear beneath the original box. Between the addresses and the directions, you’ll see a drop-down menu that allows you to enter an arrival or departure time. It can be useful to know, for instance, what kind of traffic or road construction you’re headed into or when the traffic slows down in the evening.
- Beside this drop-down menu, you will see a plus sign; click it to add stops to make along the way. You can add as many as nine destination addresses and drag them around on the map to change your route.
If your route involves multiple destinations, you no longer have the option of choosing an arrival or departure time.
Differences between Android and iPhone maps
Google Maps uses the same data and map source for both Android and iPhone, and it uses your device’s internal GPS to display your current location. On both platforms, it’s possible to overlay real-time traffic to avoid traffic jams. You can use both platforms’ apps to see road maps, street view images and satellite imagery, and both platforms provide driving, public transit or walking directions.
If you’re using an iPhone, download Google Places and Google Latitude so that you can browse for restaurants, ATMs, hotels and other places near you, and you’ll be able to view the locations of your contacts. These features are automatically included in the Android app if you have that feature turned on. The primary difference between the Android and the iPhone versions is that the apps are designed to match the interface of the platform for which they were designed. When you’re using Google Maps on Android, the features link into the phones notification bar and give you updates even when the app is not in the foreground of the phone. The iPhone has beautiful resolution for viewing maps.
If you’re viewing your map on your browser, you’ll see a menu above the list of addresses. It offers many different options, one of which is to share your map by embedding it or sharing a link. You’ll also see the option to print the map. Between the address box and the directions, a link appears that allows you to send the map to your phone.
On a mobile device, you can download a map to use offline. That way, if you lose your connection, you can still use the map to navigate. You just need to open the Google Maps app while you’re signed into Google Maps and connected to the internet. Search for a place, and when you find it, click “download” at the bottom of the page. With an Android device, you also have the option of downloading a map to an SD card.
How to create custom layers and more
If you explore the menu on Google Maps, you’ll find options to view the terrain or satellite imagery, add a live traffic layer or see a street view. With the My Maps feature, a world of custom layer options opens for you.
By logging in to “My Maps” on Google Maps, you can use the custom layers feature for tasks such as adding locations to your maps, including addresses and phone numbers, or to change the color and style of your map. You can draw on the map, import data from spreadsheets and use color coding to differentiate between layers. You can even make a map collaborative so that other users can add their own layers. These features are not yet available on the iPhone platform, but you can use them in a browser or on an Android device.