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33 Google Maps Tricks You Need to Try


33 Google Maps Tricks You Need to Try

Google Maps is a Swiss Army Knife chock-full of hidden navigation, geospatial search, and customization tools. Here's how to unlock your map app's full potential.

Google Maps has changed the way we navigate the world. Its desktop and mobile apps have become not just a way to get from point A to B via car, public transportation, or on foot. The ubiquitous Google service is also a geospatial search engine for the world around us.

Google continues to revamp and improve its map product with features like augmented reality and contextual location suggestions, but there are a ton of customizable tools and hidden functions already baked into Google Maps that you may not know about. Check out our tips for how to maximize your Google Maps power.

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  • 1
    Plot Multiple Locations on Google Maps

    Rarely do car trips consist of going from A to B. More often, they are something like A-to-café-to-library-to-Joe's-house-to-B. It's a good thing Google makes it possible to anticipate real trips.

    To add multiple destinations in the Google Maps mobile app, just enter your starting point and your ultimate destination and then click the three dots in the top-right corner. This will prompt a pop-over menu with the option to "Add stop." Click that and you can add a route with multiple stops. You will even have the option drag and drop stops within your itinerary. (Note that this doesn't work when you're using the mass transit option.)

  • 2
    Access Google Maps Offline

    Today, Maps is most useful on mobile, which brings up a problem: when you are most in need of Maps, you may find yourself somewhere with limited (or—gasp—non-existent) coverage. To help you out, Google Maps supports offline access.

    Navigate to the location you'd like to access while offline and tap the bottom of the screen. In the pop-up, select Download and download that map, assuming you have enough storage on your device. Once the map downloads, you can get information about businesses in the region and turn-by-turn directions within the downloaded section.

  • 3
    Change Directions Around by Drag and Drop

    When finding directions on the desktop version of Maps, you are able to maneuver your route to go through or away from specific locations via drag and drop. Just click and drag any part of your direction route to move around (this only works with directions for walking, driving, or biking—it won't work with any mass transit options).

  • 4
    Find Directions With a Single Click

    It's easy to find directions on the web version of Maps just by typing where you want to go, but it's even easier than that. Just use a right-click anywhere on the map and it will prompt a pull-down list, which you can use to find directions to or from that location.

  • 5
    Measure Any Distance

    Using the aforementioned right-click tool, you can also calculate the distance of any two points on Earth. Just choose "Measure distance." This will drop a point (signified by a white dot with a bold black line), then click anywhere else on the map and the distance between the points will be calculated. (You can switch between metric and US measurements by clicking on the scale in the footnote. You can also add more points and move the points around later). The total trip distance will be calculated in the main card.

  • 6
    Let Other People Drive

    Ride-sharing services are becoming a bigger part of the modern transportation mix. That's why Google has added ride options from companies like Uber and Lyft to its mobile app. Once you enter your destination, click the icon of the little figure attempting to hail a taxi or the mass transit option. You'll then be presented with nearby rideshare options along with the estimated time and fare.

    Previously, you could request an Uber inside the Maps app, but Google quietly removed that option this summer. Now, if you tap Uber or Lyft, you'll be forwarded to that company's app. The mix of services will vary depending on your locale.

  • 7
    Accessible Transit Routes

    Those with mobility issues can now search for wheelchair-accessible transit routes. Type your desired destination into Google Maps, tap "Directions" and select the public transportation icon. Then tap "Options" and under the Routes section, you'll find "wheelchair accessible" as a new route type. When you select this option, Google Maps will show you a list of possible routes that take mobility needs into consideration. The feature began an initial rollout earlier this year in London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney, but people around the world are adding accessibility information for locations around the globe.

  • 8
    View (and Change) Your Google Maps History

    Google's business model is built around digital services. And they're all for free! Sorta. Google supports these services by renting out your eyeballs to advertisers. The company maintains this model by keeping a very detailed record of your digital activities, including everything you search for on Google Maps. The company may even be tracking your mobile location data when you think you opted out.

    You can look at this detailed online diary by going to Hit "Filter by date & product" below the search bar at the top. This will prompt a pop-up query in which you can search by date or Google product. If you want to see your past Maps search, click the box next to "Maps" and then the magnifying glass at the top of the screen.

    Here, you can see your past search queries within Maps (including mobile). If you want to delete all your searches click the three dots to the right of the search bar at the top () and choose "Delete results." Alternatively, you can click on an individual query and delete just that from your permanent Google record.

    Weirded out by Google's oversight? Here's a more detailed guide for how to get Google to stop tracking you.

  • 9
    Time Travel With Google Maps

    Street View has amassed a huge collection of street imagery over the years. In 2014, Google introduced a way for users to see how Street View has changed over time. A virtual time machine of sorts. In fact, the company dubbed this feature Time Travel. You can access this four-dimensional cartographic experience when in Street View by clicking on the little stopwatch icon in the top-left corner (not available in all locations), which will prompt a sliding scale that will allow you to jump through Street Views over time.

  • 10
    Know Your Street View Key Commands

    While you can maneuver around the Street View world with your mouse, you can also get around with just your keyboard. Here are some good ones to know:
    + / – zoom in / out
    left / right arrow keys turn left / right
    up / down arrow keys move forward / backward
    A / D turn left / right
    W / S move forward / backward

  • 11
    Create Your Own Street View

    It's not just satellites and Google employees roaming every street to get that 360-degree picture of your house. There are a number of cameras and editing software supported by Google that let people create and upload their own Street View to Google Maps.

  • 12
    God View Through Google Maps

    The line between Maps and its cousin Google Earth has blurred over time. You can easily jump over by clicking the "Satellite" inset in the bottom left-hand corner. The Earth view offers a comprehensive and oddly seamless mash-up of Street View and satellite imagery.

    Once in Satellite view, one cool option is to click on the "3D" icon on the right-hand side. This allows you to virtually fly through just about anywhere in the world. Hold the Ctrl button (on a PC) to pivot around any axis using your mouse. Zoom in far enough and you'll find familiar features are melted into Van Gogh-ish landscapes. Tap on any building or feature to identify it and prompt an information card.

  • 13
    Create Your Own Private Google Map

    You have the power to build your own custom Google Map (aka "My Maps") and fill it with information that is important to you.

    Just click here or, if you are signed in to Google Maps on the desktop, click the hamburger menu () > Your places > Maps > Create Map. Once in the My Maps feature, you can add pinpoints with info cards, highlight whole sections, or create customized walking or driving directions.

    To share your new map or invite others to edit, click on the "Share" button in the top-left corner (it's the same interface as sharing a document in Google Drive). For example, here's a map I made that shows the U.S.A. as I understand it to be.

  • 14
    Lazy Searches

    If you search "café," Maps will highlight all nearby cafes that can fit on your current screen. However, the search function is sophisticated enough to find types of businesses "near" places—even if it's not on your current screen. So you can search McDonald's near 28 east 28th street NYC, book stores near The White House, or shoe stores near work (granted you have to let Google know your home and work locations, which you can do by clicking the hamburger icon () on the top left and selecting My Places.

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  • 15
    Be Your Own Traffic Reporter

    On the desktop version of Maps, you can watch real-time traffic data by clicking on the "Traffic" link via the hamburger menu in the top-left corner. In the bottom center, you'll then find an overlay that will allow you to choose between "Live traffic" and "Typical traffic," which will allow you to see expected traffic patterns at specific times (e.g. Tuesdays at 3 a.m.). On mobile, you can see live traffic.

  • 16
    What's the Parking Sitch?

    Google Maps can provide turn-by-turn directions based on live-ish traffic data, but it can also provide you with what the parking situation might be. When you search for driving directions to a location on iOS or Android, you may find a little P logo at the bottom of the screen, along with one of the three following designations: limited, medium, and easy. This designation can help you decide how long to allocate for parking, or even if another form of transportation may be a better option.

  • 17
    Remember Where You Parked

    Remember that episode of Seinfeld where the gang spent the whole episode wandering around a parking garage looking for their parked car? That episode (and many others) would not work in 2018, thanks to Google Maps.

    On Android, tap the blue location dot and select "Save your parking," which will add a label to the Maps app, identifying where you parked. Tap that to add details like parking garage level and spot or the amount of time left before a meter expires. You can also set meter reminder, add a photo of where you parked, and send your parking location to friends.

    Now available for both Android and iOS users, you can tap into the location card will find a section to 1) leave a parking note (for example the level and spot inside a parking garage) and 2) set a meter timer (the app will notify you to let you know the time is running out).

    On iOS (above), tap the little blue location dot within the app when you arrive at a location. In the pop-up, tap "Set as parking location." In the app, a P icon will appear alongside a note that says "You parked near here." To get rid of it, tap the P and select "Clear."

  • 18
    Tilt Your Phone to Guide Your Way

    Ever gotten off the subway and tried to figure out which direction you need to go? It might seem silly, but simply start tilting your smartphone different directions. Google Maps uses data from your phone's gyroscope to figure out your direction and orientation, so the simply act of tipping your phone left or right will show you which direction you actually want to go.

  • 19
    Indoor Directions

    Remember when indoor mapping was going to be the next big thing? While the indoor mapping revolution hasn't arrived quite yet, it has been incorporated into the greater Maps ecosystem. Previously you could only find these details on the mobile version (where they are indeed more useful), however these "indoor street views" are now available in the web version.

    You can find a full list of indoor maps here. In any of the select locations, just zoom all the way in and you'll see the inside details. You will even find an embedded window in the bottom right that will allow you to toggle between various floors.

  • 20
    Share Real-Time Location

    Google is finally catching up with Apple on this front: Google Maps now lets you share your current location with people for specific periods of time. If you share your location with a specific contact, they'll see your icon moving in real time on their map.

  • 21
    Share Your Favorite Places

    Google Maps lets you share some of your favorite places with a friend. You can add an entry to a list (or create a new lists of favorites) from just about any location card within maps. Click on over to, say, that hot new Thai place and hit the "save" option on the location's card to add to an existing list or create a new one (say, "hot Asian fusion spots"). Then to share that list, go to your shelf on the left-hand side and go to "Your Places" and hit share on that list to send a link to a friend.

  • 22
    Use Voice Commands While Driving

    If you want to interact with Maps while you're driving, you don't want to actually take your eyes and hands off the road. The cool thing is you can just use "OK Google" voice commands in the Google Maps Android app. For example, if you notice you're running low on gas, say "OK Google, find gas stations" and it will show gas stations on the map (which you can look at when you've come to a red light or have pulled over). You can also ask for things like "What's my next turn," "what's my ETA," or "How's traffic ahead?"

  • 23
    Customize Your Vehicle Icon

    If you're driving, Google now lets you choose what car shows up on your navigation. Tap on the arrow while in driving navigation mode to select your vehicle of choice, which for now is a selection between a sedan, a pickup truck, or an SUV.

  • 24
    That Little Person in the Corner Has a Purpose

    See that little yellow person in the bottom right-hand corner? That's "Peg Man" (or alternatively "the pegman"). You can pick little peggy up and drop him anywhere on maps and be thrown into that location's street view. Once in Street View mode, he will be oriented with the current view in the embedded map window in the bottom left-hand corner.

  • 25
    Go Off-Road

    Street View has traditionally been limited to… streets. While users can upload panoramas and other photos to places off the literal trail, it wasn't a true explorable, immersive experience. In recent years, Google has begun experimenting with capturing off-road Street Views through various approaches in a project known as "Treks." The project already includes immersive off-the-road walkthroughs in such notable locales as the Pyramids of Giza, Angkor Wat, and the canals of Venice to name just a few. You can find a list of Treks here. If you want to help the project and add hard-to-get imagery, you can sign up as a volunteer here.

  • 26
    Explore Maps Galleries

    Many organizations use the Pro version of Maps to create datalicious visuals. Explore some examples at

  • 27
    Explore Tab

    Google recently redesigned its Explore tab for Android and iOS to offer recommendations for restaurants, bars, and cafes in any area you're interested in researching. The app also now offers trending lists of places you might want to check out, culled from local experts and Google's algorithms. The tab also surfaces top events going on in the area and can be customized by your own recommendations, especially if you have Location History enabled.

  • 28
    For You Tab

    At Google I/O this year, the company announced a new personalized tab in the Google Maps mobile app called For You. As part of the company's mission to weave AI into its products, the tab—currently available on Android—personalizes your experience by letting you follow specific cities and neighborhoods for the latest news and updates, and shows you "your match" recommendations for spots you might want to try.

  • 29
    Become a Local Guide

    Think you know your neighborhood better than Google's algorithm? Then consider becoming a Local Guide. While anyone can leave reviews and tips in Google Maps, Local Guides allows you to earn points for leaving more insights and data that—as you go up the ladder—can result in early access to Google products, exclusive Google meet-ups, and even extra Google Drive space.

  • 30
    Find Nation-Specific Info

    Maps is a global product, so there are versions of Maps tailored for different nations and languages. You can view these nation-specific sites by switching the domain in the URL (in the US, the default is So if you wanted information in Japanese, you would change it to; for Russian; or for Icelandic

    Google defaults the domain based on your location. So, if you're traveling abroad and want to view the US version of Maps, simply change the domain to good ol' .com.

    Regardless of what domain you are in, you can search for cities under numerous languages (i.e. searching "Munich" or "Munchen" will take you to the same city, as will "New York" or "Nueva York").

  • 31
    Choose Your Language

    If your native language hasn't been available on Google Maps in the past, there's a good chance it is now. Google recently added 39 more languages to its Maps app, so check your default language settings and switch if your preferred language is any of these: Afrikaans, Albanian, Amharic, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Bosnian, Burmese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Estonian, Filipino, Finnish, Georgian, Hebrew, Icelandic, Indonesian, Kazakh, Khmer, Kyrgyz, Lao, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Mongolian, Norwegian, Persian, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Swahili, Swedish, Turkish, Ukrainian, Uzbek, Vietnamese, or Zulu.

  • 32
    A Heads Up on Footnotes

    At the bottom of the page you will see a footnote window where you'll find the copyright info (when viewing a location in the US, the copyright should say "Map data © 2018 Google"—the copyright will change as you move around the globe) as well as boring legal links like "Terms."

    You will also find "send feedback" to help keep Maps up to date—click on it to prompt a pop-up, where you can report map problems like missing roads or other issues. At the far right you will see the map scale. If you click on it, you will be able to switch between Metric and US customary units.

  • 33
    Easter Eggs

    Of course, there are Easter Eggs.

    • Ask for directions from "Fort Augustus" to "Urquhart Castle" via mass transit, click on "Route options" and choose "fewer transfers," and one of the options below will be "Loch Ness Monster" (FYI, the trip is scheduled to take 28 minutes).
    • Ask for directions between "Snowdon" and "Brecon Beacons" via mass Transit and one of the options will be via Dragon, which will take about 21 minutes.
    • The peg man turns into a spaceship when dropped over Area 51 in Nevada.
    • You can find Dr. Who's TARDIS on a London street and venture inside from the street to view a much larger interior.
    • It's difficult to see, but when using the Time Travel function in Street View, the peg man turns into Doc Brown from Back to the Future.
    • Watch out for special games, too. In March, Google let users navigate around as Mario. During April Fools' week earlier this year, Google turned Maps into a worldwide game of Where's Waldo?

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