Google Maps turned 10 years old this week. That’s right: It’s been a whole decade since the search giant decided to vanquish whatever natural sense of direction you may have possessed and make you completely dependent on Maps for even the most straightforward of journeys.
Since its inception in 2005, Google has added tons of great features to the already-powerful Maps, but some of these remain overlooked and underutilized. In honor of this prestigious anniversary, we’ve put together a list of 10 of the best tips, tricks, and hacks to help you get the most out of Google Maps.
1) Cache Maps for offline use on mobile devices
We all know Google Maps eats up cellular data like nobody’s business, but what many people don’t realize is that Google allows you to save maps for offline use. Just type “ok maps” into the search bar, and you’ll be prompted to pan and zoom until you have the selection you want to save. You can name your saved map and find it for later use by going to “your places.”
2) Use Street View to travel back in time
Google has collected an enormous trove of imagery through Street View over the years. In 2014, Google introduced a cool new feature that makes the entire history of Street View’s documentation available to all Maps users. Find a Street View scene and a clock icon will appear at the upper left hand corner of the screen, just below the address. Click it and a sliding scale will appear, letting you select views from years past.
3) Multi-destination directions
Ever gotten frustrated thinking Maps would only let you plug in a single destination for directions? Well, never again, because Maps does, in fact, allow you to add multiple destinations. After you’ve added your origin and first stop in the directions tab, a plus sign will appear so you can add all the destinations you like. Now you can hit up both the Mickey D’s and the Burger King in one trip before you visit the cardiologist downtown!
4) Help make Google Maps better
It’s no secret that Google, like Wikipedia, sources much of its Maps data from its own users. But did you know that these crowdsourcing efforts extend beyond the “Report a Problem” feature at the bottom of the page? If you feel like unleashing your inner cartographer, or simply notice something that’s missing or inaccurate in an existing map, you can mosey over to Google Map Maker and join the party. With Map Maker, you can add or edit roads, buildings, and other information that will be added to Google Maps after going through a review process.
5) The distinction between Maps and Google Earth is disappearing
One of the best things Google has done with Maps recently is to incorporate 3D visuals from Google Earth. When in the standard view, hit the “Earth” button at the lower left. This will bring you into the familiar satellite view. From here you can go into full on Google Earth mode and rotate in three dimensions by holding shift while clicking and dragging. All of Maps’ other features are still available in this mode, including Street View.
6) Measure distances anywhere on Earth
If you right click anywhere on a map, a drop-down menu with several options will appear. One of these is a “Measure Distance” option. Select this and pick your start and end points. Say you want to know the exact distance between Charlotte and Richmond because… why not? One click, two click, DONE. You know what else is that easy? Nothing.
7) Use Maps to avoid traffic
Under the “Getting Around” tab is a Traffic option, which lets you toggle between live traffic patterns and typical traffic for any given time on any given day of the week. This way, you can check the likely problem areas before leaving and adjust according to live conditions while en route.
8) Change your route
Using traffic information from the above tip, you can customize your route very simply with just the use of your mouse or finger. This feature allows you to easily adjust your route beyond the two or three options Google suggests for a particular trip. Just drag the route displayed and Maps will shift to different options following the path of your finger.
9) Look for upcoming events
Maps is also a great way to explore a city’s upcoming events. Searching for a venue or clicking on its location will cause drop-downs containing basic information, such as website, telephone number, etc. to appear. Hidden beneath all of this information is an Upcoming Events option, which will list… upcoming events. This feature could come in really handy if you’re planning a trip and want to quickly compare events at different venues all over town on the days you plan to visit.
10) One-click directions
If you’re feeling particularly lazy, you can summon directions to a place with a single click. Just right-click on a location and the same drop-down with the measure distance option will come down. Here you’ll find a directions tab and, voila, you’ll never be lost again.
Photo via heiwa4126/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)