Q: I just learned that I can use cross streets as a way to find things on Google Maps! What else don’t I know that I should? – Craig
A: Google Maps has become a ubiquitous resource for most of us, but we tend to use it in a very limited way.
Typing in cross streets to find a destination is just one of many features that aren’t commonly used. In cities like New York, using this method is ideal since all the locals tend to describe everything by cross streets.
If you are visiting a city that you aren’t familiar with, besides the default driving directions, you can get walking, bicycling or public transit instructions by clicking on the icons at the top (bicycle routes are currently not available on some versions of the mobile app).
Once you have used Google Maps to get directions to a specific destination, you can easily alter the route by clicking and dragging any point along the route (on a computer only). This can be very handy if you need to make a quick stop along the way or if you know you want to avoid an area because of an event or traffic accident.
Another great option for traveling in unfamiliar cities is the ability to avoid toll roads by clicking on the ‘Show options’ link just below the destination address.
If you have never done so, simply right-click on any Google map to see a host of shortcuts including the wonderful discovery tool called “What’s here?”
If you have a website or a blog and want to embed a map on it, you can click on the “Links” icon at the top that looks like a small chain (usually next to the “Print” icon) to get the embed code. This same process allows you to get a link that you can e-mail, post on a social site or text-message to someone on the go (including a shortened version if you want to tweet the location).
If you really want to get ambitious, you can create your own customized maps that will allow you to add text descriptors as well as embed photos and video on the map, then share them privately or with the whole world via Google Earth. An instructional video is available at: http://goo.gl/WE11H.
If you own a retail business, you want to make sure that it isn’t in the wrong location, so Google gives you the ability to move location markers and edit the details: http://goo.gl/p8mjC. If you haven’t already claimed your location as the owner of the business, doing so allows you to add a lot of details or even offer specials via Google Places -- http://goo.gl/L2uB2 -- and it’s free!
Another often overlooked feature is the “Pegman” icon that allows you to use the street view of any map: http://goo.gl/YKl5O. Street views are really handy for finding visual landmarks that can help you find things in unfamiliar destinations. If you ask for directions while in the “Street Views” mode, you can click on the camera icon for each segment of the directions to see what it will look like before you leave your house.
“Mashups” are another very cool thing happening with Google Maps where information from other resources is mashed up with the maps.
For instance, http://www.housingmaps.com mashes up Craigslist posts for rental and for sale properties in your city, while http://Safe2pee.org mashes up public bathroom information on a map for finding relief near your location. Need I tell you what the mashup might be at http://beermapping.com/brewery-maps?