We are sure that many will disagree, but regardless of the device used, we consider Google Maps as the definitive mapping app. Alternatives may have more features, clearer focus in certain areas or other perks, but as a fantastic all-rounder with something to offer for users across the world. The average user will open the app, input their destination and bring up directions – and not a lot else. However, as has become commonplace on Google software, there is other functionality, along with a couple of tricks, that can make Google Maps an even more definitive contributor to your lifestyle. These tips and tricks are covered below and serve to turn standard users into power users with even more great functionality at their fingertips.
1. Zoom with One Hand
Intentionally or otherwise, the convention for zooming on a touchscreen became pinching and moving. That works well and can be achieved in Google Maps. However, if you want to keep your eyes on what is ahead while navigating, it is worth getting used to one-handed zoom. To do so, double-tap the screen with your thumb, but do not let go after the second tap. Instead, move your digit up or down as if you were scrolling a page to zoom in and out accordingly.
2. Keep Maps Offline while Exploring
We have all been there. Google Maps has taken us somewhere new and unexplored, just as requested, and the signal drops out. The software might be clever, but if it cannot get a connection, then there is not much it can do. If you have planned ahead, you will at least have a map of your immediate surroundings to hand as you will have assessed where the journey might take you and tapped the options to save the current map offline.
3. Plan on Desktop, Travel on Mobile
Assuming you use the same Google account across all your devices, you can send saved maps and landmarks between them. While on the maps on one device, choose the ‘send to device’ option. All signed-in devices will be displayed, and one more click will preload the chosen map on your device of choice.
4. Play with the Settings
The beauty of Google Maps is it just works, and the default settings may never need changing. However, if you are used to something else and are on a quest to become a power user, the settings menu is worthy of exploration in its own right. There, you can set home and work addresses, along with any other locations that you visit regularly. This prioritises them in search and suggestions for ease of use. It is also possible to change the scale and distance units used throughout the app to match up with your expectations.
5. Don’t Ignore the Compass
We would guess that you have never hit the compass in Google Maps, and quite possibly have never needed to do so. However, if you need to know which direction is which when out and about, the compass is surprisingly accurate. Press the button, and your map will immediately orientate itself to align with the direction you face.
6. Enhance Maps with Live Information
Information is crucial to Google’s business model, and many of their free services serve as great ways to provide information – and adverts. Various overlays can be found in the menu, where users can find cycle routes, terrain styles and more. The availability of live information depends on your location, but it is often possible to find traffic updates and public transport times to complement your journey.
7. Use Voice Search
Voice control in mobile apps still has plenty of room for improvement, but Google is at the forefront of the technology and Google Maps is a great example of its implementation. A PC or device microphone, along with Siri on Apple devices, can all be used to speak to the app, and it is pretty good at working out what you mean. You can ask for cash machines, car parks and just about anything else that comes to mind, with results delivered just as quickly as we have come to expect from the company.
8. Explore More than Roads with Views and Treks
Other oft-overlooked features of Google Maps involve treks and views, which are particularly relevant to Street View users. As you will undoubtedly be aware, the bulk of Street View content was compiled the old-fashioned way, with Google deploying camera-equipped cars onto the streets of the world. What many users don’t know is that the content here includes more than just what can be accessed by road. If you are the kind of person to use Street View to explore iconic streets of the world, you’ll be blown away by exploring the canals of Venice and National Parks, and you can even see the Northern Lights within the app. Think of it as Street View without the car, and you will have plenty to explore.
9. Marvel at 3D Views
Maps and Street View often feel pretty 2-dimensional, but both apps can work together to add more depth. This is only available on selected street and landmarks but can enable unparalleled navigation. On mobile devices, you’ll want to open Google Earth from within Google Maps, while on a computer you need to activate the Earth option and use tilt view to enable depth. From there you can tilt, zoom and rotate for never before seen views of areas of interest.
10. Track Your Life with Timeline
Some people are against location tracking and particularly saving places they have visited. We are less concerned, and we love the monthly email detailing where we have been in the past month. Google’s Timeline can point out locations that you have never visited before and then suggest opportunities for your next journey based on your interests.