It's 10 years this week since Google Maps launched. Where would be without Google's online mapping service? Lost, probably.

Google's mapping service is a godsend for those of us with a poor sense of direction, providing not only easy-to-follow directions to restaurants, bars and cinemas, but also letting us see our destinations in Google's Street View before we've even left the comfort of our homes.

Google Maps has lots of extra features tucked away that you may not know about. Here we let you in on our favourite Maps secrets for smartphone, tablet and PC users.

Tip 1: Single-handed zooming

Tip 1: Single-handed zooming

When you use Google Maps on an Apple (iOS) or Android tablet or smartphone you can zoom in and out by pinching two fingers together or pulling them apart on the screen.

You can also zoom in and out using just one finger. Double-tap on the screen, but on the second tap keep your finger pressed. Now slide your finger up to zoom in or down to zoom out (the directions are reversed on iOS). Clever, eh?

Tip 2: Accessing Street View

Google Street View mobile device

Struggling to find the Street View option in Google Maps on your mobile device? Don’t worry, it is there, you just need to know how to find it.

Start by tapping and holding on the screen to drop a pin, then tap on the Pin Card that appears (with the name of the place and/or address). Now tap on the Street View picture to get dropped into the full Street View mode.

Google Maps Street View

On a desktop PC, click on the place you want to see on the map and then select Street View from the options on the left.

Tip 3: Save maps for offline use on a mobile device

Google Maps iPhone saving for offline viewing

Google Maps allows you to save maps for offline viewing on a phone or tablet. This is handy, especially if you need to use maps while you're abroad, but don’t want to rack up hefty data roaming charges.

To save an area of a map tap in the search box and scroll to the bottom of the pop-up list that appears to Save map to use offline which is highlighted in blue.

You’ll be asked to pan and zoom to the area you want to save. Once you've done this just tap Save.

Google Maps saved iPhone

Enter a name for the map and the map will be downloaded.

To load the map when you’re offline, just open Google Maps, tap Menu -  Your places, scroll down the list and you'll see the name of your map shown under Offline Maps.

To use this on an iOS device you’ll need to be first signed into your Google account.

Tip 4: Explore the world in 3D

Google Maps tilt the view

Some elements of Google Earth - Maps' sister product that lets you fly over cities and view streets and buildings in 3D - are now available in Google Maps.

On a desktop PC enter the location of the place you want to view and tap the square with the words ‘Earth’ in the bottom left-hand corner. On the right click the Tilt the view icon that looks like four squares (above).

Google Earth Buckingham palace

Hold down the Ctrl button on your keyboard and use your mouse to move the map until you find the desired position. As you zoom close to some landmarks you’ll see they appear in 3D and you can virtually 'fly' over them.

Google Earth iPhone

On a mobile device tap the Menu button and select Google Earth. You’ll need to have the Google Earth app installed and it will open automatically.

To rotate the map, place two fingers on the map and move them in a circular direction. To tilt the viewpoint move two fingers up or down the screen.  To zoom in and out pinch two fingers towards or away from each other.

[Related story: Discover Earth from your iPad]


Tip 5: Drag routes to see alternative driving directions

Google Maps drag to change route

You probably know that Google Maps can be used to get driving directions from one place to another. What you may not have realised is that when you're using the desktop version of Google Maps you can click and drag on parts of the suggested route to reroute around streets or junctions.

While you can’t do this on the mobile version of Google Maps, it does offer alternative routes that you can tap on to compare estimated distances and travel times.

Tip 6: Get the ruler out

Google Maps return to Classic mode

One of the coolest hidden features of Google Maps for desktop PCs is the ruler that allows you to measure the distance between two or more points.

This is ideal if you're a runner and want to measure the distance of a route you’re thinking of taking.

To get the ruler go to Google Maps in your browser and at the bottom left-hand side of the screen click on Maps Labs. If you don’t see this you need to return to classic view. Click the Help icon and select Return to classic Google Maps.

Click 'Map Labs' on the left-hand side next to Report a problem.

Google Maps Labs options

In the box that pops up tick the radio button for Distance Measurement Tool and click Save Changes.

Google Maps distance measurement tool

Click on the small ruler button next to the map scale in the bottom left-hand corner of the map and then click on points on the map to measure the distance between them.

Tip 7: View public transport routes

Google Maps transit option

In selected cities around the world, including London, you can use Google's Public Transit overlay to see where train, tram or underground lines run.

To activate this feature on a mobile tap on the options button in Google Maps interface and then tap on the Public Transit button.

On a computer click in the Search bar and select Transit from the Getting around options underneath.

Google Maps public transport links

In London this shows you the exact route of lines on the Underground, Overground, DLR and tram services.

Do you use Google Maps? Let us know in the Comments section below about your favourite - or most frustrating - features.