How to use Google Maps

Google’s recently updated its free PC mapping software. Here’s how to get the best from it.

 
 
 
  • Western Europe Google Maps
    Scott Colvey
    By   | Tech & Gadgets contributor
    Last updated: 31 July 2013, 15:25 BST

    In recent times Google has been jettisoning numerous old tools services and concentrating its efforts on buffing up the ones that the company considers as having a future.

    Fans of Google Maps will be pleased to hear that it’s on the company’s keep list. However, it’s just been given a significant visual and technological overhaul – so features that you love and rely on might be about to change.

    The upshot is that the next time you visit maps.google.co.uk you might be offered the option to try the new Google Maps.

    For the time being at least there’s no risk in doing so because you are able to revert to the old version if the new Google Maps bothers you.

    Read on to find out what you’ll see in the new Google Maps – and how to switch back to the old way of doing things, if that’s what you want.

     
     
     

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  • Step 1: Start with a search
    Scott Colvey
    By   | Tech & Gadgets contributor
    Last updated: 31 July 2013, 15:25 BST

    It’s fair to say that the new Google Maps interface is cleaner – but we’ll leave you to decide whether that means it is easier to navigate and use.

    The most obvious difference is that the map now all but fills the browser window.

    Doing anything useful means starting with a search, so type something into the search box at the top left – a postcode, place name or landmark, for example – and then hit Enter on your keyboard, or click the blue magnifying-glass icon.

     
     
     

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  • Step 2: Master the navigation controls
    Scott Colvey
    By   | Tech & Gadgets contributor
    Last updated: 31 July 2013, 15:25 BST

    While the new Google Maps interface has been pared back, some basic controls remain unchanged. For example, you can pan the current view simply by dragging and dropping the map – that means left-clicking anywhere on the map and then keeping the button held down as you move the mouse.

    If you have a mouse with a scroll wheel, giving it a twirl will zoom in and out of the map. Alternatively, you can click the plus (‘+’) and minus (‘-‘) icons at the bottom right.

    To switch to satellite view, just click the Earth (or Satellite) button at the bottom left. For an explanation of why the button label might differ, read Step 7. To switch back to the normal map view, just click the Map button. 

     
     
     

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  • Step 3: Launch Street View
    Scott Colvey
    By   | Tech & Gadgets contributor
    Last updated: 31 July 2013, 15:25 BST

    If you’re a fan of Street View – Google Maps’ street-level photography project – then you’ll be dismayed to find that the little orange man has gone.

    Previously, dragging the little fellow on to a road would activate Street View in that place (assuming photography was available).

    Now, Street View is summoned in a different way. Zoom in so that you can see the road you want then left-click at the point you wish to open Street View. Wait for a moment or two and – if a photograph is available – a Street View icon will appear the top left. Click this and Street View will appear.

     
     
     

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  • Step 4: View photographs within Street View
    Scott Colvey
    By   | Tech & Gadgets contributor
    Last updated: 31 July 2013, 15:25 BST

    Street View itself works much as it ever did – drag and drop with the mouse to rotate the view, or double-click to ‘drive’ around – but notice the new photo-strip at the bottom.

    A photo-strip entry has a little oval-arrow icon in the bottom left which indicates a different but nearby Street View angle – just click to switch locations. But if a photo has a camera icon instead, then this indicates a still photo.

    Still photos might offer more detail than Street View alone, or a perspective that Street View cars, cycles and walkers cannot offer – a simple click will expand the photo to full screen.

    To exit Street View, click the left-pointing ‘back’ arrow at the top left.

     
     
     

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  • Step 5: Find places of interest
    Scott Colvey
    By   | Tech & Gadgets contributor
    Last updated: 31 July 2013, 15:25 BST

    As with the old Google Maps, it is possible to search for places of interest (POIs) – be it landmarks, eateries or backstreet pubs. This is contextual to the current view, meaning searching for ‘pubs’ when viewing a map of Norwich will restrict the search for pubs to Norwich.

    As well, results are now displayed on the map (rather than as a list down the left-hand side, as before). Click a result and an ‘info card’ will appear under the search bar. Keep the info card open for now.

     
     
     

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  • Step 6: Get directions
    Scott Colvey
    By   | Tech & Gadgets contributor
    Last updated: 31 July 2013, 15:25 BST

    Note the Directions button on the info card – clicking this will open an ‘A to B’ dialogue box, with the info card as the destination (B).

    To get directions, type a starting point (your postcode, say) into box A and press Enter. Click a transport icon to tailor the route, or click the Step-by-step link on one of the route options below to view detailed directions.

     
     
     

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  • Step 7: Google Earth
    Scott Colvey
    By   | Tech & Gadgets contributor
    Last updated: 31 July 2013, 15:25 BST

    Assuming you’re using a reasonably modern computer, then clicking the Earth button in Step 2 will give you access to some features that you may have seen in Google Earth – but from within your web browser window.

    The thing to notice here is the set of tools at the bottom right of the window. The trapezoid icon will tilt the map, while the compass icon can be used to rotate the view – just click an arrow to rotate 90 degrees at a time.

    If you don’t see the Earth button, your computer or web browser isn’t modern enough to cope with the graphical demands.

     
     
     

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  • Step 8: Switch back to the old Google Maps
    Scott Colvey
    By   | Tech & Gadgets contributor
    Last updated: 31 July 2013, 15:25 BST

    If you decide that the new Google Maps isn’t for you, then (for the time being) it is possible to switch back to the old-style design.

    To do this, click the cog icon at the top right and choose Classic Maps.

     
     
     

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