Google Maps is a free online map service, which as you can probably guess, is owned by Google and can be directly used in your web browser.
On the surface Google maps looks like any other ordinary map service, but it contains a host of neat features that can be used to plan your journey weather its being made by bicycle, car, public transport or foot.
Google maps is fairly easy to navigate and below we will take you through some of the options that are available.
Once you open Google maps in your browser, it will automatically load your hometown via your IP address, though this isn't always accurate, as you'll probably find. Either way, it will load a location which is usually within 50 or 60 miles of yours.
The simplest way to navigate Google maps is by double-clicking on any area to zoom in to a specific location on the map, or you can use the + symbol to zoom in or the - to zoom out at the bottom right corner of the map.
If you need directions from one location to another, all you have to do is right click on the desired location and then select "Directions from here" and then click on the destination you want to go to. You will then be provided with a map which is highlighted in blue with the estimated mileage and time it will take you to travel. You also have the option in the top left-hand corner to choose whether you are making the journey by car, public transport, foot or cycle. You can also choose via the "options" menu if you want to avoid highways, tolls and ferries, et cetera. If you need to print the map right click and select "print".
Moreover, you can search for a location or get directions using the search function at the top left-hand corner of Google Maps. For example, you could enter the the postcode you are travelling from to the postcode you want to travel to (example: NP19 7EE to M16 0RA).
In the bottom right-hand corner you can access various tools. Amongst these is the ability to zoom and zoom out as we've already mentioned. You also have the option for Street View, which will highlight streets which can be viewed via photographic images taken by a 360° camera, the option to Show Imagery which will show you interesting places on the area of the map you are zoomed in, and there's also the option to Show Your Location, which if providing Google has correctly identified your location via your Internet address will zoom in on your current location.
In the bottom left-hand corner, there's the option to select Earth which will provide you with a aerial photographic view exactly like Google Earth.
In the top left-hand corner, which has a symbol of 3 horizontal dashes next to the search box is the menu option.
This menu provides a host of features including Traffic which allows you to view the traffic situation on your selected area by highlighting the roads in green where the traffic is good and red if the traffic is bad. Transit displays information on buses, trams and other public transport. Bicycle gives you information on cycle lanes, off-road paths, and bike-friendly roads. Terrain shows topography and altitude.
Directions which is located just to the right of the search bar can be used to find a specific location on the map. You can enter the name of a place you want to go from, and the name of the place you want to go to. This can also be performed by right clicking on your desired location on the map and selecting "directions from here", and then click the place you want to go, as previously mentioned. You will receive information on the best route and the estimated mileage and time it will take.
This is one of the best features of Google Maps, especially if you need to know what an area looks like, but it's also controversial, partly because it invades people's privacy.
With street view, you can view roads and streets in certain areas of the world, though not every area is covered. As mentioned earlier Google has taken 360 photographs using a camera located on top of a car. You may find that some areas may be blurred out because people have requested to have their homes and street removed. There's also areas that may be blurred out, such as military bases or sensitive buildings.
You have to have a Google account and be signed in for this feature to be visible. This is a new feature that make it possible to rediscover the places you've visited before, and routes you have traveled.
It's possible to download a specific area on Google Maps, which can then be later use without a connection to the internet. This feature works only for Google Maps on mobiles and tablets using the app, and not on a desktop web browser.
You can enable this feature by zooming in on a specific location on Google Maps, and then type "OK Maps" in the search box and hit the search icon. You will then be asked if you want to save the map?
Select "Save", and give the map a name and the app then stores that location.
One of the many features of Google Maps is that when you browse any location it provides a unique URL which is displayed within your web browser, or it can be copied by selecting the share or enable map options through the menu (example: https://firstname.lastname@example.org,-0.1440787,17z). This means that you can copy the URL and share it with others via email or social media. For example, if you find an interesting place, or simply wanted to provide a map to somebody you just simply send them URL and once they click on it, it will load automatically, without them doing anything.
You can find more information and help guides for Google Maps at the following links.