Google Maps Review

Thinking of adding Google Maps to your arsenal of travel tools?  Here are a few things you should know about the areas in which it shines and those in which it lacks.

Pros

  • No credit card needed — Google Maps is a free-to-use service.  You don't have to pay any money to look at maps, use the "Street View" function, browse information on points of interest, get directions, or do anything else with it.

  • A map that puts you in control — Unlike traditional maps, you can move the map around in Google Maps and zoom it in or out, so you can look at a different area or look at a specific area in greater detail.

  • Artificial or natural?  You decide — You can switch between Urban Planning Mode and Satellite Mode.  Urban Planning Mode looks like a traditional map and makes it easier to see things such as different types of roads, points of interest, and territorial boundaries.  Satellite Mode lets you see what a place on the map looks like in real life.

  • Explore a neighbourhood without leaving home — The "Street View" function lets you view panoramic photos of a particular area as if you were standing there, so you'll know what to look for when you get to the general area of where you want to go!

  • Yes, you can find that on a map — Simple search functions let you quickly find certain places and points of interest quickly.

  • Know what you can do, wherever you go — You can look at different points of interest to see pictures of them, as well as information such as their hours of business, if they have a website, what's going on there, and how well people have rated them.

  • Never make a wrong turn again — You can use the "Trip Planner" function to easily plan a detailed route from Point A to Point B.  Pick where you're coming from, where you're going, and how you want to get there, and Google Maps will show you multiple sets of directions.  You can pick a set based on things like wanting to avoid toll routes or minimizing your walking distance.  You can even plan trips with multiple stops!

Cons

  • Art can't be rushed — Getting satellite or even traditional map imagery that is as detailed as it is on Google Maps takes up a lot of memory on your computer or mobile phone, especially when you can move the map around and zoom in or out at will.  It may take a minute or two to redraw the map every time you make a change like this, so be patient.

  • Not much support off the beaten path — As its name implies, the "Street View" function is great in urban areas with lots of roads, but it may not be as useful in rural areas where named roads are harder to come by.  Keep that in mind if you're heading into a sparsely-populated neck of the woods.

  • Is that my house?… — Some people think the ability of Google Maps to provide satellite imagery of almost every place on the planet and make it available to almost everyone for free is a potential violation of privacy rights… or, at the very least, a little creepy.

The Bottom Line: 9.5/10

There really aren't many downsides to Google Maps, or at least they're heavily outweighed by how useful the website is.  Not only can you learn about an area and what's in it, but you can also see what it looks like, how to get there, and how to get around once you're there.  Plus, unlike a traditional map, you can change what you're looking at, and how you look at it, to suit your needs.  Besides the somewhat slow loading speed, a few blind spots, and possible privacy implications, Google Maps is an invaluable tool for planning any kind of trip, whether you're headed halfway around the world or just to a neighbouring town.


What is Google Maps and How Does it Work?

We all need a little direction sometimes, especially when we're far from home or looking to go to a specific place for the first time.  But traditional maps can be vague and confusing: are you in the right area?  Is the map for the area that you'll be travelling in or to?  Which direction are you facing?  Is the map the right way up?  What do the landmarks near where you need to go look like?

Recently, paper maps have become outdated, and digital navigation has taken their place. However, modern G.P.S. systems can be expensive, and usually require an ongoing paid subscription to update the maps. Google, however, offers a map service for free called Google Maps.

Google Maps is a free online map service.  With Google Maps, you can view photos, topography, or even detailed satellite images of almost any area on Earth. You can also get detailed directions between almost any two points on Earth, whether you're walking, biking, flying, or using public transportation.

How Google Maps works: 6 useful features to try out!

1. Change your view to get a different look at the map

You can move the map around, so you're not stuck looking at one area all the time. You can also zoom in to get a better look at a specific area, or zoom out to see the surrounding area or move the map someplace else more easily.

2. Learn about points of interest in an area

You can click on points of interest to see more information about them, such as if they have a website, their hours of business, and if any events are scheduled to happen there. You can also browse photos of them, or of related photos from the general area.

 

3. View areas from overhead with "Satellite View"

By default, Google Maps displays a standard animated map that focuses on urban planning.  However, if you click the button in the bottom-left corner, you can switch to "Satellite View", which displays the map with a combination of satellite and aerial photography.  This lets you get an overhead view of what a place really looks like!  You can also click this button again to go back to "Urban Planning View".  See our Google Maps Satellite View tutorial for more information.

4. View places from the ground with "Street View"

You can use the "Street View" function to view an area through a series of panoramic photos that make it look like you're standing right there!  You can even move around while in "Street View" to explore the surrounding area!  Check out our Google Maps Street View tutorial to find out how it works!

5. Measure the distance between points on the map

Google Maps includes a distance measuring tool that can be used to find the distance between any two points on the map.  Plus, you can add extra markers and move them around, so you can find out how far it is between two points if you stop at other points along the way! 

6. Get directions between places for various transportation modes

One of the most powerful features of Google Maps is its ability to help you plan out a trip by giving you multiple sets of directions based on your departure point and destination.  Type in where you're coming from, where you want to go, and how you want to travel (e.g., car, train, bus, airplane, and so on), and Google Maps will show you the best ways to get from point A to point B.  Which one you pick is up to your needs and wants! 

 

Now that you know what Google Maps is and how it works, check out the rest of our Google Maps course.  We’ll teach you how to use the website and app, how to search for places to visit, and even how to get your business to appear on Google Maps!  When you master Google Maps, you'll always know where you are and where you're going!  …Well, at least geographically speaking.