Google Maps Satellite View

The problem with most maps is that they're usually just symbolic depictions of things: roads, buildings, bodies of water, parks, mountains, and so on.  Wouldn't it be nice to have a map that goes beyond general references and actually shows the location that you're looking for in detail, so that you actually have an idea of what it looks like when you get there?  "Satellite View" on Google Maps is here to help, letting you see actual photographs and 3D models of a location from a bird's-eye view!

How to Use Google Maps Satellite View

  1. Go to www.google.com/maps in your web browser.

  2. In the lower-left corner of the screen, you'll see a panel that says either Earth or Satellite.  Just click it, and presto!  Google Maps will change to Satellite View!

  3. When you're using Satellite View, there are two special controls that you can use, and they'll appear in the bottom-right corner next to the other controls.

     

    Click the arrows on either side of the compass icon to rotate your view of the map towards a certain direction.  To tell which direction you're facing, remember that the red part of the compass needle points north.

    You can also click the button below the compass icon to tilt your view of the map up or down.  This can help you get a better idea of the elevation/height of certain objects.

  4. If you want to switch back to the Traditional Map View, just click Map in the bottom-left corner.

 

And that, in a nutshell, is what Google Maps Satellite View is all about!


Google Maps Street View

Having a map of a place and directions on how to get there are both handy for navigating.  But it can be easy to lose your bearings if you take a wrong turn in a neighbourhood, and it can be much harder to re-orient yourself when all of the streets and buildings look the same because they're unfamiliar to you.

That's where the "Street View" function of Google Maps comes in.  With Street View, you can get a full 360-degree view of the surrounding area from pretty much any street in the world.  Plus, Street View even allows you to move your view from street to street.  This lets you scout out an unfamiliar neighbourhood and identify the local landmarks… all without leaving your home!

How to Access Google Maps Street View

  1. Go to www.google.com/maps in your web browser.

  2. There are two main ways to access the Street View function.  The first is by finding a location that you want to use Street View on, either by just manually finding it and clicking on it, or using the search functions to find it (see our How to Use Google Maps and Google Maps Search tutorials if you need help using the controls or searching).

    Once you have a location selected, you will see a Street View button in the information window below the search bar in the top-left corner.  Click on it.

    NOTE: Be as specific as you can with the location that you're looking for, or Google Maps might just take you to the busiest or most central street in a general area.

  3. The other main way to access Street View is by clicking on the Browse Street View icon (), also known as "Pegman", the unoffical mascot of Google Maps.  This will highlight certain areas of the map in blue or yellow.  Click one of these areas to access Street View for that location.

    You can also click and hold your left mouse button on the Browse Street View icon (), then drag it to the location where you want to use Street View, and then release the left mouse button.  The location you pick still has to be highlighted in blue or yellow, though.

    NOTE: Again, be as specific as you can with the location that you're looking for, or Google Maps might just take you to the busiest or most central street in a general area.

How to Use Google Maps Street View

  1. You'll have a bunch of new options available once Street View is active.  They're all over the map (no pun intended), so we'll break them down for you. 

    First is the main window.  Here you'll see panoramic images of the street you're on and the surrounding area.  The names of streets will be displayed on them in white lettering. 

    As you move your mouse around the screen, you may see a faded white box or a faded white arrow, like the one highlighted in the screenshot below.  When you see either of these, you can click the screen at that point to move your view in that direction, or to move your view to refocus on the object that you clicked on.

  2. In the lower-right corner, you will see the "+" and "-" buttons that you can click on to zoom your view in and out, respectively.  In addition, you can click the arrows on either side of the compass icon to rotate your view in a certain direction.  (Note: you can also do this more gradually by clicking and holding the left mouse button in the main window, and then dragging your mouse around the screen.)

     

    To know which direction you're facing, remember that the red point of the needle in the compass icon will always point north.  So, in the example above, we're facing east.

  3. In the upper-left corner is the Street View menu.  Here, you can click the history icon () to open a window that lets you look at the location you're currently viewing at different points in time.  The month and year next to this icon are the time at which you're currently viewing this location in the main window.  This point in time is also faintly highlighted in the slider bar below.

    To change the point in time at which you're viewing your current location, click a point on the slider bar to move the large marker there.  Then, click the zoom icon ().  Click the history icon () again to close this window.

    If you wish to return to the map at the exact location you're currently viewing, click the arrow icon () next to the location's name.  Or, you can click the point-of-interest icon () to return to the map at the central or busiest area of this location.

  4. In the bottom-left corner is a miniature version of the main map screen.  Here, you can see the location you're using Street View at in relation to its position on the map, as well as what direction your current view is facing (which you can tell by which way Pegman, the little avatar here, is looking).

    You can click the "+" and "-" buttons here to zoom this mini-map in and out.  Additionally, like you could on the main map screen once you had clicked the Browse Street View icon (), you can click an area on the map highlighted in blue or yellow to immediately use Street View at that location.

    Finally, you can click Back to Map to switch back to the main map screen at the exact location that you're currently viewing.

And that's a quick tour of how the "Street View" function on Google Maps works!

How does Google create the Street View maps?

Street View images in Google Maps are created by cutting-edge systems of electronic equipment that are moved around in different ways, depending on the terrain.  For most Street View images, cars are enough to get the job done.  For some locations that are off the beaten path and are usually only travelled by foot, such as nature trails around and leading to famous landmarks, Google uses special tricycles, or even snowmobiles.  And for some places with geography that's difficult to navigate for any of these vehicles — such as Venice, Italy — the equipment is carried around on backpacks, or even boats!

As for the equipment itself, some of it was already available on the professional consumer market, and some of it had to be developed by Google themselves.  It includes:

  • Specialized automated electronic cameras that scan images gradually (but still very quickly) rather than capturing all parts of them at the same time, and can produce effects such as "fish eye"

  • Global positioning devices and speed sensors, to account for and correct any distortions caused by the cameras as they move around

  • Range scanners that use lasers to determine the actual physical proportions of the space being photographed by the cameras


Google Maps Directions

Say that a friend calls you up or sends you an email, and invites you to a social function being held by one of their friends.  They tell you the address of the person's house, and what time you have to be there.  Great, all set!  Except… you have no idea where the person's address is relative to any other places you know, because it's in an unfamiliar part of town.  How do you know what roads can get you there?  What are some landmarks that you can look for along the way?  What does the person's house even look like?  And most importantly… what are you going to do to solve all of these problems?

Leave the navigating to Google Maps!  By plugging in your start point and end point, you can get multiple sets of detailed directions between the two, based primarily on how you want to get there.  Plus, you can quickly get directions for the trip back by instantly switching your departure point and destination.  And there are even more options for tailoring your trip, so that you can travel the way that's right for you!

Getting directions with Google Maps

Choosing a start and end point

  1. Go to www.google.com/maps in your web browser.

  2. In the upper-left corner, under the search bar, click Directions.

  3. The search bar will now change to look like the screenshot below.  First, you're going to want to tell Google Maps where you're coming from and where you're going to.  For this example, let's say that we're a tourist visiting New York City, and we want to know how to get from the Empire State Building to the Apollo Theatre.

    Click inside the box that says "Choose a Starting Point" and type in the location that you want to start from.  As you type, Google Maps will try to guess the location that you're looking for; typically, locations already visible in the current map view will appear near the top.  If you see a location that matches your desired departure point, click it.

    Next, click inside the box that says "Choose Destination" and type in the location where you want to end up.  Again, Google Maps will try to guess the location that you're looking for as you type it, with locations visible in your current map view typically near the top of the list.  If you see your desired end point in the list that appears, click it.

    NOTE:  If you already know where both your departure point and destination are on the map, you can simply click one and then the other.

Choosing a transportation method and planning a route

  1. You will now see a list of sets of directions, starting with what Google Maps thinks is the most efficient way of getting from your departure point to your end point.  If you want to see the routes that favour a specific method of transportation, click on one of the vehicle icons highlighted in the screenshot below.  You can check routes for:

    – Personal Vehicles
    – Public Transportation
    – Walking
    – Bicycles
    – Airplanes

    NOTE: Some of these options may be initially hidden; you can reveal them by moving your mouse over the "more" button (•••).  Also, some options may not be available, depending on the distance between your departure and destination points.  For example, shorter distances may not have airplane routes, while longer distances may not have bus routes.

    If you don't have a preference, you can click the directions button () to go back to the list of what Google Maps thinks are the most efficient routes.

  2. Depending on the type of transportation you've selected, you will see different routes on the map.  The one highlighted in colour is the route you currently have selected.  The other routes will be greyed out.  Click on one of the greyed-out routes to select it.

    Also, if you move your mouse over one of the white circles on the currently selected route, you can see an action that you should take at that point, along with a picture of what the area looks like so you can orient yourself properly.

  3. If you want to make certain adjustments to the route you currently have selected, click Route Options.  This gives you options that you can check off to make sure that your route avoids highways, toll roads, and ferries, among other things.  You can also select whether your distances display in miles or kilometres.

    NOTE: depending on the type of transportation you're using for the route, you may have different route options.  For example, if you have a public transportation route selected, you can choose whether you prefer to travel on a bus, tram, subway, etc.  You can also select whether your route is the most efficient one, keeps you from having to transfer between vehicles too often, or keeps you from having to walk too much.

Adding additional destinations

  1. If you want, you can also add further destinations after your first one.  For example, say that after we go to the Apollo Theatre, we want to double back to the Rockefeller Centre.  In that case, click the "add destination" button (), start typing in the place you want to go, and then click on it when it appears in the list of suggestions.

Changing the order of destinations

  1. Okay, now let's say that you want to go to the Rockefeller Centre before you go to the Apollo Theatre.  In that case, move your mouse cursor over the marker of the location whose order you want to change (your cursor will change to a hand, and three vertical dots will appear along with the message "Drag to Reorder").  Now, click and hold the left mouse button, drag the location to its new position on the route, and let go of the mouse button.

Removing a destination

  1. On second thought, maybe you don't want to go to the Rockefeller Centre after all.  If you have three or more locations on your route, you can get rid of one of them by moving your mouse cursor to the right edge of the location until an "X" appears, along with the message "Remove this Location".  Click the "X" to delete this location from your route.

Selecting your route and getting directions for it

  1. Okay, so you've decided on where you're going.  Now you have to decide what route you're going to take to get there.

    In the menu in the top-left corner, your currently selected route will appear with expanded information.  Other routes will appear collapsed below it, showing you their primary method of transportation and approximate travel time.  Click one to select it.

    You can also select the route you want by clicking on it directly on the map, as outlined in step 5.

  2. Once you have the route that you want to take selected, click Details (or, if your route is via public transportation, click the blue text next to "Next Trip") to display detailed directions.

Choosing a route with public transportation

  1. If you have a public transportation route selected, you can click More Options and Times to open a new window that lets you fine-tune your travel options.  You can click on the menu options across the top to select, respectively:

    – Whether you want to leave your start point or arrive at your end point at a specific time
    – The time that you want to depart at or arrive by (depending on the above choice)
    – The date that you want to depart by or arrive by (depending on the first choice)
    – Any other options for the route, such as whether you prefer bus, tram, subway, etc.

    If you want to pick a different kind of route, click the "X" in the top-right corner.  Otherwise, click on a route in the main part of the window to immediately select it and display detailed directions.

Reading and printing your directions

  1. Once you have directions for a route displayed, you can see the distance and approximate amount of time taken, both for the complete trip and each major leg of it.  If you click on one of the small arrows next to a major leg of the trip ( or ), you can show or hide more specific directions for that leg, as well as how much distance they cover (in the example below, we've chosen to show them).  Clicking on one of these specific directions will cause the map to focus on the area where you are supposed to perform that action.

    If you want to print the directions for the current route, click the printer icon () and select from the drop-down menu whether you want to Print Including Maps (print the accompanying map images for the complete route and each major leg) or Print Text Only (to print the directions without any accompanying maps).

    If you want to go back and look at another route, click the "X" next to the printer icon.

Getting directions for the trip back

  1. Now that you know how to get from the Empire State Building to the Apollo Theatre, how do you get back the other way?  Fortunately, there's a very easy way to do this in Google Maps. 

    If you're only getting directions between two locations, you can click the reverse button () beside them, and presto!  Your starting point and destination will be switched, and Google Maps will give you new routes accordingly.  From there, you can pick your route and route options, and display and print directions like you normally would.

And that's pretty much everything you need to know about finding and printing directions with Google Maps!


Google Maps Search

Let's face it: a map of any kind isn't going to be much help unless you know the place that you're looking for or want to go.  Fortunately, Google Maps is made by the same company that made Google Search, the Internet's most popular search engine.  So rest easy knowing that searching for addresses, cities, businesses, or points of interest in Google Maps is simple and efficient.

How to Search in Google Maps

  1. Go to www.google.com/maps in your web browser.

  2. In the top-right corner is the search bar.  Click inside it, and then type in the name of a city, address, business, point of interest, etc. that you're looking for.  As you type, Google Maps will try to guess what your search will be, based on locations that it knows.  You can click one of these options to go to that place on the map.

    You can also search for a place by its map coordinates.  Some formats for coordinates that Google Maps understands are:

    – Degrees, minutes, and seconds (41°24'12.2"N 2°10'26.5"E)
    – Degrees and decimal minutes (41 24.2028, 2 10.4418)
    – Decimal degrees (41.40338, 2.17403)

    If you want to search for exactly what you typed in, click the search button () instead, or press the "Enter" key on your keyboard.  Or, if you want to search for something completely different, click the "X" beside this button.

  3. If the place you're looking for is an address or a unique point of interest, Google Maps will zoom appropriately, showing the place's exact location and its surrounding area.

  4. If the place you're looking for is a country, province/state/district, or city, Google Maps will zoom appropriately to show you the surrounding area, and the place you searched for will be shaded in red.

  5. If the place you're looking for has multiple locations (like it's a restaurant / retail store chain and you don't search for a specific one), all known locations will appear on Google Maps as red dots or icons.

See?  We told you that searching for places on Google Maps was really simple!


How to Use Google Maps

Are you ready to start finding your way with Google Maps?  In this tutorial, we’ll go over the basic things you’re going to see on the website, many of which we’ll be covering in detail in later tutorials.

The first step to using Google Maps is to go to www.google.com/maps in your web browser, so do that now if you haven’t already.

The interface for Google Maps will take up your entire web browser screen, so it can be a little daunting to find and remember where everything is and what it does.  We’ll break down the different areas of the interface to make it a little easier for you.

Main Screen

The area closest to the middle of the screen is where most of the action happens.  If you click on the name or icon of a location, the map will zoom in to focus on that location, and any relevant information about that location will show up in the “Search and Information” window in the top-left corner (more on that later).

Also, if you right-click at a point on the map, a menu will open with several options.  Left-click on one of them to choose it.  They are:

  • Directions from Here: Activates the Directions function in the “Search and Information” window in the top-left corner (if it isn’t already active), and designates this location as your departure point. 

  • Directions to Here: Activates the Directions function in the “Search and Information” window in the top-left corner (if it isn’t already active), and designates this location as your destination.

  • What’s Here?:  This option is basically the same as left-clicking at the location.

  • Search Nearby: Takes you to the “Search and Information” window in the top-left corner, and narrows your search results down to locations within a certain distance of the location that you’ve specified. 

  • Measure Distance:  Allows you to designate this location as one that you want to measure distance from, or, if you’ve already picked a starting point, designates this location as the one you want to measure the distance to. 

There are a few more tricks that come in handy on this screen:

  • Moving the map: If you click and hold the left mouse button down, moving your mouse around allows you to move your view on the map quickly.  Release the left mouse button to stop moving your view.  (You can also do this by clicking in the main screen, and then pressing the directional arrow buttons on your keyboard.)

  • Zooming In: When your mouse cursor is on a point on the map with limited information (e.g. not the name of — or an icon representing — a location), click the left mouse button twice in rapid succession to zoom in on the map.

  • Zooming Out: When your mouse cursor is on a point on the map with limited information (e.g. not the name of — or an icon representing — a location), click the right mouse button twice in rapid succession to zoom out on the map.

Search and Information

This is probably the next most important area of Google Maps.

Click inside the box next to the search button () and type in a location that you’d like to search for.  It could be a country, state/province/territory, city, address, business, famous landmark, or even a set of coordinates.  As you type, Google Maps will suggest places that it knows, with places within your current map view being near the top of the list.  Click one to select it, or click the search button () to search for exactly what you typed in (or Google Maps’ best guess as to what it is). 

Below the search box is where you’ll see information about a location that you’ve selected.  You can also click any of the options beside “Show” to view additional features on your current view of the map, such as known bicycle paths or how fast traffic is moving on major streets.  Depending on things such as whether you’re using Standard View or Satellite View, as well as how far you’re zoomed in or out on the map, certain options may or may not be available.

Beside the information window is the Directions button.  Clicking it allows you to input a starting point and a destination, and then view step-by-step instructions — both in text and on the map — for how to travel between the two using various routes and methods of transportation.  This is one of the most powerful and useful features of Google Maps, so be sure to see our Google Maps Directions tutorial for an in-depth lesson on how to use it!

Google Options

The top-right corner has a few options that aren’t directly related to Google Maps, but have to do with Google and its other products.

Click the applications button () to open a menu that displays some of the other services that Google provides.  Click on one to go that service’s website, or click More to see other options.  After that, you can click Even More from Google to see a list of most of the popular services that Google provides.

You can also click Sign In to open a prompt where you can sign into your Google Account (which will most likely be your Gmail account, if you have one).  If you are already signed in, your account address or picture will be displayed here instead.  You can click it for options such as viewing your account profile, changing your account picture, or logging out of your account.

Logging into your Google Account while using Google Maps can open up a few more options, such as the ability to create your own custom maps.  (We may cover this in a future tutorial.)

Map View Toggle

In the bottom-left corner is a button that allows you to switch Google Maps between Standard View and Satellite View.  Standard View (which will probably be active by default when you first get to Google Maps) looks like a traditional map, with an emphasis on transportation and urban planning.  Satellite View uses satellite and aerial photography to focus more on distinctive features of terrain and buildings.

Click the button when it says Earth (or Satellite) to switch from Standard View to Satellite View.  Click it when it says Map to switch from Satellite View back to Standard View.  Depending on which view you’re using, some features may be different in the “Map Controls” area of the map (more on that in a moment). 

Map Controls

There are quite a few different options here, so we’ve marked the important ones with red numbers. See the corresponding caption below the screenshot to find out what each function does.

Google Maps map controls

1. Show My Location – Clicking this button will let Google Maps use your Internet connection address to find the general area that you’re in and adjust your map view to focus on that location.

2. Zoom In/Out – Click the “+” button to zoom in on the map and see a specific area in more detail.  Click the “” button to zoom out, showing a more general area with less detail; this is useful if you want to move your map view across longer distances at once.

3. Show/Hide Imagery (Explore) – Click the arrow buttons here ( or ) to show or hide (respectively) a list of interesting images that can be seen in the locations visible in your current view of the map.  Some of them are still photographs, while others are “photo spheres”, panoramic photographs that let you see a 360-degree area around a fixed point.

Some are even “Street Views”, which are basically “photo spheres” except that you aren’t stuck in one spot — you can move around and view different locations in the general area! 

4. Browse Street View Imagery – Click this icon to highlight areas on the map in blue (or sometimes yellow) where the “Street View” function is available.  Then, click on one of those areas to activate “Street View”.

You can also click and hold the left mouse button on this icon, then move the mouse to drag “Pegman” (the Google Maps mascot) to a location on the map highlighted in blue or yellow, and then release the mouse button to immediately access “Street View” for that area.

5. Settings – There isn’t really much that you can do here, other than view your search history and change your search settings for Google Search.

You can also use this menu to share your current view of Google maps over email or social media, or embed it so it shows up right on your website (if you have one).  You can also sometimes change the language that you’re viewing Google Maps in.

6. Help – If you need further help, click this button.  Here, you can do things such as let Google know what you like and dislike about Google Maps, search for more specific help on an aspect of Google Maps, get tips on using advanced features of Google Maps, or switch back to the classic version of Google Maps.

 

And that’s a quick tour of the different features of Google Maps!  Check out some of our other tutorials to learn how to use some of the more handy ones!