Google Maps is an incredibly useful tool to have, whether on your desktop or on your mobile device. Whether you need directions, train times, restaurant hours, or the like, Google’s navigation app has all the information you need. But Google Maps has so many advantages that there may be some hidden features you had no idea about.
Google Maps has an almost limitless suite of tips, hacks, and hidden features that make it so much more useful than just a navigation tool. Here is our list of the 7 best hidden features of Google Maps.
7 Hidden Google Maps Features Everyone Should Know About
1. Dress the Pegman
You know Pegman, don’t you? The little yellow character you drag across the map to activate Google Street View and see the world at street level? If you’re on a desktop computer, you’ll notice this little guy is a bit different. Dressed, even.
The extent of these costume changes is not yet fully known. But different places have different outfits. In Loch Ness he transforms into a green monster with a tartan cap, while dragging Pegman over Area 51 means he comes with his own personal UFO. Pegman will also change outfits to celebrate certain dates, including Street View’s 15th anniversary on May 14, 2022.
2. Travel back in time
Google Maps’ Street View feature is a great way to check out an area at street level, without actually being there, and it’s updated fairly regularly. But the old footage isn’t going anywhere – it’s still accessible to go back and see what things looked like. This feature has been available on desktop since 2014, and Google is currently rolling it out to mobile devices.
On the desktop, you need to open Street View and look in the upper left corner. If you see a clock surrounded by arrows rotating counter-clockwise, the time travel feature is available. Click on it and a pop-up menu with a scroll bar will allow you to scroll through all the previous Street View images Google has collected over the years.
On mobile, if you already have the feature, load up Street View and tap the photo. A menu at the bottom will have the possibility of See more appointmentsallowing you to scroll through the historical versions of Street View available.
3. Remember where you parked
Finding your car can be a pain, and luckily Google Maps has a few ways to help you track exactly where you left it at any given time. The easiest is the manual option to mark your car’s location, provided you remember to do so.
Open Google Maps before leaving your car, then long press the blue location dot. The Your location menu will appear, and you want to hit Save parking. Google Maps will drop a yellow pin remembering where you parked, which will be saved for 24 hours unless you manually remove it.
Google Maps on Android also has additional features, allowing you to add notes, images, and the ability to specify your parking expiration date. The latter adds a permanent countdown notification to your phone, so you won’t forget.
To find your car, Android users need to tap on the search bar and they will see Parking location is the highest option. iPhone users should press blue Navigate on the right side of the screen, and they will find the Registered parking option about a third of the way down.
4. Create your own maps
Google Maps has a lot of information, especially in big cities, and it can be intimidating. Luckily, you can go ahead and create your own maps, allowing you to place markers for all the important places you want to visit in the future.
Go to Google Maps on desktop and click on the three-line menu to the left of the search bar. From there, hit Your addresses > Maps > Create a map. The resulting screen will allow you to add markers, directions, lines and routes, as well as measurable distances. Once created and saved, these maps can be overlaid in the standard Google Maps interface on your devices from the same Maps screen as before.
It can be a little confusing at first, but it’s a fantastic way to better focus on all the important things without the usual Google Maps fluff.
5. Check the last return train
Google Maps has a great deal of information about public transport in countless places, but it can be a little more useful than telling you when the next bus is. It is possible to use Google Maps to determine the last chance you have to return home.
You must first choose your starting point and your destination. This is done by looking for directions in between and selecting the public transport option at the top of the screen. You will then see a Departure at XX:XX option, tap on it and select the option Last choice followed by Adjust.
Google Maps will then display a list of transport options, with various options for getting to your destination by public transport. But above all, it will tell you when you have to leave.
6. One-hand gesture control
You don’t need two hands to control the Google Maps mobile app, which can be especially useful if you only have one hand. And it’s especially useful when you’re driving and need to stay behind the wheel.
You can zoom in by first double tapping and holding your finger against the screen. From there, swiping up and down without letting go brings the map in and out.
Changing orientation can be done by pressing your finger and thumb on the phone screen and rotating them in a circular motion. The perspective is also easily changed by sliding two fingers together on the screen. Swiping up provides a bird’s-eye view, while swiping down takes you back to the classic top-down view.
7. Measure distance
You don’t need to draw a full route to determine the distance with Google Maps. Whether you’re hiking a hiking trail that Google doesn’t cover or want to plot a custom route, you can measure distance manually on mobile and desktop.
On a desktop, right click on a location and choose the measure distance option. This sets your starting point, and each subsequent click draws a straight line between the two. Google Maps can show you the distance between individual points or the route as a whole.
On mobile, you start by holding your finger on the screen and dropping a pin. Then swipe up from the lower screen and select the icon measure distance option. From there, you just navigate the map as normal and tap the blue plus (+) button in the bottom right whenever you want to add a new stop. However, Google will only show you the total distance, not the distance between individual points.