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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Google Maps Tricks You Need to Try

Astral projection is the practice that supposedly allows humans to separate their consciousness from their physical bodies and travel anywhere in the universe. It's all crunchy New Age hooey, of course—or at least it was until about a decade ago when Google engineered it into existence.

In 2007, Google Maps introduced Street View, which gave users access to street-level, 360-degree views of just about every address in the United States, followed shortly thereafter—and somewhat more controversially—by the rest of the world. Not only does Maps allow users to take a stroll through most neighborhoods in the world, it can be used to conduct local business searches, find real-time traffic conditions, and even see local bike trails.

If you take a moment to think about it, that's absolutely INSANE! The very fact that this technology exists (and is available for free) should be the lead story on the news every night: "Breaking News: all humans are still omniscient beings with God-like powers of teleportation!" But that's not how we see things. We just take these superpowers for granted. Which is kind of sad, really.

Regardless of how you feel about it, Google Maps (and the newly revamped Google Earth) remain powerful and versatile tools—and most of us are only scratching at the surface of what they have to offer. Here, we present 26 cool things you didn't know Google Maps could do.

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Add Multiple Stops to Your Journey

Rarely do car trips consist of going from A to B. More often, they are something like A-to-cafĂ©-to-library-to-Joe's-house-to-B. It's a good thing Google makes it possible to anticipate real trips.

To add multiple destinations in the Google Maps mobile app, just enter your starting point and your ultimate destination and then click the three dots in the top-right corner. This will prompt a pop-over menu with the option to "Add stop." Click that and you can add a route with multiple stops. You will even have the option drag and drop stops within your itinerary. (Note that this doesn't work when you're using the mass transit option.)

Let Other People Drive

Ride-sharing services are becoming a bigger part of the modern transportation mix. That's why Google has added ride options from companies like Uber to its mobile app. Once you enter your destination, click the icon of the little figure attempting to hail a taxi. You'll then be presented with nearby rideshare options along with the estimated time and fare.

Note that you can't order a ride through the Maps app. Rather, if you tap that option, you'll be forwarded to that company's app. The mix of services will vary depending on your locale.

Time Travel with Google Maps

Street View has amassed a huge collection of street imagery over the years. In 2014, Google introduced a way for users to see how Street View has changed over time. A virtual time machine of sorts. In fact, the company dubbed this feature Time Travel. You can access this four-dimensional cartographic experience when in Street View by clicking on the little stopwatch icon in the top-left corner (not available in all locations), which will prompt a sliding scale that will allow you to jump through street views over time.

Create Your Own Private Google Map

You have the power to build your own custom Google Map (aka "My Maps") and fill it with information that is important to you.

Just click here or, if you are signed in to Google Maps on the desktop, click the hamburger menu > Your places > Maps > Create Map. Once in the My Maps feature, you can add pinpoints with info cards, highlight whole sections, or create customized walking or driving directions. 

To share your new map or invite others to edit, click on the "Share" button in the top left corner (it's the same interface as sharing a document in Google Drive). For example, here's a map I made that shows the U.S.A. as I understand it to be.