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February 12, 2010

Google Maps Labs

When a product doesn't have many users, it's easy to add new features, even if they're still experimental. But how can you test new features in popular services like Gmail, Google Docs or Blogger? One solution is to launch a labs section with experimental features that can be enabled by early adopters.

Google Maps is the latest Google service that adds a labs section with cool features that aren't ready for prime time. As Google says, the features "may change, break or disappear at any time".

The most interesting feature available in Gmail Maps Labs is aerial imagery, which shows a "rotatable, high-resolution overhead imagery presented in a new perspective". Unfortunately, the aerial view is only available in a few locations from the US, including Googleplex.


"This new perspective gives users the ability to tilt their view of the world. In addition to seeing hotel rooftops like in our current "satellite" view, users can now see both the rooftop and sides of the hotel at an angle. In fact, users can rotate around all the sides of a hotel to get 4 different views from back to front," explained Google in a post from December.

Another great feature is drag&zoom, which lets you select a part of the map before zooming. This way, the results are more precise and if you don't have to constantly click on the map to find a location.


Did you know that you can search for * and Google Maps shows the top results from the current view? If you don't want to remember this trick, enable the "What's around here" option and Google Maps will add a new button that searches for *.

If you want to find the latitude and longitude of a point using Google Maps, enable "LatLng Marker", right click on a location and select "Drop LatLng Marker". If you use this feature a lot, you should enable a more advanced option that shows the latitude and longitude in a tooltip.


{ Thanks, Pascal. }

21 comments:

  1. But one bad thing in all these changes to Google Maps is that one can no longer edit 'My Saved locations'.

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  2. Saved locations is no longer a standalone feature. Your queries are saved in Google Web History and you can remove them there. Unfortunately, Google Web History is broken and desperately needs an update.

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  3. That's true but what if one does not to want to enable web history and still be able to manage Saved locations.

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  4. Great question. A workaround is to star your favorite locations (search them and click on the blue star icon next to the result). The starred items are displayed at the bottom of the "My Maps" section, but you can also see them on the map.

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  5. A good workaround that one. Thanks. The only thing missing is that starred items do not show up as search suggestions in maps.

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  6. The thing is, the aerial images have been available for all over the world on Bing maps for quite some time

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  7. That's true. Google's aerial images are similar to Bing's Bird Eye view images, but they seem to be more detailed.

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  8. I love the Lat Long marker .. one improvement would be that I could choose to see the co-ord as a Westing, not only as an Easting every time. This would align with how Geocaching displays them.

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  9. I need to be able to copy the lat/lon for pasting into other applications. When I drop the lat/lon marker, my cursor becomes a text cursor over the lat/lon, but no highlighting. Am I missing something? Or is there some other easy way to get lat/lon into your copy/paste buffer? (I know I can get it from the "Link", but that's tedious.)

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  10. @Rodney:

    Yes, you are missing something. Add a marker, select the text and copy it using Ctrl+C. If you use Windows and you want to trigger the standard contextual menu, use the special key from your keyboard that shows the right-click menu.

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    1. What if we have multiple Markers and we want to download the entire set? I plan to map out an entire city with multiple lat long points. Optimally I would "select" the entire city and download every lat/long to individual rows in a CSV file. Is that possible?

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  11. Alex, oh no! It works in IE but not in (my) Chrome (beta 4.0.249.89)! That's why it's not working for me. Are you using Chrome?

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  12. Typo... If you want to find the latitude and longitude of a point using Google Maps, enable "LatLng Marger"... I think it should say "LatLng Marker"

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  13. I find the Bird's Eye View in Bing Maps easier to navigate. The controls seem more intuitive in Bing, even though you can only rotate by 90 degrees. I would still use Google Maps for normal maps though.

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  14. It would be nice if there was a way to measure a certain area, like say my back yard. Or a certain area. either with a free hand selection tool or with a box like your drag&zoom.

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  15. @Kyle:

    Check the Distance Measurement Tools in Google Maps Directory.

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  16. How about the ability to measure the size of a certain area in sq ft or acres, by using a free hand selection tool or with your drag&zoom feature.

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  17. There's also an "Area and Distance Calculator" in the same directory.

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  18. Can I edit the format of the lat long to DD MM.MMM? I find this format much more useful.

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  19. I'd like to add the LatLng marker feature to maps I've mad with the Google Maps API. How?

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  20. Can I suggest a useful function that I haven't been able to find elsewhere? It is something you can do on Google Maps, but its cleverness makes it difficult. I think it'd be pretty simple, it would just need Maps own intelligence turned off!
    It'd be great to plan a circular route, mainly to give you the distance - especially for cycling. That is, a journey with the same start and end point, where you can plot points that Maps joins for you.

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