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Things You Didn't Know You Could Do With Google Maps

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Just so you know, some of these features disappeared with the recent Google Maps update. We really hope Google brings them back! 

Google Maps is pretty useful for getting driving directions, but did you know all the other things you could do with it? Here's a few of those nifty tips and tricks hidden in Google Maps.

Get Walking and Public Transit Directions

Not only can you get driving directions to and from a location, you can get walking directions, too. You can also get public transportation directions in select areas.

If this is available in your area, you will see a drop-down list of choices underneath the location and destination field. Select car, walking, or public transport, and the directions are customized for you.

Get Alternate Driving Directions by Dragging

Open road
Rolio Images - Daniel Griffel/Riser/Getty Images
Do you know you need to avoid a construction zone or toll area, or do you want to take a longer route in order to see something along the way? Change your route by dragging the path around. You don't want too much of a heavy hand when you do this, but it's a very handy feature.

Embed Maps on Your Website or Blog

If you click on the link text on the upper right-hand side of a Google Map, it will give you the URL to use as a link to your map. Just below that, it gives you the code you can use to embed a map in any Web page that accepts embed tags. (Basically, if you can embed a YouTube video on that page, you can embed a map.) Just copy and paste that code, and you've got a nice, professional looking map on your page or blog.

View Mashups

Google Maps allows programmers to hook into Google Maps and combine it with other data sources. This means you can see some interesting and unusual maps.
Gawker took advantage of this to make the somewhat creepy Gawker Stalker. This map gets real-time reports of celebrity sightings and shows the location on Google Maps. A science fiction twist to this idea is the Doctor Who Locations map that shows areas where the BBC television series is filmed.
Another map shows where US zip code boundaries are, or you can find out what the effects of a nuclear blast would be.

Create Your Own Maps

You can make your own map. You don't need programming expertise to do it. You can add flags, shapes and other objects, and publish your map publicly or share it only with friends. Are you hosting a birthday party in the park? Why not make sure your guests can really find how to get to the right picnic shelter.

Edit Locations in Google Maps

Is your house in the wrong spot on the map? Do you know that the entrance to the store is on the other side of the block? Did the record store move? You can edit it. You can't edit every location, and you can't move things too far from their original location. Your edits will display your profile name to avoid abuse.

Get a Map of Traffic Conditions

Depending on your city, you can view traffic conditions when you look at Google Maps. Combine that with the ability to create an alternate route, and you can navigate the toughest traffic jam. Just don't try doing this while you're driving.

See Your Location on a Map From Your Phone - Even Without GPS

That's right, Google Maps for Mobile can tell you approximately where you are from your phone, even if you don't have GPS. Google put together a video that explains how this works. You do need a phone with a data plan to access Google Maps for Mobile, but it's a nice perk to having one.

Street View

Photo by Marziah Karch
Street view shows you images that were captured from a special camera (shown here) attached to a black VW Beetle. Google has gotten into some trouble for this feature by people who think of it as a stalker tool or an invasion of privacy, but it's intended as a way to find your address and know what your destination will look like. Google responded to privacy concerns by implementing technology designed to blur faces and license plate numbers from the captured images.

Share Your Location With Your Friends

Google introduced a Maps feature called Latitude that lets you share your location with select friends. You can update your location manually or automatically, and you can use Latitude on phones or standard computers.

It may seem a bit creepy to enable location sharing, but you can turn the service on or off as you desire. It's saved me calls from my husband to ask if I'm coming home at my usual time. He can just use Latitude to see if I'm at work or on the bus.

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