Google Maps was first released way back in February 2005, and over the past 17 years since its launch updates have steadily expanded its suite of features.
Some are tools that we rely on every day to get from point A to point B, while others are left hidden in obscurity. But some of these secret functions are incredibly useful, so we’re here to highlight a few of our favorites.
We’ve already given you five things you didn’t know Google Maps could do, so now it’s time for five more.
Create your own Map
While it won’t quite make you feel like a cartographer of old, you can make your own map using Google Maps.
To find the feature you’ll want to open up Google Maps on your PC (opens in new tab), hit the menu button in the left corner (the three lines), then Your places. From this tab, go across to Maps and hit Create Map at the bottom (or click on a map you’ve already made).
The layout can be a tad intimidating at first, but the best way to learn is to get stuck in and start placing markers on places you want to visit.
This tool is fantastic if you’re trying to plan a trip away, especially if you’ve never been there before. You can place markers and sort them into different groups (you might group them by the day you’ll visit them) so that you can make the most out of your time.
If you’re going with friends or family you can use the feature’s Share option to add them as collaborators. This way you can individually highlight places that look interesting and share them to see who else in your group would like to tag along with you.
Track your friends
Don’t worry, this one isn’t quite as sinister as it sounds.
If you’re trying to meet up with friends and you aren’t 100% sure where they are, then they can use Google Maps to share their exact location with you so you can get directions.
To do this your friend just needs to open up Google Maps on their phone, tap on their Profile Picture and select Location Sharing from the menu. If they then hit Share Location, Google Maps will open up their contacts and they can choose who they want to share their location with.
They may have to change their location settings to allow this, but once they’ve shared their location you’ll get a live update of where your friend is for the duration that they’re sharing their details. You’ll also be able to see their phone’s remaining battery charge.
Once you’ve set up with each other location sharing can be turned off by returning to Google Maps and hitting the stop button in the bottom right corner of the Location sharing screen.
Make sure you catch the last train home
On your next night out Google has you covered as Maps can tell you the latest possible time that public transport will be able to take you home before services close for the night.
To find out the time of the last train (or bus) home you need to go to Google Maps, look for directions between the two places you’re traveling between then switch over to public transport.
You’ll then see Leave now next to a down arrow. Click on this and you’ll have options for Depart at, Arrive by, and Last available. Select that final one and you’ll be given a list of the very last possible trains or buses you can catch before you’re left stranded.
Be warned though, you might not want to wait for the very last possible opportunity to catch a laugh. Google Maps’ data isn’t always the most up-to-date – last-minute service cancellations could easily leave you stuck.
What we instead like to do is use the time of the last train to then look for options that depart about an hour or so before. That way you can be sure you’re still getting plenty out of your night out, but you aren’t as likely to need to find a place to crash at the last minute.
Find wheelchair accessible routes
When you get directions on Google Maps its route won’t always take into account your access needs.
Although if you’re traveling by public transport, you can open up Options in Google Maps and hit Wheelchair accessible to change this. Once selected your route and arrival time will change to better represent how long the accessible route will take.
It’s not perfect – it relies on third parties to update their accessibility information in Google – but it can give you a much better idea of how long your journey will take. Hopefully, that means you won’t be late for that important job interview or special date.
Use Maps offline
If you want to avoid burning through your data or you are traveling to a foreign place and won’t have any service then all is not lost, as you don’t need WiFi to access Google Maps if you plan ahead of time.
Open up the Google Maps app on your iPhone or Android smartphone and tap your profile picture in the top right corner. On this menu you’ll see an option for Offline maps, tap it and you can either see the maps you’ve already downloaded or you can choose Select Your Own Map.
By using the same pinch and drag controls you use with regular Google Maps you can move around the planet and highlight the area you want to have an offline map for. Once selected hit download and you’re ready to go – the next time you’re on WiFi, the map will download.