Whether you’re after directions or looking to virtually explore a far-off location, Google Maps has a bunch of useful tools to help you out.
But alongside its more obvious features, there are several things that Google Maps can do that you likely had no idea about. From being able to dress up its Pegman mascot in a range of outfits to seeing what a location looked like in the past; here are five things you didn’t know Google Maps could do.
1. Dress up Pegman
If you head to Google Maps on your PC, you’ll see a little yellow humanoid figure in the bottom right-hand corner. This wannabe Simpsons character is called Pegman, and by picking them up and dropping them onto the map you’ll load into Streetview if the option is available.
But, in some areas, Pegman will look a little different. If you head to Buckingham Palace (opens in new tab)Windsor Castle (opens in new tab)or Balmoral Castle (opens in new tab) then they’ll turn into Queen Elizabeth II (the current monarch of the UK). Meanwhile traveling up to Loch Ness (opens in new tab) will cause Pegman to resemble a strange green monster with a hat on.
There are a few others, such as Pegman hopping into a spaceship as you drag them over Area 51 (opens in new tab), and probably many more we have yet to discover. At one time Pegman turned into a LEGO Minifigure in LEGOLAND, but that appears to have been removed.
Next time you’re exploring Google Maps, look out for what Pegman turns into as you roam.
2. Measure distance
You can use Google Maps to measure the distance between any two points on the Earth’s surface, you can even create a route made up of multiple points to measure between several places at once.
Whether you’re on a PC or a smartphone the process is super simple. You either open up a menu by right-clicking on a space and selecting Measure distance (if you’re on a PC); or you tap on a point on Maps using your phone, tap on it again and then choose Measure distance from the menu that appears.
If you want a more in-depth step-by-step guide, you can check out our how to measure distance on Google Maps for some help.
3. Remember where you’ve parked
Everyone who regularly drives a car has parked somewhere, only to forget exactly where that was later on. Google Maps can take away all the trouble caused by losing your parking space by letting you temporarily save the location so you can be directed back to it later.
Once you’ve parked, you can open up Google Maps on your smartphone and tap on the blue dot that marks your current location. This opens up a small menu that includes Save parking as the third option. Tap on it and your parking space will be saved in Google Maps for use later.
If you find your way back without needing directions you can delete this saved point by tapping on > More info > Clear to delete it.
4. Keep a log of where you go
Google won’t just remember the places you ask it to, it’ll actually keep a log of everywhere you’ve traveled with your smartphone (provided the app’s installed).
By opening up the Google Maps app, tapping on your profile picture, and then selecting Your Timeline, you can scroll back through the calendar to see a path of when and where you traveled on a particular day.
If you weren’t aware the app could track you like this, then you’re likely a little sketched out – and we don’t blame you, we felt exactly the same way.
To turn this feature off, you can reopen the Timeline page and press the menu button (three dots) in the top right corner. Choose Settings and privacy and scroll down to Location settings. Here you can toggle Location History on and off, delete all your Location History or delete the data from just a specific set of dates.
You can even set it so that location history is automatically removed after a certain period of time.
If you do choose to keep this feature enabled it can offer some benefits, though. If you want to remember where you went on your holiday travels or the name of that cafe that makes the really good coffee that you went to the other day, then this Timeline tool can help remind you by showing you where you were on a certain date .
5. Take you back in time
We imagine some of you wish you could go back in time to before you realized Google Maps was tracking you, or at least go back to turn the feature off earlier.
Unfortunately, we can’t help with that, but if you’re willing to return to Google Maps it can allow you to see what places looked like in the past.
Simply drop into Street View and in the top left corner (on PC) you’ll see the date of when the current image was taken. By pressing this you can scroll back through the years to see what the location looked like at various points over the last decade or so.
This feature is mostly reserved for views from roads, rather than user-uploaded images, and the range of dates you can travel between will vary.
Some places, like Times Square in New York (opens in new tab), can be explored at over a dozen different times in the last decade. Meanwhile, this spot in the Yorkshire Dales in the UK (opens in new tab) has only ever been visited by Google once – all the way back in 2009.