Tech Talk: A Few Lesser-Known Google Maps Tips

Google Maps is quite the handy service. Both on the web and as an app, it can save users a lot of trouble, money, and potentially even danger. Many users already know about the basics of using Maps, how to activate street view, how to use the 3D maps and, of course, how to use navigation to obtain turn by turn directions to wherever they need to go, even with options such as avoiding tolls or avoiding big highways. A good few users, however, may be less in the know about features like indoor viewing, trail details, and ATM finding.

Starting off, we'll have a look at one of the more handy features for Maps users on their smartphones. While getting lost in most places can be solved with a simple launch of the Maps app and asking it where to go, there will inevitably be times that your signal wanes and you're nowhere near a Wi-Fi connection. In those times, it would be incredibly useful to have your maps stored offline. Fortunately, you can do just that. Simply point your device to an area you'd like to download, open up the hamburger menu at the top left of the app, and give "Offline Areas" a tap. From there, hit the plus sign in the lower right, point the map at the exact area you want to download, and just hit the download button. You'll be able to navigate in that area with or without a connection. Of course, the maps expire monthly, to allow for changes to things like road conditions and destinations, so re-downloading them will be necessary at that point.

Next up, we'll talk about indoor viewing. While Project Tango and its full-on indoor mapping are still in the works, some places are already willing to give their inner secrets to Google Maps users, thanks mostly to user-submitted photography and photospheres. To view the inside of a place in good detail, click on it in Maps. If you see a photo of the inside of the joint bearing the familiar 360 street view insignia, give that a tap to head inside. While the scope of some places' inside viewing may be a bit limited and, obviously, not yet terribly VR-friendly, it should give you a good idea of, say, what a restaurant looks like before dining there. The selection of available places to view is a bit on the sparse side for now, but more are being added daily.

On a related note, outdoor destinations like hiking trails can be checked out in detail. While not all destinations will have this option, some hiking trails, ski paths and the like can show you where the trail goes and, in some cases, even let you saunter along the trail in a 360-degree view. To accomplish this, simply zoom in close and a line will appear to mark the trail. Combined with GPS and Maps' ability to show you your own current location, this feature can be very useful for errant hikers and the like.

Speaking of destinations and ways to get there, Maps can also show you nearby points of interest like ATMs, gas stations, pharmacies, and hotels. To get to this option, all you have to do is boot up the app, which will zero in on your current location, then tap on the search bar. Rather than typing something, check out the menu that pops up. Tap any selection you currently find yourself in need of, or tap "More" to see a wider range of nearby options to choose from. From here, you can get information on nearby places and directions to them from where you are. This feature can be extremely useful in an unfamiliar city when you find yourself hungry, in need of lodging, or needing to get some cash from your bank account. Getting reviews on nearby bars and restaurants for a spontaneous night out is also a possibility, of course.

The last somewhat lesser known feature we'll talk about is actually all about "last". Specifically, the last train. For those who use public transport, the pain of being stranded somewhere after the last train, bus or ferry has departed is very real. In order to avoid just that sort of occurrence, a user can choose to navigate to a destination by public transit, as usual, and tap the clock icon that brings up times that the public option runs. You'll see a few tabs, one of which will say "Last". Pick that one, input the date, and you'll be shown the absolute latest you can show up to the station or stop and expect to be able to hitch a ride.

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About the Author
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Daniel Fuller

Senior Staff Writer
Daniel has been writing for Android Headlines since 2015, and is one of the site's Senior Staff Writers. He's been living the Android life since 2010, and has been interested in technology of all sorts since childhood. His personal, educational and professional backgrounds in computer science, gaming, literature, and music leave him uniquely equipped to handle a wide range of news topics for the site. These include the likes of machine learning, voice assistants, AI technology development, and hot gaming news in the Android world. Contact him at [email protected]
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