How to use Google Maps

Google Maps is the leading mapping and GPS navigation application on the market, and knowing how to use it, is a guarantee to move safely around your environment. We want to tell you everything you can do with Google Maps, which of course, offers much more than consulting a map or getting from one place to another. Discover with us the immense possibilities of this tool.

Interface - First steps

As soon as you open the app, you will be able to see the map. Usually, you will see a blue dot marking your location on the map, but if at first the map is not correct and shows you another location, just click on the locator icon at the bottom right. This will center the map view around your current location. Use the touch screen to move around the map. You can zoom in or zoom out the map image with the usual gesture

Aspect of Google MapsAspect of Google Maps

At first glance, at the interface, there are two important elements to address. At the top, you have the search engine: you only need to type the name of the place you want to start receiving suggestions.

Search suggestionsSearch suggestions

At the bottom of the interface, you have the different tabs available with access to additional functions that go beyond the simple consultation of the map. When accessing the app, you will normally be in the Explore tab that lets you explore the entire map, but you can also quickly access saved sites, view your list of sites and history, be part of the program of contributors that help improve the app, or set preferences and frequency of updates to know the latest news in your area related to stores and businesses.

Tab to navigate between functionsTab to navigate between functions

How to consult the map on Google Maps

Google Maps, as its name suggests, is a map application. It lets you use your cellphone as a GPS, locating on the map and letting you consult your surroundings. Open the app (make sure you have granted the corresponding location access permissions, usually, they are already active) and the first thing you will be able to see is your position on the map. Move freely around the map by sliding your finger on the screen and use the zoom in or zoom out gestures on the screen to zoom in or out and see more or less detail on the map.

There are several ways to visualize the map. To switch between them, look for the following icon in the upper left corner and click on it.

Change the map viewChange the map view

Now, you can switch between the default view, the Satellite view, or the Terrain view to get a perspective of the terrain.

Map views availableMap views available

The appearance of each view changes significantly, offering you one type of information or another depending on your needs.

Satellite view and traffic detailsSatellite view and traffic details

You can also highlight different details on the map such as public transport, road traffic, cycling routes, Covid 19 information, 3D perspective, or Street View, which is one of the most popular features of Google Maps to see the map from the point of view of the passerby on the same street.

How to calculate a route in Google Maps

One of the most relevant applications of Maps is to know the route from one point to another on the map. There are several ways to do this. For example, look for the following image icon at the bottom right of your screen.

Access to the route sectionAccess to the route section

Use the text boxes at the top to indicate the start and endpoints of the route. The top box lets you specify the starting point, giving you several possible options, for example, your current location. Select at the bottom the destination, and then, the means of transportation you want to explore. On foot, by car, or by public transport. As you switch between options, you will see detailed information on the different ways you can cover the route.

Choose a starting point and a destinationChoose a starting point and a destination

Google Maps will show you directly the map with what it believes to be the best possible route.

Route calculated by Google MapsRoute calculated by Google Maps

Tap the Start button and the intelligent navigator will start, giving you real-time instructions on the screen and by voice signals (ideal when driving) to reach your destination.

GPS navigationGPS navigation

How to use Google Street View

Google Street View is one of the most attractive features of the application as it lets the user see the same view as if they were on the street at that point on the map. As expected, not all the map has this option, only those areas where Google has been able to scan the environment, but the vast majority of streets and roads are available.

There are many ways to access this view. If you tap on any point on the map, and Street View is available on it, a small box will appear in the lower-left corner with arrows symbolizing 360º movement. Tap on this window.

Access to Street ViewAccess to Street View

When you do so, the screen will be split in two. At the top, you will have the Street View, and at the bottom, the map with the position and orientation. You can move in two different ways: by sliding your finger on the top screen along the blue lines to move forward or backward along the street (you can also rotate the view 360º at any time), or by marking new points on the map in the bottom window, which takes you directly there. If at any time, you prefer the Street View to occupy the entire screen, tap the icon in the lower right corner of the window.

Screen split between Street View and the mapScreen split between Street View and the map

One of the options you have is to configure the Street View as we have seen in a previous section. When doing so, the map areas compatible with this view will be shown in blue. Tapping on a point will automatically display two windows.

Explore stores

One of the most useful functions of Google Maps is the one that allows us to explore the stores and establishments in a certain area. Thanks to the huge Google database, it is possible to locate restaurants, pharmacies, museums, and almost anything you can think of on the map. In fact, Maps itself already anticipates your search by offering you quick shortcuts under the search engine to locate some of these establishments such as stores of primary need.

Shortcut to the search optionsShortcut to the search options

When you tap, for example, on restaurants, the map shows all the restaurants in the area known by Maps marked in red, while at the bottom, you can consult information cards with name, address, photographs of the food, and more. And as you explore some reviews, you can also learn about the fastest way to get there. The intelligence of Google at the service of your needs.

Commercial establishment detailsCommercial establishment details

How to create your own map

Another interesting feature is the ability to create your own map with your own points of interest. Google has plenty of suggestions, but sometimes, you may be interested in marking a certain point on the map to have it always available. For this, you have the Saved section, accessible from the Options menu at the bottom of the interface.

All you have to do is select any point on the map by touching the screen for a couple of seconds. When you mark the point, you will see the usual options to start GPS navigation and the Save section at the bottom of the interface.

Find a place on the mapFind a place on the map

Clicking on this option will open a new window with lists of saved places, favorites, or places you want to go. These lists are initially suggested by Google, but you can edit them to your preferences. Simply check the list you want to save the selected point in.

Save a certain placeSave a certain place

From that moment on, you will always be able to consult that point on the map by going to the Saved section and entering the corresponding list. By the way, from here, you also have quick access to your location history: the last points you have visited.

List of saved placesList of saved places

How to view maps offline

We do not always have an Internet connection. To avoid getting lost in this situation by not being able to consult Google Maps, you can download maps and consult them offline when you need them. How to do it? Look in the upper right corner of the interface, just at the bottom of the top search box, find your user icon, and tap on it.

Access to the options menuAccess to the options menu

The options menu will open, including the one we are interested in: Offline Maps. Tap on it.

Option to download mapsOption to download maps

Now, you will have to choose the map to download. The first option you have is to download your own map, which allows you to select the area of the map that you want to have available offline. If you select the Local option, a map of the area where you are located will be downloaded.

Choose the map to downloadChoose the map to download

Scroll through the map to download the area you are interested in. Below, you can see how much space the file you are about to download will occupy in the memory of your device. Click on Download and you are done.

Confirm the region of the map to downloadConfirm the region of the map to download

From that moment on, you will have that map available to load at any time offline. These maps have an expiration date, but you can always update and maintain them or regenerate them.

Map expiry dateMap expiry date

How to contribute and review for Google Maps

Those who are committed to the cause can contribute to the development and updating process of Google Maps. At the bottom of the interface, look for the Contribute option, identified by the plus symbol.

Access to the contribute sectionAccess to the contribute section

From there, you can request edits on the map if you detect errors, add places of interest that you think are relevant, write reviews to help the rest of the community with your opinion, or add photos that help to know better what the place is like. Your contributions can also be consulted here.

Contribute sectionContribute section