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How to use Google Maps: Search, Directions and More
Google Maps - How it Works?
Google Maps is a free mapping application by Google which allows you to access the world's maps with a click. It has detailed map data for most countries in the world and allows you to zoom in and view the maps online at different levels of abstraction. Check out the Difference between Google Maps and Google Earth.
The Google Maps website allows you to view both the Map view and the Satellite view. While the Map view lets you view the digitally created maps, the Satellite view shows you actual images of the terrain captured via satellite or aerial photography at different resolution levels. The tool lets you pan, zoom and search through the maps for locations. You can use either the onscreen controls or your keyboard to navigate through the map. There is a scale just below the map to the left which gives you an approximate sense of the distances between two locations. Search
Using the Search Bar on the top, you can search for locations on the map by entering their name. To get accurate and relevant results, include the name of the city / state / country as well. An example query would be "University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, United States". The search bar will prompt you if it finds similar results.
You can also get directions from Point A to Point B by clicking on "Get Directions" in the tab to the left. In most locations, it gives you directions to go by car, public transit, cycling or walking.
Using the "My Maps" feature, you can also personalize the available maps. You can add text annotations, images, videos and shapes etc to create your own customized maps. You can then share your maps with other users and make them public.
Using the options on the top right, you can switch between the Map view and the Satellite view. In some locations (most of the United States), you can also view live traffic updates according to the day and time. By clicking on the "More" button, you can view the photos, videos uploaded at those locations inscribed with geolocation attributes. You can also view Wikipedia entries about certain locations. You can also view Buzz updates by various users in that area. You can also select the "Terrain" option to view the terrain type, "Bicycling" to check various cycling routes in that area and "Real Estate" to view real estate listings in that area.
You can also edit the Maps using Google Map Maker by click on the Edit link located on the top right. It also allows you to print the map, share it by email and get a permalink to the map.
Google also provides a Google Maps API which allows you to use the Maps data in your own application. It also has a feature called Street View which provides a panoramic view of the street level images of many cities. Google Maps is also available for all major mobile platforms like iPhone, Android, Symbian and Blackberry and J2ME. Here's a Review of Google Maps for Symbian phones. It allows you to view maps on your mobile using a GPRS connection to download map data. You can also use GPS or network triangulation to get your location.