Instructions on Using the Google Maps Distance Calculator
All right, so now you know what it is, let’s get right to what you need to do to work this Google Maps Distance Calculator tool. The good news is that there’s not much more to it than simply enabling the function once you’ve got Google Maps on your screen. Just click “New" on the upper right hand screen (as shown in the first screenshot here) and a dialogue box appears titled "Google Maps Labs." Right there as your first option, you'll see the "Distance Measurement Tool." Simply click enable and then scroll down and hit “Save Changes" on the lower left of the box and the tool is ready to go to work for you.
Back on the map, the tool appears as a ruler icon on the lower left hand side of the screen (second screenshot). Click on the ruler and it first gives you the option of measuring in “Metric", “English (miles)", or “I’m Feeling Geeky" (measures in unconventional units like football fields or Egyptian cubits, for example). Then just click a place on the map to start from and it automatically calculates the distance from your starting point to however many other places you select. You can delete the last point or reset anytime you want. On the last screenshot shown here, you'll see that the distance from Portland, Oregon to Albuquerque, New Mexico is 1099.67 miles. There you have it; this is a really straightforward tool to use, so play with it to your heart’s desire.
But while we’re talking about Google's mapping capabilities, perhaps you've noticed, while zooming in on certain areas of the globe using their satellite imagery feature, that there are blacked out and fuzzy images in many places. What is that all about? Find out by reading Excluded Images on Google Earth: the Blurry Stuff. It’s a two-part series that explains where you’ll find these patches and why you’re not allowed to see these them. Conspiracy theory fans will greatly enjoy the interesting bits of mysterious trivia found in those articles.