Neat new Google Maps feature

by Eszter Hargittai on June 29, 2007

Maps don’t always give you the best known route to a destination. Now you can tell Google Maps what alternate route you want to take simply by dragging the blue line that indicates directions to another road. Here’s my rerouting of an Evanston-Chicago route that maps always tell you to do by going out to the highway, which is not necessarily the most efficient. (Of course, in that case, you could also just click on the “Avoid highways” button in the upper-left corner, but that still doesn’t give you the best route.) Another change seems to be that clicking on “Link to this page” now gives you a highlighted link right below it ready to be copied.

I understand that some other maps may have already had this feature. But I don’t think other maps are nearly as user-friendly as Google Maps so this is good news. Also, for those not following developments in this realm, the service also has My Maps now, which means that you can create maps with various markers, save them, and share them with others. This is very useful when numerous people ask you for touristy suggestions about the same place over and over again. You have to have a Google Account to use My Maps. Just click on the My Maps tab right below the Google Maps logo.




richard 06.29.07 at 8:10 am

This is one of those things that us users think ought to be pretty simple, but is actually shockingly complex. The fact that they’ve tried to implement it at all is remarkable – even though it’s still quite wobbly (I tried to drag a route around on my own maps and quickly got a spaghetti-like tangle). I bet it’ll cause a lot more yelling than cheering for the foreseeable future, but even so, my hat’s off to them.


Alex R 06.29.07 at 11:06 am

I recently used the “My Maps” feature to create a map to a birthday party, then sent a tinyurl link to the map in the invitation. Handy!

The “Maps On Us” site (click on my name) has allowed one to input way points for many years — this can also be used to generate a preferred route. But the Google drag-and-drop interface is much better.

Here’s something cool you can do with the Google map: you can generate a map of your favorite running/biking loop (if it is on streets, anyway) by creating a map from your start-end point to a nearby point, then dragging the blue line to enough intermediate way points to define the loop, then dragging the end point back to the start. Voila, a loop map!


glenn 06.29.07 at 11:51 am

yeah. yeah, yeah. so google – once again – is the ebs tin the world at anything it puts its collective mind to. I know, eszter, you’re not a shill for google, but my goodness (my guinness!), any of the paranoids who was ever concerned about Microsoft’s dominance should be triply concerned with google.


glenn 06.29.07 at 11:55 am

damnnit all to hell! It’s “the best in! the best in.” And I deserve that for having a beer (ooooh, I admit it – a beer and a half!) at lunch today!


Peter 06.29.07 at 12:07 pm

Geez, Eszter, it’s just crazy that you take Sheridan Road all the way down, instead of Chicago/Clark/Ridge-Hollywood/LSD. It’ll knock another 10 minutes off your commute.


ozzy 06.29.07 at 1:41 pm

Glenn, I’ll take the money that Google charges me for it’s service and multiply it by three to see whether it compares quantitatively with what I have to give to MS whenever I get a new computer……and the result is: 3*0


Eszter 06.29.07 at 1:46 pm

Glenn, as you say, I engage in a fair share of skepticism and criticism of Google as much as other services (possibly more), but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have great services that are worth a mention.

Peter, first, I didn’t really check the Evanston route up close, it had a couple of glitces I would tweak. That said, depending on where you live in Evanston, going over to Ridge doesn’t necessarily make that much sense. (The starting point here was my office.) Plus Clark is best to avoid with all the pedestrians jumping in front of you.


HK 06.29.07 at 1:49 pm

“Here’s something cool you can do with the Google map: you can generate a map of your favorite running/biking loop (if it is on streets, anyway) by creating a map from your start-end point to a nearby point, then dragging the blue line to enough intermediate way points to define the loop, then dragging the end point back to the start. Voila, a loop map!”

See gmap-pedometer for an even handier version which allows you do double-click to add points anywhere on the map.


Chris Goedde 06.29.07 at 2:20 pm

I have to agree with peter; from Eszter’s office I would just take Noyes or Foster straight to Ridge and then follow that down to Hollywood. This avoids downtown Evanston and is also faster in North Chicago.


Eszter 06.29.07 at 2:49 pm

Chris, Foster is hardly “downtown Evanston” – no offense to the folks who live in that residential area – and that section of town has fewer lights than Ridge. Lights are usually to be avoided in my experience.


eszter 06.29.07 at 4:33 pm

Thanks, HK, I’ve heard about GMap-Pedometer before, but had never tried it, great!

For pedometer enthusiasts, I highly recommend WalkerTracker! I plan to blog about it separately sometime.


marcel 06.29.07 at 5:27 pm

Peter (#5): I too used to live in Evanston, and used to use your route all the time, but I lived in S. Evanston, a block from Ridge. Based on my experience and the responses you got (#s 9 & 10), it seems like the key part of any route from Evanston to anywhere in the NE quadrant of Chicago south of Rogers Park is to be sure to take LSD. Worked for me.


Alex R 06.29.07 at 5:48 pm

hk: I’ve used gmap-pedometer. It’s more convenient in some ways than the new google map features, but it has the feature/defect that it’s legs are straight lines, rather than following streets. This is good if your path goes along foot trails or otherwise off the road, but it’s bad if you are following a road that curves very much, as it means you have to add a lot of extra points to follow the curve. If you had an optional “follow shortest on-street route” feature for gmap-pedometer that you could turn on and off while making a route, *that* would be hard to beat.


D White 06.30.07 at 12:30 am

If you already know enough about an area to plot the best route, what do you need Google for?


coturnix 06.30.07 at 1:20 am

Next: bridle paths. I’m waiting for that.


Jon H 06.30.07 at 6:25 am

I take it the new feature doesn’t enforce traffic direction on one-way streets?

I always wanted the ability to get walking directions, which they could provide by just treating all streets as two-way.


Eszter 06.30.07 at 8:21 am

D White – You might want to avoid certain streets and get alternatives to what it’s suggesting when you don’t know the route. You might know parts of a route, but not the rest, and want to control where you go where you know it.


Adam Stephanides 06.30.07 at 3:36 pm

I hate to say this (being as opposed as anyone to destroying neighborhoods to build highways) but the absence of an easily accessible highway is a real pain if you live in Evanston. I used to live there, so I know. (I lived in SW Evanston, so my preferred route was Asbury /Western to Peterson to Ridge to Hollywood to the LSD.)

Iirc, there was once a plan to build an interstate through Evanston, whose route would approximately follow Sheridan. But this got switched to the Crosstown Expressway (which would have connected the Kennedy and the Ryan, bypassing downtown), which eventually was scrapped altogether.


Ibn Kafka 06.30.07 at 9:59 pm

Well, at least you’re all fortunate enough to have access to Google Maps – Moroccan bloggers like myself are hindered from accessing to Google Maps, through the action of Moroccan authorities acting on dubious national security grounds – the same goes for Google Earth…


jacob 07.01.07 at 4:31 am

Another response to D White: You might know your route entirely and want to know how long it is, either for curiosity’s sake or to confirm one’s thought that such-and-such a way is more direct than the alternative. Indeed, that’s how I’ve used it.


Joseph O'Rourke 07.01.07 at 10:00 pm

Last Friday I used Google Maps to lead me from Northampton MA to Brooklyn NY. Every NY’er knows that one does not risk the Cross-Bronx Expressway on a Friday afternoon, but Google was oblivious to this common knowledge. The result: an estimated 3-hr trip turned into 6+ hrs, and only then because we abandoned the route at some point and wended our way without guidance through the Bronx on minor streets.
I look forward to the day that the driving directions understand traffic!


John Quiggin 07.02.07 at 9:49 am

Thanks Eszter for a really useful tip, which I employed at the weekend. Google wanted to send me a long way on freeways, but the “no freeway” option was hopeless. Putting a marker at a crucial point on the route did the trick.


Katherine 07.03.07 at 10:33 am

Google Maps is fast becoming, it seems to me, a bloated do-everything tool that scares me off. To get a map, I go to, to get a driving route I go to the AA (that’s the UK Automobile Association, not Alcoholics Anonymous), simply because they each do one thing that I need well. Multifunctional we-can-do-everything-in-theworld-including-plan-your-social-life-and-make-you-sexy things just don’t do it for me. Google Maps is making me less likely to use it with every new twiddle and gadget, not more. Google might want to bear in mind that I’m probably not alone.

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