Google Maps

If you haven't noticed by now, we're lined up a pretty great series of getting to know Google Maps. We've covered everything from the basics down to more intricate uses, and now we wanted to round up the top tips and tricks for using Google Maps on your Android.

Some of these are big time savers, while others simply give you more options in configuring Maps to work the way you want it — in any case they'll help you be a master of mapping on your Android.

Read now: The top tips and tricks for Google Maps on Android

Long-press the blue button to jump straight into navigation

Navigation buttons

When navigating places in Google Maps you're usually given a choice of which route you want to take to get there. Maybe you know the area somewhat-well and know that a particular freeway is better than another, or maybe you just want to use a surface street rather than the highway. But sometimes you don't really care how you get there, but that you get there as efficiently as possible.

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To quickly launch into navigation, simply long-press the blue navigation button when you select a location — Maps will then start navigation to that place from your current location and take the fastest route possible. No messing with start points or routes, just long-press that button and go. It works for all navigation options — like public transit and biking — as well.

Select anywhere on the map, not just points of interest

Google Maps pin drop

Most of the time we're finding places and directions to those places from search or just browsing nearby on the map. But you can actually save or navigate to any location regardless of whether or not it's technically a "place" in Google Maps. Just long-press anywhere on the map — whether it's a street corner or the middle of a field — to drop a pin and save the location or use it as a navigation start/end point.

Star locations to quickly recall later

Starring locations

Whether you want to remember a restaurant that a friend recommended, mark a spot on the beach that was particularly nice or maybe remember where you parked the car, you can "star" locations in Google Maps to keep tabs on them.

Whether you pull up a specific point of interest or just long-press on the map to drop a pin on an arbitrary place, tap on the bottom bar to reveal information on that place and then tap the save star. The location will then be added to the "Your places" list found in both the Google Maps app and website. Starred locations will show up as suggestions when searching in Maps, and will also show on the map when browsing in that area.

Use a few advanced swipes to get better views

Google Maps views

Google Maps can be manipulated in many different ways, not just the standard pan-and-zoom we're used to. If you want more of a "flat" view, swipe up on the screen with two fingers to get a different perspective. You can swipe back down with two fingers to return to the top-down view.

If you want to rotate the map from its standard view North, move two fingers in a circular motion to get a view down a particular street. You can always tap the compass in the top-right corner to return to the default view.

Try a double tap and hold to zoom rather than pinching

Google Maps

Whether you're walking down the street with just one hand free or you just don't want to waste the time of involving two hands to zoom, Google Maps has you covered. Instead of zooming by pinching in or out with two fingers, try double tapping on a location to zoom partially in on that spot.

In addition, you can hold that second tap and slide your finger up or down to zoom in or out. So that's tap, tap and hold, swipe up or down. It takes a little getting used to (particularly if you used it in the reverse orientation in previous app versions) but it makes zooming with just one hand free all that much easier.

Tap the compass to switch between locked view and your own view

Google Maps compass buttons

Different people prefer different ways of using their maps. Some prefer to always have the map looking North, while others want it pointed the way they're looking. Thankfully you can switch between the two modes by simply tapping on the compass icon in the bottom-right corner.

Your phone may not always know exactly which way it's facing at first, but it can figure it out pretty quickly in most cases. And for those who prefer to use that method for getting around, it's a big time saver.

Use voice commands while navigating

Google Maps voice controls

A few versions back Google Maps added the ability to give voice commands while navigating, lowering the number of taps it would take to get things done in the car or on your bike. While navigating, a single tap on the microphone button will let you then speak to the phone rather than taking additional taps to get things done. Try out these different voice commands:

  • How is traffic ahead?
  • Hide traffic
  • Show route overview
  • What's my next turn?
  • Show alternate routes
  • When will I get there?
  • What is my next turn?
  • Navigate to [place]

Google is also regularly updating Maps with new voice commands.

Add your home and work addresses

Home and work locations

If you have location reporting turned on on your phone and have a regular commute Google has a pretty good idea of where your home and work are and will ask you to confirm its guess in Google Now, but if you want to cut straight to the chase you can manually enter your home and work address in Google Maps.

Just swipe in from the left edge to reveal the side panel and tap Settings, then tap Edit home or work and enter one or both addresses. Not only will this let Google Now give you "time to home" and "time to work" suggestions based on when it thinks you need them, it also enables the quick and easy "take me home" voice command in Maps and will give your home address as a saved option when navigating.

Adjust your depart or arrive time for public transit

Google Maps public transit

Public transit is usually a great (and much less expensive) way to get around big cities, but it often takes a little extra planning to get a trip ready. With Google Maps you're not restricted to searching for bus, train and subway times for right now — you can get information for public transit to leave by or arrive at a specific time.

Once you put in your start and end points in the public transit view of Google Maps, tap the Depart at... button in the upper-left to launch the time selector. You can then enter a specific time that you intend to depart or arrive at the selected destination, including days in the future if you're a big planner. If you plan on having a late night out, you can tap the Last option in the top-right corner to see the last possible public transit route to get back home.

Save maps for offline use

Offline Google Maps

Despite being heavily reliant on downloading mapping data as you move about, Google Maps does offer basic offline mapping capabilities if you know where to look.

To save an area for offline use, tap the search bar and then scroll to the bottom of the screen and tap Save map to use offline. You'll be taken back to the map with a prompt to pan and zoom to the area you want to save — everything viewable on the screen will be saved so long as it isn't too big. Tap Save offline map, give the map a name, and it will remain on your device for 30 days before it's deleted.

Keep in mind that the downloaded maps don't include points of interest or navigation — you're just getting raw map data for the area and nothing more. You may want to consider an alternative mapping app if you need full offline navigation, but for quick times without connectivity this will work for many people.