An introduction to Google Maps and Street View
By Charles Miller
Groucho Marx hosted “You Bet Your Life,” the long-running American quiz show that featured an elementary consolation question made easy in hopes that nobody would answer incorrectly. Questions such as “Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb?” were a running joke. Answer: “No one” because the General Grant Memorial is an above ground mausoleum. Last week in this column I wrote that one address in New York City showed up in a lot of databases as a permanent address and invited readers to Google it. That was a form of joke and for those readers who did not exactly get it I will go into a little more detail this week.
Open your internet browser and point it to www.google.com to begin. Search for “427 Riverside Drive, New York City” without the quotes. In most browsers the search results you will see will display a thumbnail map at the top of the list showing a small part of the upper west side of New York City; Henry Hudson Parkway, Sakura Park, etc. In the lower left of this small map you should see a smaller image labeled “Street View.” Click on that image and you should then be taken to maps.google.com where a picture taken by Google will be displayed in a larger window. Look to the left of the picture and you will see a stand of trees in Riverside Park, the location of the General Grand National Memorial, which is the final resting place of President Ulysses S. Grant. This is a “permanent” address used by many who do not want to give out their real address; and that was the joke.
For those who have not already discovered it, Google Street View is a technology that provides panoramic views created from images stitched together from many individual pictures snapped along many streets in the world. This massive database of images is used by Google Earth and also by many other software applications, but what I will describe here for new users is how to access this resource using your computer or tablet and without installing any new software.
Start by pointing your browser to maps.google.com and there searching for “San Miguel de Allende Mexico” without the quotes. You may maneuver this page with the controls near the middle of your screen, the elevator and compass. Click on the plus sign [+] to enlarge the map or the minus sign to zoom back out. The little yellow icon above the elevator and below the round compass is “pegman.” By dragging pegman with your mouse onto the map you will see that blue lines on the map indicate where Street View imagery is available. Drop pegman on a blue area of the map and the Street View image will appear.
While in Street View the round compass above the elevator is used to control the camera angle; simply click your mouse on the right or left arrows to pan the camera or you may also use the cursor keys on the keyboard. You may double click on any area of the Street View image to zoom in or to move down the street. Practice is the key to learning how to navigate using the compass along with clicking on the images.
For those readers who have already discovered Google Maps there might still be many features you may have yet to learn. The massive Google database includes driving directions, public transportation information, and even walking directions. In some areas you can get a map of traffic conditions, and you can even see your current location on a map even if your computer, tablet, or smart phone does not have GPS. Click on the button above pegman; the location shown may only be approximate.
Now that you are introduced to Google Maps and Street View, you might want to look at software programs such as Google Earth or the many different apps for tablets and smart phones that can further improve the user experience.
Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044-415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.