Google Maps users can finally join in on the fun with experimental features via Google Labs. The company has offered similar features for Gmail, Google Reader, and other services, for years now. But somehow, Google Maps was left neglected.
You can access the new features by clicking the green “Google Maps Labs” icon at the top-right your screen when visiting Maps. Like Google’s other experimental features, they range in utility from being incredibly useful, to total novelty.
Here’s a breakdown of the nine features we have available so far:
- Drag ‘n’ Zoom: After clicking the Drag ‘n’ Zoom button, you can choose a specific region of the map, and (you guessed it) drag and zoom.
- Aerial Imagery: Offers high-resolution overhead imagery for a few areas of the country.
- Back to beta: Puts the “beta” tag back into the Maps logo. (It’s a novelty, but Google already offers it for other services as well.)
- Where in the World Game: A game that tests your knowledge of geography by asking you to identify countries based on satellite imagery.
- Rotatable Maps: Allows you to make other directions the top of the map, instead of North.
- What’s Around Here?: Adds a second search button that searches for “*” — basically everything near your current location.
- LatLng Tooltip: Shows you latitude and longitude right below your mouse cursor.
- LatLng Marker: Adds the ability to drop a pin to mark latitude and longitude from the right-click context menu.
- Smart Zoom: Prevents you from zooming in too far into a map so you don’t get the dreaded “We don’t have imagery at this zoom level” message.
I personally can’t wait for Google to make more aerial imagery data available — the few locations we have so far look gorgeous. Drag ‘n’ Zoom is a much needed update that prevents the need to zoom in level-by-level, or wildly zoom with your scroll wheel mouse. And I’m sure someone will find the added latitude and longitude features useful.