Most everyone, at some point, is a commuter. Or maybe you own a one-man PC support business that requires you to jet around the city throughout the day. Either way, you might need to employ Google Maps. If that’s the case, you’ll want to know the app inside and out. That’s why I dug into Google Maps to find a few tips and tricks that might just make your interaction with Google’s default mapping tool a bit more helpful.

With that said, let’s dive (or drive) right into the action.

Turn-by-turn navigation voice commands

While driving, the last thing you need to do is be looking through menus on your phone. You may not know this, but while in turn-by-turn navigation mode (Figure A), there are commands you can speak to keep your hands free to remain on the steering wheel (where they should be). The available commands are:

  • Silence voice directions with mute or be quiet
  • Show traffic
  • Show alternate routes
  • Next turn to see your next driving direction
  • How long until my next turn
  • Show satellite
  • Exit navigation

Figure A

Navigation mode on a Verizon-branded Nexus 6.

Use offline maps when you have no connection

There may be times when you have to drive though a dead zone. On the off chance that happens, you can still use maps offline. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Open Google Maps
  2. Swipe right (from the left edge of the screen)
  3. Locate and tap Your Places from the side bar
  4. Scroll to the bottom until you see Offline areas (Figure B)
  6. Locate the area to download by centering the section in the window
  7. Tap SAVE
  8. Give the area a name
  9. Tap SAVE

Figure B

Downloading a map for offline use.

Offline use can also be of great help when you’re vacationing in a remote area and you’re not sure if you’ll have connectivity.

View your timeline

If you’re memory isn’t what it once was, and you need to remember when you went somewhere, or where you went on a particular day, Google Maps has you covered. From the Maps sidebar, you’ll notice an entry called Your Timeline. Tap that and gain access to every place you’ve travelled. The timeline will default to the current date. If you tap the date drop-down (top center of the screen), you can select from any date you need by swiping left or right (when the calendar appears, as shown in Figure C) and then tapping on a date.

Figure C

Selecting a date from your timeline.

You can also tap the map to view your route.

Jump straight to navigation

Let’s face it, sometimes getting to navigation is what we need… and we need it fast (without having to remember how to get to it). There’s a quick shortcut that allows you to jump straight to navigation. Here’s how:

  1. Open Google Maps
  2. Find your destination
  3. Long press the navigation button (blue car icon… Figure D)

Figure D

Going straight to navigation.

That’s it. The route will open and then automatically jump to turn-by-turn navigation.

Get more information about a business

This can be incredibly handy (especially if you’re in an unfamiliar location). When you visit a business, Google Maps takes care of all the information you need about said business. Let’s say you are on a business trip and you venture into an eatery that struck your fancy. You want to return, but you need more information. If you go to your timeline, locate the business, tap the entry for the business, tap DETAILS, and swipe upwards (from the bottom of the screen) you’ll get plenty of information about that business (Figure E).

Figure E

Details about a business in Google Maps.

Google Maps can easily help keep your travel safe, informed, and simple. Once you start using a few of the lesser-known features, you’ll find you rely more and more on this amazing service from the maker of Android.

Do you use Google Maps, or are you frequently whipping out your Bond Chronometer and Bygrave Position-Line Slide Rule to navigate the highways and byways? If you prefer a different maps service, what do you use? Let us know in the discussion thread below.