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Try These 7 Features of Google Maps

Google Maps has become the go-to site for maps and driving directions. And, thanks to satellite and street-level photos, you can explore the world. But, these aren't the only tricks Google Maps has up its sleeve.

A variety of tools will help you plan vacations, find businesses and more. Let's take a look at some of the site's cooler "secret" features.

Find your location@

Google Maps can show your approximate location. This is helpful when you're in an unfamiliar location. You can also use it if you don't want to type in your address when getting directions. This feature relies on your IP address and nearby Wi-Fi hot spots.

Open Google Maps in your Web browser (Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome work better with these features than Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser). In the upper-left corner of the map, you'll see navigational tools. Click the small box with the circle inside. You're prompted to share your location. Google drops a marker on the map showing your location.

Measure a distance@

Maybe you want to know the exact distance of your morning jog. The Distance Measurement Tool will help. Enable it by clicking the green beaker near the top right of the page. In the box that opens, locate the tool. Select Enable and then "Save changes."

To use the tool, click the blue ruler in the bottom left. Click your starting point. Then, click the next point. You can add multiple points if needed. The distance is displayed in the left side of the window.

Get biking and walking directions@

Everyone knows that Google Maps provides driving directions, but it also provides directions optimized for biking, walking and public transport. Click Get Directions. Enter your starting and ending addresses. Select your transportation mode from the dropdown box. Click Get Directions.

You can also get itineraries for walking tours at Google City Tours (www.citytours.googlelabs.com). Enter a starting address and click Search. Click "Change dates" to specify the number of days for your trip. You'll get a printable itinerary and map for each day. Click "Add/Remove sights" to change waypoints.

Find nearby places@

Maybe you want to see restaurants close to a friend's house. Fortunately, finding nearby businesses is easy. Search for an address. Then, click its marker on the map. In the box that appears, click "Search nearby." Enter a search term and click Search.

You can also see popular places close to an address. Click the green beaker in the upper right. Scroll to What's Around Here? and click Enable. Click Save Changes. Click What's Around Here? by the Search box after searching for an address.

See photos taken nearby@

Street View shows you street-level photos of a location, but you can also see photos of the area uploaded to certain other sites. Google searches the sites for photos embedded with GPS data.

To see these photos, search for an address. Click the marker and select Street View. Click the Photos link in the upper right. (If no photos exist, you won't see this link.) You'll see photo thumbnails; click one to enlarge it.

Get directions via text@

You don't always have Internet access. That doesn't mean you can't get driving directions. Google will send directions via text message.

Simply send a message to GOOGLE (466453). It should say "Directions A to B." Substitute your starting point for "A'' and ending point for "B." Use a street address, a town name or simply a ZIP code.

Get off Street View@

Finally, many people see Street View as an invasion of privacy. It may show street-level photos of your house. Fortunately, you can have photos removed. First, search for your address. Then, click "Report a problem" in the bottom right.

In the box that opens, enter a description of the problem. Then, click "Report problem." You can use the same method to report other problems with Google Maps. For example, use it to report an incorrect business address.

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Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about computers and the Internet.

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