Google Maps Tools

Mapping Data

This is actually “old” news but at a recent georeferencing workshop we gave, I was in the awkward position of having an outdated slide! As posted here under the Map Tools tab, we recommend Google Maps as an efficient and easy georeferencing tool to affix coordinates to a site. Further, we used to suggest third-party mapplets to enhance these tasks. My favorites were: Lat/Long Tool, and just for fun, Dig a Hole Through Earth. I used the former a lot since you can create a nice long list of coordinates in any format you need (DMS, DD, etc) then copy/paste them all into a spreadsheet of your localities. However, Google decided to deprecate the whole program of independent developers adding in Google Maps functionality and instead shove them onto little websites of their own.

Now trying to find the previous functional mapplets is not for the faint of heart or the impatient. I am neither (well, mostly) and still haven’t been able to locate them all, if they still are available. And for the ones I did, it wasn’t really worth recommending anymore for this reason on the Google LatLong blog: “However because the Mapplets page is not part of the Google Maps application, Mapplets will no longer have access to Google Maps user profiles, which means that User Preferences will no longer be stored between sessions. Users accessing Mapplets will now always see the default behaviour when the Mapplet first loads.”

So the alternative for georeferencers lies in the Google Maps Labs, that little green Erlenmeyer flask in the upper right near your login status. The functionalities must be enable to be used. Here are the ones we have been using regularly:

  • LatLong Marker– right-click lets you drop a point showing latitude and longitude in decimal degrees with precision dependent on the zoom-level
  • Distance Measurement Tool– lets you measure in meters (or Sumerian Nippur cubit!) by simple clicking once you activate the little ruler at the lower left of your map
  • Drag n’ Zoom is also invaluable

Of course, the danger, again, is becoming reliant on these Google Labs only to have them disappear (no promises from Google!); so let Google know you love them and make them a permanent part of Google Maps.

One more notable mention: A lovely third-party tool still exists for Google Map users from the Canadensys– LatLong Crosshairs (I have this installed on all my computers now in FireFox and Chrome). Sits in your browser’s toolbar menu until needed in Google Maps.


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