How2 Master Computer & Internet Maps

Website Maps:  A Tutorial

or: What do you do when there are no instructions because its supposed to be 'intuitive'.
by Glenn Littrell

Whether you use MapQuest, Google Maps, Google Earth or some other mapping software the fundamentals are basically the same.  Google Earth is a great personal mapping program but has a slightly harder learning curve due to its added features and power.  The samples used here and on my website are from CommunityWalk's website which uses Google Maps.  Remember that all mapping software may not use the same terminology as we use here and all map elements may not always appear on all maps, but the basics are here as well as features that may not standout on basic maps.  Just use a little imagination when you encounter a term or element that doesn't match up to one of our examples and above all else click it and see what happens.  You can always start over. 

How 2 Use Website Maps:  A Tutorial

or: What do you do when there are no instructions because its supposed to be 'intuitive'.

Whether you use MapQuest, Google Maps, Google Earth or some other mapping software the fundamentals are basically the same.  Google Earth is a great personal mapping program but has a slightly harder learning curve due to its added features and power.  The samples used here and on my website are from CommunityWalk's website which uses Google Maps.  Remember that all mapping software may not use the same terminology as we use here and all map elements may not always appear on all maps.
M1]  All Maps on this page are 'static' not 'interactive', except for the 'practice map' which is provided for you to 'play' with.  
By static we mean that clicking on the map will not result in any useful reaction [other than going to where these maps are stored].  If the map was interactive 'clicking' would result in the map changing as described in this tutorial.  As you go thru this tutorial you can scroll down to the interactive map to practice what you learn.
The map here is of Indianapolis and contains several elements you should familiarize yourself with:
  • Marker (Icon).  In this case the smiley figure with red cap and backpack we call 'Hiking Hank' and the red and green dots.  The smiley figure, aka Hiking Hank, is a customized marker and the dots are standard markers.
  • Label.  Not visible here, would normally appear next to the marker or path.
  • 'Dialog Box' or 'Balloon'.  The dialog box provides you with information and several options*.
  • View:  The Street View.  Most map will offer three possible views:
  1. 'Street' (or 'Map')
  2. 'Satellite' (or 'Terrain')
  3. 'Hybrid'
  • 'Path', 'trail' or 'route' The colored line between the green and red markers marks a path or route from one marker to another or multiple markers.
*The four options in this dialog box, at the bottom [Edit, Add Photo, Move, and Delete], will not normally appear at the bottom of dialog boxes that you view. They generally are only visible to the maps creator so ignore them for now.
HHank smallMarker (Icon) and Label.  In this case the smiley figure we call 'Hiking Hank' is a marker that marks a particular spot on the map.  The marker's label  is sometimes automatically visible on the map when its opened but most map makers will hide them to keep the map from being cluttered.  You can usually view the label by hovering the mouse over the marker (object).  Path (another object) can also have labels.
'Dialog Box' or 'Balloon': Dialog boxes are connected to markers [customized or standard] and are usually not visible upon opening a map.  They contain information and options relevant to the marker they are attached to.  you open a dialog box by clicking the marker.  When you click the marker the map may shift a little to accommodate the opening of the dialog box while keeping the marker visible.  You close the dialog box by clicking the 'x' in the upper right hand corner of the dialog box or clicking on an open space outside of the dialog box.
The elements of a dialog box:
  • The Title:  In this case "Hi, I'm Hiking Hank" is both a title and a link.  It is also the 'Label" for the marker mentioned above.  Whenever a title is blue and underlined it is also a link that if you click on it you will go to or access another web location or action.  This could be another website, information box or map.  Sometimes if a map is located on several website it may be linked to the page your already on.  If the title is not blue or underlined then it is probably 'static'
  • 'Directions: from here | to here':  If you want to get driving direction to the marker then click 'to here' and a dialog box will open for you to type the address of your point of origin.  Conversely if you click 'from here' the same will happen but the marker will be your starting point and you enter your destination.  You should be able to print the driving instructions from that dialog box.
  • Information:  Most dialog boxes will contain information about or relevant to the marker, in this case instructions for using this particular map in a scrollable dialog box.
  • 'Comments (0) Add Comments':  Some maps allow you to leave comments about the map, markers, or locations the markers represent.  The number of comments already left appear in the () and can usually be viewed by clicking the word 'comments'.  By click 'Add Comments' you can leave your own comments.  Always consider leaving a comment.  Map makers love it and it helps other viewers of the map or marker.
  • Ads:  CommunityWalk maps (which I use here) are great for making maps they have many features and are free.  I have several maps that I use them to make and keep updated and I can store them on their site for free.  But, for free, isn't always free because there is usually a trade off and in this case it is usually unobtrusive ads such as these two for weddings.  You will notice that my maps and even my websites have similar ads.  In the case of my maps the benefit I get from these ads are the free map and map storage.  In the case of my WebPages the benefit is those ads actually help pay for the websites.  Whenever you click on an advertisement located on my WebPages and blog pages I earn as much as one cent, even if you don't buy a thing or sign up, so consider clicking those links occasionally.  You don't need to click on the ads associated with my maps as there is no additional benefit [except to CommunityWalk] but keep the ads on my other pages in mind, remember when the link opens up a another page you don't have to signup or buy anything.  ps. constantly clicking an add doesn't up the benefit as I only get credit for one 'click' per ad per visit.
  • As mentioned above the four buttons at the bottom of this dialog box, [Edit, Add Photo, Move, and Delete], should be ignored during this tutorial.
View:  The Street View.  Most map will offer three possible views:
  1. 'Street' (or 'Map'): Map M1] above is a map displayed using the 'Street' or 'Map' view.  For most people it is the more familiar view and the easiest to use.
  2. 'Satellite' (or 'Terrain'):  Another view available is the 'Satellite', 'Terrain' or 'Overhead' view.
  3. 'Hybrid': Map M2] to the right is a hybrid view which combines the satellite view along with the street view.
  The familiarity of the street view has its obvious advantages but the other two choices also  have advantages.  First of all the satellite view is just so cool.  In some cases you can zoom in and see people walking on the street, look at the lawn chairs on your back yard deck or view the creek bed of your fishing destination.  The satellite view usually can bring you a lot closer to your location than the street view can.  The hybrid view combines the detail of the satellite view while retaining the location labels from the street view.  The satellite and hybrid view helps you find location when viewing the actual structure or terrain might help you locate something that is not depicted or labeled on a normal street map.  For instance a water tower, picnic shelter, or ravine.  In this case the 'Walking' marker is located at the actual starting point of the trail.  The trail, parking lot, and baseball diamonds them selves don't appear on the street map.

M2] This example has two additional features: an additional 'Comments' option and a Navigation Tool.  Notice that the dialog box on this map is also different.  It features a picture and a 'User Rating',
By clicking the picture you can view a slightly larger picture(s) and the User rating is sometimes used by the map maker to rate the location or something relevant to the location.  This additional 'Comment' option is for leaving comments on the map, not the marker.  You will notice that 2 comments have already been left.

Map Tools 1]   Navigation Tool:
  Some maps will contain a navigation bar so that you can navigate the map.  The elements of the navigation bar are:
  • Direction/Panning:  The four outward pointing arrows are for scrolling the map up, down, left and right.**
  • Return: The four inward pointing arrows are one button for returning to the original view when you opened the map.
  • Zoom: The '+' and '-' buttons and the sliding bar between them is for zooming in and out. 

The '+' button zooms you in incrementally as the '-' button zooms you out.

The button on the sliding bar can be can be used to control the zoom by clicking and dragging the button towards the '+' or '-' buttons.  You can also click the sliding bar anywhere between the  sliding bar button and the '+' or '-' for larger zooms.


Map Tools 2]   Changing Views:
When present the buttons displayed here can be used to change the views on a map.  If they aren't present then the maker of the map limited the views available.  You switch between 'Map', 'Satellite' and 'Hybrid' by simply clicking the appropriate button.

The 'Map Overview' button will open a small window with a zoomed-out view of

your present view and mark where your present view is.  Sort of a 'you are here' window.  The 'Legend' button will be explained later.

**You can also pan by placing you cursor on the map and clicking and dragging.
Paths: Some maps will have marked paths or 'routes.  Sometimes these are drawn by the map maker and sometimes they are generated by the mapping software.  In some cases the map user can change the path by 'grabbing' a point on the map between the start and finish points and dragging it to another location creating a third point.  Grabbing is accomplished by a left click without releasing and dragging the 'mouse' to the new point.

M3/4] Two views of the same trail, generated by the map maker.  The green 'marker' and the red 'marker' are the start and end points of the path.  The red and green markers in this example are standard markers but if the map maker wanted to he could use custom markers too.
Remember that paths can also have labels which these paths do but they are hidden.  If this was an 'interactive' map you could see the label by 'hovering' your cursor over the path.

M3] Fall Creek Corridor [Trail]

M4] Fall Creek Corridor [Trail]

M5] The Central Canal Towpath & The Monon Trails

In M5 to the left two trails are shown.  The color of the markers are not relevant here but notice that one segment of the trail is blue [The Monon Trail] and the other segment is black [The The Central Canal Towpath].  This is done at the discretion of the map maker.  As stated before on some maps you could click and drag on the path or on one of the intermediate markers to create a new intermediate point.  





NOTE:  Sometimes its a good ideal to hover or click on the markers to see if there isn't relevant information on that marker.

Get Driving Directions:  As stated above when you click on a marker a dialog box opens up with several elements/features.  Among these features is a 'Directions: from here | to here'  feature with the 'from here' and 'to here' being links that will open another dialog box where you can obtain detailed instructions for downloading and/or printing.
Map Tools 3] Get Directions:
In the example to the right the 'to here' link was clicked.  The process is the same if you click 'from here'.
There are two 'option' boxes: 'Starting At' and 'Ending At', these are your start and end points and you will notice your ending point [Ending At] is already selected because we clicked on 'to here'.  [Don't ask me what the pencil is for in the Ending At box because I don't know.  When I click it strange things happen, woooooh.  When I find out I'll update this page.
In the Starting At box you have two options:
  • Marker on Map: The default option.  If you wanted to go from one marker on the map to your Ending At point you could click the drop down menu and select your marker.
  • Street Address with City & State:  You can type a street address or just a city state here if you want.

There are also three buttons at the bottom:
  • Get Directions: When you are finished click this button and dialog boxes will open with maps and detailed route instructions and print options.
  • Add Destination: Once you've selected your start & end points clicking this will open a third 'option' box.  For you to add a third point on your route.  This way if you wanted to visit several destinations you could map your route from A to B to C to D.  A, B, C, D could be markers on the map and/or street addresses.  Keep in mind that when you add a destination it becomes the new 'Ending At' point so if you are going to get directions for multiple points your first ending point should be your first stop after leaving your 'Starting At' point.  Enter all points after that in sequence.***  
  • Back to Main View:  If you decide to quit this effort click here or just click outside the dialogue box anywhere on the map.

***If you wanted to you could have the same start and end points on a map with multiple points creating a circular route.  You could even have a sequence which repeated some points such as you leave point A, drop off something at point B, got to point C, D and E, return to point B and pick up something and then return to point A.


Practice Map

Here's your practice map.  You'll notice I used a different map than the one used with this tutorial's examples.  This was done to 'force' you to apply what we've displayed here.

Don't be shy, you can't hurt anything.  To return the map to its original view click the 'Return' button or your browser's refresh button.
Map Tools 4] Controlling What Shows:  "Clearing the Clutter"

As stated above we will now deal with the 'Legend' and related items:

By clicking on the Legend [A] a drop down menu [B] appears .
There are four icons [
Lil G, i, walking_icon,photo_ops, 4 titles [Instructions, Hiking, Walking, and Photo Ops] with 4 corresponding checkable boxes.
Whenever you visit a map if there are a lot of points of interest, represented by markers, you may find the map is very cluttered.  Especially if the markers are large or positioned close together.  This could be even worse if all the markers on the map are also labeled.
The way map makers get around this, or better yet, make it possible for you to control, is to 'categorize' their markers.  In this case each set of icon, title and check boxes represent one of four categories.  Instructions, Hiking, Walking and Photo Opps markers.
You will notice that in B only the Walking box is checked.  In this example only the Walking markers will appear on the map.  You control what shows by how many boxes you check or uncheck.  If you want all markers to show you can check all 4 boxes or click the 'Show All' link.
If you want to display the 'Label' for the Markers click the 'Show Marker Titles' link [which will then change to a 'Hide Marker Titles' link].  Ignore the 'Edit Categories/Icon' link in the example it normally would not be visible to users.

Some maps will have a 'tabbed' section [C] which provide additional options and information for users.  In C there is a 'tabbed' section with two tabs, 'Locations' and 'Welcome'.  In this example clicking the 'Welcome' tab would display that tabs page which contains a welcome message and instructions.

The 'Locations' tab is already selected and in this example contains information similar to what is found in the 'Legends' [B] drop down menu except with additional information.  The '-' serve the same purpose as the Legends checkboxes.  Clicking a '-' sign is the same as un-checking one of the Legends boxes.  It will remove all the corresponding markers from the page, change the '-' to a '+' and collapse the list of markers for that category.  Clicking the '+' is the same as checking a box and it will change to a '-' and the list of markers for that category will reappear.
Notice that with each marker and marker label/title displayed are little Icons.  These are shortcuts to features contained in each markers dialogue boxes.  Earlier we explained that if you clicked a marker on the map or a markers label a dialogue box would open with information, maybe a small picture and options for getting driving instructions or viewing that picture[s].  In the Location Tabs clicking on the markers title will do the same but if you click on the little icons instead you will go straight to the those options without opening the dialogue box.  Clicking the car icon will take you straight to the get directions box.  Clicking the camera icon will take you straight to the enlarged pictures.  Notice that not all marker titles have a picture icon because there are no pictures for that marker.
The 'Collapse All' and 'Expand All' does the same as 'Show All Markers' and 'Hide All Markers' in the Legend drop down menu.  The 'Show Descriptions' and 'Show Addresses' are self explanatory when you click them, if available.  The 'Walking Map' link is an Ad [discussed earlier].


Ta Daaa!!!!

udaman There you have it.ugogirl
Now you are a master navigator.
A virtuoso of mapology.
A guru of getting there.
A one person GPS

Remember that all mapping software may not use the same terminology as we use here and all map elements may not always appear on all maps and most of all you can't break it if you don't play with it, if you do break it just close the window and whistle.

Copyright © 1992-2013 Glenn D. Littrell 


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