Google announced last Friday that Google Maps would be getting its own Lab! Google Labs, as you might know, is a place where Google puts niche or in-testing features that users can try if they want to. You can get to the new Google Maps Lab by going to Google Maps and clicking on the green Lab icon in the upper right. If during the course of trying new Google Maps features you have a problem, you can escape the Maps Lab features by going to http://maps.google.com/maps?ftr=0.
There are several new features available in Maps Lab. A few of them are silly (there’s one that puts a Beta tag back on the Google Maps logo, for example) but many are useful. These are the ones that caught my eye:
Drag N’ Zoom — Enabling this feature adds a little magnifying glass icon underneath the zoom tool. Click on that and then drag out a square of where you want to go. Google will zoom down to the square you dragged out. Much faster than zoom-zoom-zoom, move, zoom-zoom, adjust, drag, etc.
Aerial Imagery — This is only available for certain areas, but will give you better imagery of the area below from what looks to me to be a different angle. Google suggests some places to view when you enable this feature — check out the Capitol Building.
What’s Around Here? — This gives you another way to search Google Maps. Next to the Search Maps button at the top, it adds a “What’s Around Here” button that appears to basically find everything in the area that Google has a listing for, then presents it in one giant Chicken-Poxed map.
LatLng Tooltip — Adds a tooltip to the mouse showing the latitude and longitude of whatever location you’re pointing at. I think this is my favorite feature; I’ve been wanting something like this on Google Maps for AGES.
Smart Zoom — Fixes Google Maps so that you can only zoom down to the available level of imagery and no further (no more of the “we don’t have imagery at this zoom level”…)
The What’s Around Here and Smart Zoom features are interesting, but the Drag N’ Zoom and LatLng Tooltip features are going to make my working with Google Maps a LOT easier. Kudos to Google for putting these great new features in a great new Lab.