Google Maps

This tutorial will walk you through the basics of using Google Maps to create custom maps. It was last updated in the Fall of 2018 for my HIST 696 Clio Wired graduate class.

Navigate to

Getting started

Sign in to your Google account (or create one if you don’t already have one) then select the dropdown menu in the upper left hand part of the screen.

view of maps menu in Google Maps

From the menu, select “your places.”

view of Your Places menu item in Google Maps

From the “your places” menu, select “maps.”

view of maps in Google Maps

From the “maps” menu, click the button at the very bottom that says “create map.”

view of create new map page in Google Maps

You will now have an “untitled map” that you can add points, lines, shapes, and layers to, not unlike the work we did in QGIS.  Google Maps does NOT have the same, advanced calculating functionality that QGIS does, but it does create familiar-to-users online visualizations.

Putting Stuff On Your Map

view of blank map in Google Maps

Double-click on the text “untitled map” to bring up a window that will give you the chance to rename your map and describe it.

view of adding point to Google Map

If you want to add points to your map, use the marker (upside-down teardrop) icon then click where you want your points to be.  You can use the search bar to look for a specific location and add that directly to your map as well. Google makes it easy for you to add text (in the textboxes) or images (click the camera icon) to your points as you create them.

The icon with the trio of nodes that looks a bit like a network diagram will let you draw lines or, if you close the line, it will automatically convert the line into a polygon shape.

The curving arrow icon will let you add directions to your map.

If you want multiple layers that you can toggle on and off (to show, for example, change over time) you do that with the “layer” panel in the left-hand menu.  

You can also use that menu to change the base map and share your finished map with other people.

Teaching With Maps

For an example of how to teach with Google Maps, see this guide from or Julia M Gossard’s “Mapping the Early Modern World: Using Google Maps in the Classroom.”