What’s to love and hate about new Google Maps

Do not adjust your sets, this is the new Google Maps. Well, one feature of it anyway. It’s now more powerful and clever than ever.

IF YOU open up Google Maps today you’re in for a big surprise for it’s been given a massive update and some fancy new features.

After just under a year of testing and tweaking, the new Google Maps is rolling out as the default mapping tool for desktop. Its blog claims it’ll help you see the world from all angles and make you a commuting ninja.

MORE: Google reveals etiquette guide for Google Glass

MORE: Has Google Earth uncovered a secret base on the Moon?

For those who fear change this may alarm you. Now it’s full-screen, in-your-face, cartography. The sidebar of old has gone and Google is going for a more intuitive, more powerful experience where its Street View, Google Earth and other Google services are wrapped up in one place.

Google pulls together relevant and contextual information to help make your life easier and more efficient.

What we love:

• The map is now fully interactive. Click anywhere on the map and it’ll tell you what your cursor has landed on complete with Street View thumbnail. Quite a fun little feature for wasting a curious couple of minutes but also an indication of just how much detail Google has crammed into these maps.

• If you’re looking for surrounding services, such as a coffee shop you can just type in the word “coffee” and it’ll bring up all nearby places. It’ll also pull in reviews from the internet or from those whose opinion you trust on your Google+ circles.

• Not only can you see how to get somewhere but it will tell you what is the most efficient mode of transport to take. If you’re using it on mobile it will continually searching for the fastest route even when you’re on the move.

• Remember zooming out and waiting for what seemed like an age for blank spaces to fill? Now it’s a lot faster to render thanks to a new computing wizardry that uses web browser based processing.

• We can dodge jams as live traffic is displayed with colour coded alerts to congested roads. This was available before, but what’s new is the ability to predict traffic up to a week before you embark on your journey. This typical traffic option takes previous data from routes to prophesise the state of the roads at every time of the day.

• You can book a hotel room directly on Maps. If you’re scanning over a city and see a hotel that might work for you, click on it and a booking box drops down.

• Click on either a train or bus stop icon and it’ll tell you what lines operate and what bus number runs on that route. For some bus stops it will even tell you the times for the next departing buses.

• With cycling becoming bigger, the two-wheelers have been thought of. There is a function that will display cycle friendly roads, dedicated lanes or bike trails.

• You no longer need to download Google Earth. Now the plugin is embedded into the new Maps meaning you can explore cities in 3D. Buildings and skyscrapers thrust out of the map and you can tilt the viewing angle so you can look across the horizon too.

• Photos have been tidied up. Before it was a messy sprinkling of tiny photo thumbnails, now they appear in a neater gallery along the bottom of the screen. Here you’ll find panorama, street view and standard photos. Roll over the image and a nice little line points out where on the map it was taken.

• Finally if you’re just not ready for change you can return to the old Google Maps by clicking the help icon and select ‘return to classic Google maps’.

What we hate:

• Webcams are no more. They were a little used feature but they did offer real time snaps of traffic situations. This was a reassuring feature for the sceptics who just didn’t trust the colour-coded traffic data.

• The information when buses are arriving and departing is great. But for stops that have more than five buses, no travel information is given and you cannot click on a bus on the list.

• If you’re using an old computer it may struggle. There is a compatibility mode but Google has designed this new system for newer machines to take full advantage of. Great for some, but a stuttery struggle for others.

• So many of its features are hidden. If you’ve spent time and effort trying to perfect the mapping system, don’t hide all the great stuff. The Google developers acknowledge on their blog the challenges they face on the road ahead of bringing all their smart tools to the forefront without complicating the look.

Recommended tech articles:

The little silver cloud has come under fire this week.

Hey, nudes, get off of my cloud

The $10,000 delivery home

The $10,000 delivery home

Fooling the brain ... a woman tries to use the new device using 3D-heptics technology which gives users tactile and kinethetic feeling virtually. Picture: Yoshikazu Tsuno

Device lets user ‘touch’ virtual objects

Hacked ... Actor and model Kate Upton was apparently one of the celebs whose intimate photos were published online. Picture: Peter Kramer/AP

Was iCloud behind nude photo leak?

Tech