How to Use My Maps with Google Drive

By James T. Cains

Google Drive and My Maps may seem like an odd combination at first, as in “What the heck would those two things ever have to do with each other?” After all, you use Google Maps only when you need directions to somewhere, right? However, there’s a nifty little tool in Google Maps called My Maps, which enables you to create your own custom maps. So, it’s actually right at home with the other Google apps that enable you to create your own documents on Google Drive.

[Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Anatolii Babii]

Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Anatolii Babii

Why would you need to create your own custom map? Here are just a few reasons:

  • Trip planning: If you’re planning a sightseeing tour of the big city, you can mark all the places you want to visit, with routes to and from, for easy access on your smartphone or tablet.

  • Education: Teachers can create custom maps for the classroom, with embedded charts showing statistics for specific regions.

  • Plan an event route: Say you’re planning a mini-marathon or a parade. You can plan out the route on a custom map, add markers for certain landmarks or stops, and show distances between certain points.

Start new or open existing Google My Maps on your computer

In a new browser window on your computer, log in to your Google Drive account and follow these steps:

  1. To start a new custom map, click the red New button in the upper left.

  2. Choose More, then Google My Maps. A new browser window or tab appears displaying a map of your home country for you to start with (see Figure 1).

  3. To open an existing map, navigate to the map you wish to open on your Google Drive and double-click. The map appears in a new browser window or tab.

    Figure 1: A new map for you to customize.

    Figure 1: A new map for you to customize.

You don’t have to manually save your map. Google Drive automatically saves it for you.

Create new or open existing Google My Maps on your mobile device

First, you need to download the Google My Maps app from the Google Play Store for Android; unfortunately, Google doesn’t yet make a My Maps app for iOS. Open the app and follow these steps:

  1. To create a new map, tap to expand the tab at the bottom left of the screen.

  2. Choose New Map (or Open a Map to find an existing map on your Google Drive to edit).

  3. Type in a name for your new map and tap OK. A new map showing your current location (if you have Location Services enabled) appears on your screen.

  4. To focus in on the place you want to make a custom map of, type an address in the Search field at the top and click the Search icon.

Use layers to organize your custom map

In Figure 1, you can see that you can add layers to your map. Using layers is a great way to control the way different kinds of information appears on your map. For example, if you’re planning a trip, you can use layers to color code the different types of places you plan to visit: Red for restaurants, blue for museums, green for parks, and so on.

Google My Maps automatically gives you the first layer when you create a new map, so you can use that as a starting point.

  1. Rename the untitled layer by clicking the Menu icon (the three stacked dots) and choosing Rename This Layer. Name it something like Restaurants.

  2. To add a new location, click the Add Marker icon (the inverted teardrop) and then click on the map. A new red location marker appears. Give your new marker the appropriate name in the box that appears.

  3. If you want to add more locations, repeat Step 2 to add as many markers as you want to the layer.

  4. Click Add Layer. A new untitled layer appears. Click on that layer to make sure you’re working in the new layer instead of the previous one. The selected layer is blue on the left edge.

  5. Rename the new layer to something like Museums.

  6. Repeat Step 2 to add new markers to the new layer.

  7. To change the new marker’s color, place your cursor over the text of the new location and click the Edit icon (see Figure 2). Choose a different color, such as blue.

  8. Keep repeating these steps to add more layers and location markers to your map.

    Figure 2: Change the appearance of a location marker.

    Figure 2: Change the appearance of a location marker.

As you can see, you can go crazy adding all sorts of locations to your map. You can color code them any way you want, and you can also change the shape of the marker (if you don’t like the inverted teardrop). To get really fancy, you can use the Draw a Line icon to add driving, walking, or biking routes between your location markers.

Google My Maps has a lot more features, such as importing locations from spreadsheets, measuring distances and areas, and so on. Play around and have fun with it as you discover all that it can do.