Having a map of a place and instructions on how to get there are useful for navigation. But it can be easy to lose your way if you take a wrong turn in a neighborhood, and it can be much more difficult to re-orient yourself when all the streets and buildings look the same, because they are unfamiliar to you.
This is where the “Street View” feature of Google Maps comes in. With Street View, you can get a full 360 degree view of the surrounding area from virtually any street in the world. In addition, Street View even allows you to move your view from street to street. This allows you to explore an unfamiliar neighborhood and identify local landmarks … all without leaving your home!
Accessing Google Maps Street View
Go to www.google.com/maps in your web browser.
There are two main ways to access the Street View function. The first is to find a location where you want to use Street View, either by manually locating it and clicking on it, or using the search functions to locate it (see our Using Google Maps and Google Maps Search tutorials if you need help using the controls or the survey).
After selecting a location, you’ll see a Street View button in the info window below the search bar in the upper left corner. Click on that.
NOTE: Be as specific as possible with the location you are looking for, or Google Maps can take you to the busiest or most central street in a general area.
The other main way to access Street View is to click on the Browse Street View icon (), also known as “Pegman”, the unofficial Google Maps mascot. This will highlight certain areas of the map in blue or yellow. Click on one of these areas to access Street View for that location.
You can also click and hold the left mouse button on the Browse Street View icon (), drag it to where you want to use Street View and release the left mouse button. The chosen location still needs to be highlighted in blue or yellow.
NOTE: Again, be as specific as possible with the location you are looking for, or Google Maps can take you to the busiest or most central street in a general area.
Using Google Maps Street View
You will have several new options available when Street View is active. They are spread all over the map (no pun intended), so we will share them for you.
First is the main window. Here you will see panoramic images of the street you are on and the surrounding area. Street names will be displayed on them in white letters.
When you move your mouse across the screen, you may see a faded white box or a faded white arrow, such as the one highlighted in the screenshot below. When you see one of these options, you can click on the screen at that point to move your view in that direction or to move it to focus again on the object you clicked on.
In the bottom right corner, you’ll see the “+” and “-” buttons that you can click to zoom in and out, respectively. In addition, you can click the arrows on either side of the compass icon to rotate your view in a certain direction. (Note: you can also do this more gradually, by clicking and holding the left mouse button on the main window and then dragging the mouse across the screen.)
To know which direction you are facing, remember that the red needle point on the compass icon will always point north. So, in the example above, we are facing east.
In the upper left corner is the Street View menu. Here, you can click on the history icon () to open a window that allows you to see the location you are viewing at different times. The month and year next to this icon are the time when you are viewing that location in the main window. This moment is also highlighted slightly in the slider bar below.
To change the point in time when you are viewing your current location, click on a point in the slide bar to move the large marker there. Then, click the zoom icon () Click the history icon () again to close this window.
If you want to return to the map at the exact location you are viewing, click the arrow icon () next to the place name. Or you can click on the point of interest icon () to return to the map in the central or busiest area of this location.
In the lower left corner, there is a miniature version of the main map screen. Here, you can see where you’re using Street View in relation to your position on the map, as well as which direction your current view is facing (which you can tell in what way Pegman, the little avatar here, is looking )
You can click the “+” and “-” buttons here to zoom in and out on this minimap. Also, as you could on the main map screen after clicking the Browse Street View icon (), you can click on an area of the map highlighted in blue or yellow to immediately use Street View at that location.
Finally, you can click Back to map to return to the main map screen at the exact location you’re viewing.
And it’s a quick tour of how the “Street View” function works on Google Maps!
How does Google create Street View maps?
Street View imagery on Google Maps is created by advanced electronic equipment systems that are moved in different ways, depending on the terrain. For most Street View imagery, cars are sufficient to get the job done. For some places that are off the beaten path and are usually covered only on foot, such as nature trails that lead to famous landmarks, Google uses special tricycles or even snowmobiles. And for some places with geography difficult to navigate for any of these vehicles – like Venice, Italy – the equipment is transported in backpacks or even on boats!
As for the equipment itself, some of them were already available on the professional market, and some had to be developed by Google itself. Includes:
Specialized automated electronic cameras that scan images gradually (but still very quickly), instead of capturing all parts at the same time, and can produce effects such as “fisheye”
Global positioning devices and speed sensors, to account for and correct any distortions caused by the cameras as they move
Range scanners that use lasers to determine the actual physical proportions of the space being photographed by the cameras