Creating Maps Using Custom Maps for Google Maps

Creating your own maps has never been simpler. With the Custom Maps for Google Maps, you can mark locations, paths, and regions of interest on a personalized map, and share it with the world! You can even add descriptive text, embed photos and videos, and view your map on Google Earth.

With the Custom Maps for Google Maps, there are a number of exciting things you can do for your organization. Here are a few ideas:

  • Plan an event and distribute information to participants.
  • Generate a map locating your organization's branches across the country or across the globe for anyone to see.
  • Map out your volunteer base and geographically plan objectives for reaching out.

This tutorial will guide you through an example of organizing a beach cleanup day like the one shown below. We'll end up with a map like this.

We would like our map to show the following things: the meeting point, the path that each team will follow, the end point, and where we'll have our picnic at the end of the cleanup. Feel free to follow along, modifying locations and descriptions to suit your own needs. You'll be surprised at how fun and easy it is!

This video demonstrates how to create a custom map with the Custom Maps in Google Maps (1:19).

Prerequisites

  • Absolutely no programming skills needed!
  • To create a map using Custom Maps, you need to be signed into your Google Account. If you don't have an account yet, you can sign up here. (It's free.)
  • If you'd like to view your map in Google Earth, download the latest version here (it's also free).

Let's get started!

1. Go to Google Maps.

2. Sign in to your Google Account if you have not already done so, using the link on top right corner.

3. First, let's zoom into the Santa Cruz Beach area. Type "Santa Cruz Beach, USA" in the search box and zoom in to get a closer look. Once you've zoomed in, click the Maps link to come back to your map.

4. Click on the My Places button under the search box.

5. Click the Create Map button.

6. Add a title and description for your map. You can make your map public or unlisted. We'll make ours public so that it shows up in search results.

7. Click the Save button.

8. Click on the Satellite button located at the top right of your map. Under the Satellite button, keep Labels checked. By doing this, we'll be able to see the aerial imagery as well as road information.

 

Now let's add data!

Adding placemarks: Let's mark locations for group meeting points!

1. Click at the top left of your map. Your cursor should change into a placemark icon with an "X" crosshairs. The crosshairs indicate where the placemark will fall.

2. Let's first mark the starting point for our beach cleanup. Move the cursor to the appropriate location. If you want to dismiss this placemark, press the Escape key.

3. Click your mouse button to place your placemark. It should bounce into place.

4. Add a title and description.

5. You can also change the icon for your placemark by clicking the icon in the top right corner of the info window.


If you want to add a custom icon, such as your organization's logo, to the map, click "Add an icon." Enter in the complete url to your logo on the web (eg. http://www.myorganization.org/our_logo.jpg). The ideal size for your logo is 64 x 64 pixels. For this example, enter in http://www.cleanuptheworld.org/images/en/new_version_logo_for_website_en.jpg


6. Click OK to save your placemark.

7. Add another placemark for the ending point. Here's what your map will look like after adding these two placemarks.

Tips:

  • To move any placemark on your map, drag-and-drop any placemark to the new location. Note that you can only edit or move placemarks on your maps, not others' maps.
  • To edit a placemark's title or description, click on the placemark to open the info window. Edit the title and description and click OK.

Adding lines: Let's show the paths to take!

1. Click . Your cursor appears like this:

2. First we'll show the path that the first group, Group A, should take. Move the cursor to the appropriate location and click to start drawing the line. If you want to dismiss this line, press the Escape key.

3. Click your mouse button at each point of your line.

4. To finish drawing your line, double-click the last end point.

5. Add a title and description.

6. You can also change the color, transparency, and width of your line by clicking the color swatch in the top right corner of the info window.

7. Click OK to save your line.

8. Add another line for the second group, Group B. Here's what your map will look like after adding these two paths.

Tips:
  • To move a line on your map, mouse over the line to make the end points appear. Click and drag the points to move them.
  • To delete a point from your line, right-click on the point and choose Delete from the context menu.
  • To add a point to your line, you can either click on one of the semi-transparent points, or right-click on the line and choose Add a point from the context menu.
  • To edit a line's title or description, click on it to open the info window. Edit the title and description and click OK.

Adding shapes: Let's show our picnic area and the parking lot!

1. Click . Your cursor appears like this:

2. We can now draw a box around our picnic area. Move the cursor to the appropriate location and click to start the shape. If you want to dismiss this shape, press the Escape key.

3. Click your mouse button at each end point of your shape.

4. To finish drawing your shape, double-click the last end point or click on the starting point to complete the shape.

5. Add a title and description.

6. You can also change the color and transparency of your shape by clicking the color swatch in the top right corner of the info window.

7. Click OK to save your shape.

8. Create another region to show the parking lot area. Here's what your map will look like after adding these regions.

Tips:
  • To move a shape on your map, mouse over the shape to make the end points appear. Click and drag the points to move them.
  • To delete a point from your shape, right-click on the point and select Delete from the context menu.
  • To add a point to your shape, you can either click on one of the semi-transparent points, or right-click on the shape and choose Add a point from the context menu.
  • To edit a shape's title or description, click on it to open the info window. Edit the title and description and click OK.

Add photos to your map

1. Still in Edit mode, create a new placemark or click on the placemark you wish to add the photo to. You can also open the placemark by clicking it in the list in the left-hand panel.

2. With the placemark open, click the Rich Text link.

3. Then click on the Image icon. Enter the URL to the image's location on the web (e.g. http://www.myorganization.org/img/beachcleanup.jpg). Images less than 400 pixels will fit best inside the pop-up balloon. For this example, enter the following URL:

http://www.cleanuptheworld.org/images/en/jordan_the-royal-marine-conservation-society-of-jordan--large.jpg

4. You'll see the image appear in the balloon description.

5. Click OK.

Tip:

  • If you are looking for a place to host your images online, consider using Google PicasaWeb.

Add YouTube videos to your map

1. Upload your video to YouTube or choose a video that's already uploaded.

2. On the YouTube video's webpage, find the Share button and click it to see more options. Find the Embed button and click it to see more options. Look for the checklist of options below the html code and select the option for “Use old embed code”. Now copy the HTML code. The code looks similar to this:

<object width="425" height="344">
<param name="movie" value="//www.youtube.com/v/DN1aQ5WVi78&amp;hl=en&amp;fs=1"></param>
<param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param>
<param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param>
<embed src="//www.youtube.com/v/DN1aQ5WVi78&amp;hl=en&amp;fs=1"
type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"
width="425" height="344">
</embed>
</object>


3. Go back to Google Maps. Make sure your Custom Map is open and in Edit mode. Create a new placemark or open the placemark to which you want to add a YouTube video. You can open the placemark by clicking on it in the map or clicking on it in the list in the left-hand panel.

4. Click Edit HTML. Paste in the Embed Code that you copied from YouTube.

5. Click OK.

6. Click the Save button to save your map, and then click the Done button to finish editing your map. Now you should be able to view the YouTube video when you click on the placemark to which you added the video.


And we're done! Check out our finished map!

You can return to your map at any time. Just go to Google Maps and click the Maps button. Sign into your Google Account and select the map from your list of maps.

Collaborate on your map

1. Go to Google Maps and sign in with your Google Account. If you don't have a Google Account, sign up here.

2. Create a new map or open a map you've created earlier. Choose the map that you want to allow others to collaborate on.

3. Click Collaborate in the lower left panel.

4. You'll see a dialog box pop up:

Manage your collaborators and invite others to edit your map.

  • Add collaborators by entering their email addresses (separated by commas) in the upper left box
  • Customize an optional invitation email that will be sent to new collaborators
  • If you'd like collaborators to be able to invite other collaborators, you can check the box in the upper right corner
  • Select "Allow anyone to edit this map" if you'd like any Google Maps user to be able to contribute to your map
  • As the map owner, you can remove collaborators by clicking on the "Remove" link next to a collaborator's name on the lower right side. Click on "remove all" to stop collaborating on your map

Sharing Your Map with Volunteers

1. Click on the Link link on the upper right-hand side of the page.



2. Find the text box under Paste link in email or IM. Let's email this out to our volunteers.



3. Simply highlight and copy the link, and paste it in your email text.



Your volunteers now have easy access to the map, making for a well planned event!

Read more about using Custom Maps for Google Maps in the Google Maps User Guide.

Check out your map on Google Earth! (optional)

Google Earth offers a rich browsing experience including 3-D terrain and various content layers. If you'd like to view your map on Google Earth, this section is for you. Please download the latest version of Google Earth if you do not already have it installed.

View Your Map in Google Earth

1. Open up your finished Custom Map. If you don't have a finished Custom Map, you can use this map.

2. Click the KML link near the Custom Map name.



3. Your map will download as a KML file onto your computer, which allows you to view your map in Google Earth. You can also email this KML file to volunteers, or post it on your organization's website for anyone to download.

5. To view, either double-click on the KML file that has been saved on your computer, or start Google Earth and go to File menu and select Open to select the desired KML file. You'll see that the file has been added under the Temporary Places folder inside the Places panel.


6. To zoom into the relevant geographical area, simply double click on the "Beach Cleanup Day" KML file link in the Places panel.


7. By clicking on the "+" sign under the "Beach Cleanup Day" folder, and double-clicking on the desired item, you can zoom in to specific placemarks, lines, or shapes.


8. Be sure to check out the 3-D terrain using the Look navigation controls, located in the top right corner of Google Earth.


Discussion & Feedback

Have questions about this tutorial? Want to give us some feedback? Visit the Google Earth Outreach Discussion Group to discuss it with others.

What's Next?