Question: How do I get directions for a route with multiple stops in the new Google Maps?
Answer: The snazzy redesign that Google unveiled at its I/O developer conference in May, and is now inviting users to try, took away this feature.
I didn’t realize it myself until I was trying to calculate mileage expenses on a drive with an intermediate stop â€” and realized that the usual buttons to add a destination had vanished. Other Maps users have been equally puzzled.
You can’t blame them: Google didn’t mention this subtraction in its post about the new look, although it did spell out the removal of the Latitude location-sharing feature that many people never bothered to try.
It also has yet to revise its old instructions for requesting a multiple-stop itinerary. They include a sample link which yields the old maps interface, plus a small caption at the top explaining that you were switched back to the prior version because you requested a feature the new one doesn’t support.
But using the search syntax shown on that page (“from:first place to:second place to:third place”) didn’t work to request new multidestination directions. If you’ve opted into Google’s new maps site, your only workaround on the desktop is to go to the blue “Help Feedback” button at its top-right corner and select “Return to classic Google Maps.”
Or you can pick up your phone â€” not to use Google’s Android and iOS apps, but to use the mobile version of its website.
It seems almost inevitable that Google will restore this feature (a Google spokesman didn’t want to comment on the record), but in the meantime this is a lesson about how not to introduce a new product. Sometimes a company has to drop a useful feature to get other things to ship on time â€” but why let users discover its absence when it could have explained things upfront?
It may also be an opportunity for Google users to try other mapping sites.
For the past few years, Google’s strongest competition has come from Microsoft. Its Bing Maps site matches many of Google’s features (bicycling directions are a notable exception) and was first to introduce others, such as a bird’s-eye view from a much lower altitude than the usual satellite imagery, and it still allows multiple-stop directions.
These competitors, however, have yet to match Google’s vast “Ground Truth” effort to augment and expand its cartographical data. As one result, Microsoft only recently updated its database to reflect the permanent closure in January of a stretch of Interstate 395 in Washington, while Yahoo did not know about that as of Wednesday.
(Google misses things, too. Although its overhead view shows how Columbus Circle in front of Union Station has been straightened out, its map view shows the old, tangled alignment. Please remember to trust your eyeballs regardless of what mapping app you use, lest errant guidance drive you to do something embarrassingly stupid like, say, driving a mile up a bike trail.)
Tip: Gmail’s offline mode lets you read without bandwidth â€” or ads
If you use Google’s Chrome browser, you can install an app for its Gmail service â€” open a new tab, click “Web Store” at the bottom right corner and search for “Gmail Offline” â€” that lets you read and respond to your messages without an Internet connection.
That’s a huge upgrade by itself, putting Google’s Webmail service on a par with separate programs like Apple’s Mail or Microsoft’s Outlook in allowing you to catch up on old messages while offline. (Google Docs got a similar upgrade last summer, which I used to write part of this column on a Wi-Fi-free flight.) But Gmail’s offline interface also strips out the already-fairly-unobtrusive ads that Google normally displays at the top of your inbox.
Give it a try. Then take a moment to think about how much you might pay to have those ads scrubbed from the regular Gmail interface, if Google allowed that choice.