Google Maps has made it easier than ever to create personalised maps complete with custom icons, lines, shapes, placemarks, and linked descriptions. With a Google account, anyone can create a map quickly without subscription or usage fees. However, although Google excels at smaller mapping projects, consider third-party services to help with larger constellations of placemarks. Once completed, custom maps can be embedded into personal websites or shared with others using its unique web address.
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Set Up a Personalized Map
The first step in creating a personalised Google map is to make a Google account. With a free Google account, an authenticated member will see the "My Places" link on the Google Maps website. Clicking on "My Places" will reveal a menu in the left-hand column of the page. Choose "Create New Map" and then provide both a title and description for it.
Plot Points on Your Map
With your personalised map listed in the left-hand column, there are two ways to plot and save points. The first method of plotting points is to provide an address in the search box, click "Search," and let the website find (and pin) the location. The second method is to use the navigation interface for the map and locate your desired location by sight. Once you find your spot, right click on the map (or the location pin) and choose "Add a Placemark." Provide a title and a description for that placemark in the dialogue box. To insert a custom link into the placemark, use Rich Text or HTML formats for the description. To change the placemark's colour or shape, click on the icon in the dialog's upper right-hand corner. When finished, click "OK" and then, in the left-hand column, choose "Save" to keep your new placemark.
Lines and Shapes
In addition to single placemarks, Google Maps now allows users to generate lines and shapes. These features can by found by right-clicking on the map. Closing the shape or clicking the last point of the line triggers a dialogue box. Within that box, you can provide a title and description as if it were a placemark -- including the options for Rich Text or HTML content. In addition, clicking on the icon in the dialog's upper right-hand corner will reveal options for line colour, size, and opacity.
Use a Third-Party Service
As always, there is more than one way to achieve the same result. While Google Maps is the core technology that many third-party sites use, there is often an added value with choosing another vendor. For example, options like MultiPlottr and "batchgeo" offer features for posting many placemarks at once. Before starting your mapping project, take inventory of your goals (collaboration, personalisation, few points, many points, etc.) and choose the best mapping website for your situation.
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