The District's socklike perimeter reveals itself. Google Maps

Helicopter owners and tech-savvy birds, rejoice. You can now map the literal shortest distance to your destination.

Measuring geodesic distance—that's distance as the crow flies, or the literal shortest route between two points—on Google Maps long required an oddly analog approach: You looked at the map’s scale and used a ruler or thumb to make rough calculations.

Google Maps this week has updated that stopgap method with a fresh tool. Users can right-click on any location on a map, select “measure distance,” click on another location, and see a line displaying the exact mileage between the two points.

If you’re feeling artistic, keep clicking on other spots: A vector marking the distance from the last spot will appear. You can also drag the plot points around to adjust. Bear in mind, these distances aren’t exactly practical for non-avian travelers, unless you’re measuring along an actual street or pedestrian pathway. But why not sketch out the perimeter of your city? Washington, D.C., for instance, is shaped like a sock. 

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Downtown Roanoke is pictured.
    Life

    The Small Appalachian City That’s Thriving

    Roanoke, Virginia, has become what many cities of its size, geography, and history want to be. It started by bringing housing to a deserted downtown.

  2. Life

    Don't Take Out a Second Mortgage to Buy Bitcoin

    According to regulator Joseph Borg, the bubble’s going to burst.

  3. Environment

    The Story of the Great Lakes in 8 Maps

    The book Third Coast Atlas seeks to illuminate the Great Lakes—America’s “third coast”—through maps, plans, photos, and more.

  4. Equity

    The Price Black Voters Paid to Defeat Roy Moore

    Black voters endured waves of voter suppression to help elect Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate, and it didn’t have to be that way.

  5. A maglev train on a test track outside Tokyo. A scheme to build a line between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., has been in the works for years.
    Transportation

    The Battle of the Supertrains

    Promoters are touting two different multi-billion-dollar high-speed projects between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. Is it a fantasy, or a game changer?