15 May 2019

For the map and geography geek in you...

For those of you who are map and geography geeks like me, I've just released a new tool I created on Google Maps that I hope you find both informative and maybe even fun!

I named the tool Location Explorer on Google Maps.

Think of it as kind of a "drill-down" for any chosen U.S. location -- be it a place or address. Not sure how to best describe it...so let's use pictures:

For the above example, I simply typed an address in Salt Lake City, and the 12 above maps appeared.  The maps show all of the following "topics" for your chosen location (the address or place you typed), depicted by the red dot:

  • City Limits
  • County Lines
  • State Lines
  • ZIP Code Boundaries
  • Area Code Boundaries
  • US Congressional District Boundaries
  • Latitude and Longitude (by request, I've also added Township and Range to this map window, where applicable)
  • Watershed (also known as Drainage Basin)
  • Closest National Park or National Forest, including boundaries
  • Elevation
  • Slope (the steepness of the land)
  • Aspect (the compass direction the land slopes down in)

In addition to seeing the above topics on the 12 maps, the name or other relevant information for each topic is labeled in the upper right corner of each map.

If the map isn't exactly where you want to see the above information for, you can simply click any of the maps at a new nearby location or just type a new location above.  You can also zoom in or out using the + and - buttons in the upper left of the first map or last map.  Note that all of the maps stay "in sync" with each other as you change locations.

One thing...please be patient as the map layers the tool uses are very large, and the maps may take up to 10-15 seconds to finish drawing.  To get a much more detailed understanding of how to best use the tool, and exactly what is depicted on the maps, be sure and read the detailed tips and coverage notes below the map on the page.

This is a first version of this tool, so think of it as a beta version that may very well break or otherwise function erratically.  And I'll definitely be adding topics and tweaking functionality continuously.  In the meantime, I welcome your comments, compliments, suggestions, possible uses for the tool or any other feedback in the Comments section below.

I hope you have as much fun exploring the tool as I've had building it!  And yes, you can definitely call me a geogeek.

(As a reminder, if you want to explore many of these topics individually on a large Google Map, you can use these tools:  County Lines on Google Maps, City Limits on Google Maps, ZIP Codes on Google Maps and Area Codes on Google Maps.  For historical county lines, use Historical U.S. County Boundary Maps)


27 April 2019

How can you see city limits on Google Maps?

Short answer...you can't. Except for one at a time, like this, where I typed "St Louis" in standard Google Maps:

But what if (for some reason) you want to see ALL of the city limits in an area.  Well now you can here:  City Limits on Google Maps

It looks like this:


The city limits can be very detailed and so may take a few moments to draw:

Despite this being somewhat of a mess to look at, I've had several people who have been using my County Lines on Google Maps tool who have requested being able to view city limits on Google Maps.  Why?  Here are some possible reasons:
  • To be able to type an address and know what city it's in or if it's in an unincorporated area
  • To be able to explore the map interactively and see city boundaries around your neighborhood of interest
  • To quickly answer jurisdictional questions about an address, point or neighborhood on a map
  • To find what areas around your metro area are unincorporated, meaning that they may not have local sales tax there. (Note: I'm not giving tax advice; talk to your tax advisor for that :) )
  • Any of a number of real estate related queries where knowing the city comes into play
What other uses do you have for seeing City Limits on Google Maps?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

(This is version 1.0, so please also let me know if you encounter errors.)

Also, another mapping tool I just released:  Area Codes on Google Maps

11 April 2019

Latitude and Longitude now displayed on County Lines on Google Maps tool

A few users have requested the ability to see the latitude and longitude for their chosen location while using the County Lines on Google Maps tool.  This functionality has now been added.

As usual, just start by typing in a place name or address for which you want to see nearby county lines, then click "Go!".  Now, in addition to seeing the county name at the bottom of the map, just below that you will also see the latitude and longitude for the red map marker, as shown below:

The latitude and longitude displayed is for the red map marker, so if you wish you can zoom in further and click somewhere else on the map.  You will then see the county name where you clicked as well as the latitude and longitude for the red map marker, as shown here:

If you are looking for the approximate latitude and longitude for a large tract of land, you could change the map to show satellite imagery by clicking the "Hybrid" button in the lower left corner of the map.  Then click on the map where you want to know the approximate latitude and longitude, as shown below:

Another neat little feature is to click the "Use Current Location" button (found just to the right of the "Go!" button) to see the approximate latitude and longitude of your current location.  A write-up on that functionality can be found here.

Important technical note and disclaimer:  While the number of decimals in the latitude and longitude displayed for the map marker imply a positional accuracy of within a few feet, note that Google Maps is not inherently that accurate, and therefore this tool should not be used for legal purposes or anything beyond entertainment value.  Here is a useful article that discusses accuracy of Google Maps' latitudes and longitudes.

08 December 2018

Now use your current location on all randymajors.com mapping tools!

This enhancement applies to the following tools:

County Lines on Google Maps
ZIP Codes on Google Maps
Historical U.S. County Boundary Maps

On all of these randymajors.com mapping tools, you always had to start by typing in a city, address, place, etc. and then clicking the "Go!" button.

Now with this latest enhancement, if you want to know more about your current location, you can just click the "Use current location" buttons (shown at left and highlighted in red below) and the map will immediately zoom in to your current location.

Depending on which of the above tools you're using, once the map zooms in,  the name of the current county, ZIP Code, or historical county will appear, along with all of the applicable boundaries.

How might this be useful?
- You're on the road and standing on your ancestor's farm and want to know what county the farm was part of back in 1850
- You're in an unfamiliar area and want to know where nearby research locations are where you can dig deeper (e.g. courthouses, libraries, cemeteries)
- You're travelling in a rural area (and not sure of a town name or address to type, or it's inconvenient to type) and you need to determine your current county or ZIP Code
- I've heard of people using the tool for a wide variety of other uses that benefit from quickly finding out your current county, from geocaching to real estate title work to disaster support relief

Feel free to share in the comments if you have other uses for this!

Technical note:  The "Use current location" functionality will be more accurate on smartphones and other devices containing a GPS.  It will work on most desktop browsers as well, but will typically be more of an approximate location.  

05 December 2018

Google Maps service fully restored on randymajors.com

Following a couple of days of problems, Google Maps functionality has been fully restored on the randymajors.com website and the following tools should be fully operational again:

County Lines on Google Maps
Historical U.S. County Boundary Maps
Historical World Boundary Maps
ZIP Codes on Google Maps

Background:  Over the last couple of days, there had been many reports of "over query limit" and rate-limit problems when people were using the above tools.  Working with Google support, those limits have been reset.

This issue was caused by pricing changes that Google has put in place for users of the Google Maps API, upon which the randymajors.com website relies.  The bottom line is that the website has the potential to become quite a bit more expensive for me to maintain.  As I want keep these tools free and unlimited for everyone, the only way to partially offset these costs is if users of the website click on ads when they find them useful.

Thank you for your patience and for your support of these freely available tools.

31 October 2018

First County Lines, now ZIP Code boundaries on Google Maps!

Quick link to the tool:  ZIP Codes on Google Maps

After the great response to my County Lines on Google Maps tool, I've heard a number of suggestions for other types of boundaries that Google Maps doesn't show.  One that has come up a number of times is for ZIP Codes. 

Yes, you can see one ZIP Code boundary at a time on Google Maps desktop version, but that's of limited use if you're trying to see all of the ZIP Codes in an area and don't know what they are (for example, it's not intuitive how to get Google Maps to show the ZIP Code boundary for the place adjacent to the current ZIP Code you're viewing).

So I've created another free tool that shows ZIP Code boundaries on Google Maps here:  ZIP Codes on Google Maps

As with the other tools, just type any address or place name, then click Go!  Zip Code boundaries will appear near your chosen place, and the ZIP Code will appear at the bottom of the map, as with this example around Chicago.

Click around on the map to see the ZIP Codes for where you clicked, or type another address or place name to see the ZIP Code boundaries there.

Sorry for those outside the U.S., this tool currently only supports U.S. locations.  Depending on demand, I may add postal codes for other countries in the future.

Please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions below, and share with anyone you think may find this tool useful.

22 September 2018

County Lines on Google Maps tool adds coverage of 4 more countries

Just a quick note to let you know that New Zealand, Canada and Switzerland have been added to the County Lines on Google Maps tool!

Update as of 29 Dec 2018:  Mexico Municipalities have been added, which are the next level administrative division below State.

So, the full line-up of countries where you can see counties is:

- United States
- United Kingdom
- Ireland
- Australia
- New Zealand
- Canada
- Mexico
- Switzerland

Please note that not all countries use counties. So in those cases, the tool will show the administrative division that exists between the state and local level.  Here are the particulars:

- US coverage includes all 50 states plus Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa
- Within the UK, England displays Counties and Unitary Authorities, Scotland displays Council Areas, Wales displays Principal Areas, and Northern Ireland displays Districts
- Australia displays Local Government Areas (LGAs)
- New Zealand displays Territorial Authorities
- Canada displays Census Divisions, which are Counties in some provinces but may include other geographies
- Mexico displays Municipalities, which are the next level administrative division below State
- Switzerland displays Districts

Here are a few screen captures to show samples of the new coverage:

16 September 2018

County Lines on Google Maps adds coverage for Australia

If you're Australian or familiar with Australian government hierarchy (which I wasn't!), the first thing you may ask is what is a "county" in Australia, as it evidently doesn't exist.

According to Wikipedia, "Unlike Canada or the United States, there is only one level of government in each state, with no distinction such as cities and counties."  Instead, Australia uses Local Government Areas (LGAs).

So now the County Lines on Google Maps tool includes all of the Australian LGA boundaries!

Here's a snapshot from the southeastern part of Australia, with the city and state name for the red marker displayed at the bottom of the map:

For reference, the following is a list of the types of Australian Local Government Areas.  All of the boundaries of these Australian LGAs can be displayed on the County Lines on Google Maps tool:

- Aboriginal Councils
- Areas
- Boroughs
- Cities
- District Councils
- Municipalities
- Regional Councils
- Rural Cities
- Shires
- Towns

Hope you find this addition useful!  Feel free to leave comments or suggestions below, and share the tool with your Australian friends.

15 September 2018

Noteworthy enhancements to County Lines on Google Maps tool

I've just updated the new County Lines on Google Maps tool to include a few noteworthy enhancements:

1.  You can now view counties across multiple states at the same time.  This can be especially useful if you're exploring an area near a state line, as shown below.  The county and state name is displayed at the bottom of the map.

2.  Once you've typed in your initial place of interest, you can then click around the map to display other counties, or type a new place if you prefer.  The performance speed for doing all of this has been improved considerably.

And, as mentioned in a recent post:

(If you're looking for Historical U.S. County Boundaries, that tool can be found here.)

Feel free to share with anyone you think would find this tool useful, and leave any comments or enhancement suggestions below.

13 September 2018

County Lines across the pond - UK and Ireland coverage added

Thanks to many of you for the great feedback on my new County Lines on Google Maps tool!

Several of you commented (or lamented) at the UK and Ireland not being included.  So now they are!

Here are a couple of screenshots:

As before, to get started just type any place name (just as you would in Google Maps) and click Go!  You can then type another name, zoom in, click in another county, and so on.

I hope you find these additions useful!

Note: Within the UK, England displays Counties and Unitary Authorities, Scotland displays Council Areas, Wales displays Principal Areas, and Northern Ireland displays Districts.