How to Use Google Maps Offline

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Let’s say that you want to travel during the summer, but you can’t use the internet and you don’t have a GPS (Global Positioning System) device. Therefore, you don’t have Google Maps, Google Earth, or any other map servers available. How can you travel comfortably without resorting to buying a bunch of road atlases (which are heavy to carry around and outdated anyway)?

The most efficient way is to download the area or country maps you need for your travels and save them in a usable format in your mobile, tablet, or laptop.

Here are a few viable solutions.

Native Google Features

According to Google, it is possible to download up to 50km × 50km (approximately 30 miles × 30 miles) of map data at once from Google Maps. But this feature is only available for mobile users signed in to their Google Accounts.

So this doesn’t help us much. Although Google announced at its Google I/O 2015 event that they plan to expand the ability to store map data in users’ mobile phones.

It is also possible to use Google Earth to cache recently viewed map data.

Snapshots

Print Screen and Paint

You can take snapshots of Google Maps, Bing Maps, or any similar map service.

You can do so using the PrtScr button on your keyboard — this will save your whole visible screen area to the clipboard.

Then, you need to open an image editing tool, such as Microsoft Paint, paste the image data from the clipboard to Paint, and save it as an image file.

Greenshot

Alternatively, you can use a screenshot tool with better and more user-friendly features. I prefer to use Greenshot.

FSS Google Maps Downloader

FSS Google Maps Downloader is basically a free specialized screenshot tool.

It accesses Google Maps in its window and saves a PNG image of the map you are currently seeing. The PNG image is saved as is — what you see is what you get. There’s no further zooming in or out available later.

As a bonus feature, FSS Google Maps Downloader can also access street view, so you can save snapshots of buildings, too.

PDF Printouts

If you have a PDF printer installed, you can also print out maps into PDF files.

You can do this directly from your browser when viewing the maps. Or you can do so from both Microsoft Paint as well as FSS Google Maps Downloader.

Important Note

A major backdrop of taking snapshots or making PDF printouts is that you will probably need to save/print a large number of images to make any real use of them.
 
And you still won’t be able to zoom in and out. All you will have are a bunch of static pictures.
 
You will need to do a good deal of preparations to make the pictures useful for travel purposes, especially if you travel by car.

GMapCatcher

GMapCatcher is probably the best and most advanced tool for downloading maps. It is completely free and open source — available for Windows and Linux.

GMapCatcher can actually download complete map data in map, satellite, or terrain mode. It doesn’t access Google Maps but rather other open source maps.

To test GMapCatcher’s abilities, I zoomed in to Vienna, Austria and its surroundings in satellite mode.

GMapCatcher — Vienna

GMapCatcher — Vienna

Next, I went to Tools > Settings and in the Settings tab selected a Custom Maps Directory where my maps should be saved.

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GMapCatcher Tools — Custom Maps Directory

The tools button is the only button in the upper left corner of GMAPCatcher’s window.

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GMapCatcher Tools button

After my settings were ready, I right-clicked on the map and selected Batch Download from the context menu.

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GMapCatcher download

In the GMapCatcher download window, you can specify the exact position and area of the maps that should be downloaded, as well as the maps’ zoom levels.

These settings directly influence the amount of data that will be saved. The larger the area and the more zoom levels you define, the more data will be saved.

When you are ready, click on the Download button.

In my case, I downloaded a little bit over 104MB of map data.

Now I can go completely offline and all these maps including zooming in and out will be available to me.

GMapCatcher — Offline map of Vienna

GMapCatcher — Offline map of Vienna

Just as if I was browsing the area in Google Maps online.

Other Tools

There are two other tools that can be mentioned regarding offline maps.

One is gMaps, which is a Windows 8.1 app. This app is available for free.

And the other is Offline Maps, which is created for Apple devices only. This tool is not free.

Conclusion

Obviously, no offline map will offer you the convenience of using Google Maps in online mode. Traffic data, roadblocks, etc. will not be available.

But if you travel with no internet connection, then GMapCatcher is the next best thing you can use.

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