If you can think of an idea for a Web application, chances are it’s already out there. This might be frustrating if you're an aspiring Web entrepreneur, but for the rest of us: fabulous.
I’d been trying to figure out a way to check the mileage on routes I bike and jog - without getting in the car and using an odometer (and gas). I was pretty sure I’d find something on the Web, and pretty sure it would be something built around Google Maps. I was right.
A simple Google search turned up a few sites offering map-based tools that looked like they'd do the trick, including Gmaps Pedometer, built by Paul, a marathon runner, using Google Maps. Paul calls it “a little hack” but in fact Google welcomes this kind of hack and makes it easy to incorporate the mapping system in Web sites and Web-based applications.
Gmaps Pedometer presents Google Maps in a large section on the right of the screen with the pedometer control panel on the left. You can enter your starting address in the search field to zoom in on your locale. Then you plot the route by double clicking along the way you went, or intend to go. The program draws blue lines to mark the route and posts flags at each mile or kilometer. A running tab of the distance also appears in the Total distance field.
Gmaps Pedometer will trace routes along streets even if you double click at a point around the corner – or around a few corners – from the previous point. But if you jog through parks or other places that only pedestrians can go, you’ll have to use the Manual mode. It only draws straight lines, so you have to click at each turning, however slight. This could get tedious, but you can switch to Manual mode in mid-route, then switch back to Automatic when you move onto the street again.
If you’re going and coming back by the same route, click the ‘Complete there and back’ link when you’ve reached the furthest point. Gmaps Pedometer automatically plots the return route and calculates the final distance. If it's a loop route, just keep double-clicking until you're back where you started. You can then print a map of the route, or save it to your Favorites. Very cool.