It seems Google has a little something in store for everyone this week. While it has released Google Movies on the Android Play Store for India today, it has also made support for offline translation available on Google Translate. And now Google has announced that it is making Google Maps Engine Lite available for mapping enthusiasts to create, collaborate and share advanced custom maps.

Using this new mapping tool, you can import small spreadsheets of locations onto a comprehensive map. With various styles and drawing options, you can visualise those places on the map. Google Maps Engine Lite will allow you to organise and compare up to three different data sets. Google has specified that these maps are to be used for non-business purposes only. Essentially, this is a tool for recreation.

A map created for MAPA using Google Maps Engine Lite

A map created for MAPA using Google Maps Engine Lite

Maps Engine Lite will let you select between different map layers like satellite, terrain or simple atlas. Google will convert imported data into points on the map. New points on the map are also converted to spreadsheet cells. If you do not have a spreadsheet to upload, you need not worry as you can also manually draw lines and set different place markers. You can choose between nearly a hundred of various place markers in Maps Engine Lite.

To get aspiring cartographers used to the tools, Google has made available a tutorial. This step-by-step guide offers help in putting together a custom map and a few sample data sets.

Google offers its Maps Engine to businesses to help them organise large data sets using professional tools. The product is available for a price and companies interested in mapping their businesses need to request Google for a quote. Maps Engine Lite, on the other hand, is completely free.

The service could prove to be a boon for non-profit organisations. In its blog announcing the product, Google talks about the MAPA Project that used Maps Engine Lite to map the location of “shark spotters” along the False Bay coastline of South Africa. Spreadsheets of Shark Spotters' locations and recent white shark sightings were both imported to create the map.

Google says that it will continue to offer My Maps, its earlier mapping tool for a while further. Users can import their maps created using My Maps into Maps Engine Lite already. But eventually, Google says that My Maps will be incorporated into Google Maps Engine Lite.

The Maps Engine Lite is still in beta and is available in English only so far. You can head on to the Google Maps Engine Lite page and start making maps for your area already. We suggest you take a crash-course using the tutorial page before you let the adventurer inside you loose. 

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