This is a very brief note on the easiest methods of accessing the principal Google Help sites for Google Maps and Google Earth as there is simply too much relevant material for them to be fully explained in an hour or so. Don't be put off by the the fact that there seems to be so much material on the Google sites. It is intimidating but it tends to include a lot of repetition. It is usually, but not always, logically set out.
Google Maps Help Center - this site not only has links to all the more specialised sites you are likely to want or need but also to the Help Forum and much else. However, at the present time - June 2014 - Google Maps are in a state of transition. There are "Classic Maps", which many of you will be familiar with, and "new Maps", which some of you might have already. To make matters even more complicated "new Maps" are not yet universally available in their final form and may only be available to you in a "Lite Edition". [In my household, with two computers meeting Google's requirements for the "new Maps" full edition, one can access it but the other can only access the Lite Edition".] In particular in Lite Edition there is no way you can go directly from Google Maps to Google Earth as you could do previously in Classic Maps and as you can do in the full version of "new Maps". Unless I am missing something Google in its usual arrogant way is quite unhelpful in indicating a timeline for changes or even a helpful page as to the various editions of its Maps and Earth. Wikipedia does its best to remedy the latter omission but realises its page is incomplete and possibly inaccurate.
To start using Google Maps first open a Google search page by entering "google.co.nz" in the address bar. Then go to and click on the Apps Icon, a square of 9 dots in the top right hand corner, and then click on Maps. That will take you to either "Classic" or "new" Maps. If you are in "Classic" there is a link to "Help" on the lower left of the page and if you are in "New" there is a link to "Help" through the Question Mark on the lower right of the page. Either link takes you to the Google Maps Help Center, which is the principal site to assist users.
You can use Google Maps without a Google account. However, to create and save your own maps you have to have your own Google account. It is simplest to follow the instructions from the Help pages. Or you can start by opening Google Maps. Please remember that any map you create will be in the public arena unless you ensure it is unlisted. There is also a tutorial on creating a map with Custom Maps in Google Earth Outreach. There are also numerous independent pages on using Google Maps, and Earth. Here are three dealing with Maps, a Wall Street Journal piece on the recent changes to Google Maps and two Make Use Of pages dealing with creating new maps and how to use Maps for better planning of your trips.
Google Earth Help Center - this is the principal site to assist users with links to many more specialised sites. To access Google Earth you must download the Google Earth software programme. This can be done through the Google Earth Help Center page or from the Google Earth home page.
Once you have Google Earth installed you can either work through the Google Earth Help Center page or go to the Google Earth Tutorials site from the Learn the Basics page on the Help Center page but that will be a matter of personal preference. You can also access the material on the Google Earth Outreach page, already mentioned.
While the various help videos can be accessed through the different help sites, e.g., Google Earth Tutorials or the Google Earth Outreach page already mentioned or Google Earth Showcase, you can also access some through Google Earth Video Help in YouTube. It is easy to access the individual videos that interest you.
For those of you interested in the ocean depths go to the tips in Navigating in Google Earth, but you will need to access some of the underwater videos for the best images.
For all those interested in an opportunity to try flying on your own computer there is the Flight Simulator entered through Tools – Enter Flight Simulator although its best to first read the tips on using the flight simulator help page. As they are brief and inadequate you might also like to look at two overlapping blog pages about the tool if you really want to play with it, Google Earth A to Z: Flight Simulator and Google Earth Flight Simulator Tips.
Those of you who enjoy a challenge might want to first work your way through the Basic Features User Guide and then through the individual elements at the foot of that page.
Note: I do not refer in any way to Google Earth Pro as a subscription costs US$400 per annum.
[Last edited 20 June 2014]