Who wants to help design an all-new trip planner from the ground up?
Ken in Regina
Interesting video. And much more sophisticated than the way I use it!!

I did some testing on Googlemaps last night.
Looks like it's the way to go for trip planning... IF you have an internet connection when you plan the trip (which is typically the case) AND when you START the trip (not always the case).

The problem continues to be that a lot of the functionality of Android GoogleMap/Nav app is not there when using the "offline maps" and that's compounded by the inability to use anything route URLs planned ahead of time if there's no internet connection when you try to load it into the GoogleMap/Nav app.

Yet the GoogleMap/Nav app will let you BUILD the exact SAME trip manually, point by point, without an internet connection, and it will let you launch the LAST trip navigated. That "LAST trip navigated" shows up in what COULD be a LIST of several pre-planned routes, but noooooo

I presume this is because the "LAST trip navigated" data is already IN the GoogleMap/Nav app.

Otherwise, you need access to the internet to load a trip into GoogleMap/Nav from a URL, either a bookmark OR emailed link or even in a link in a text file.

I really THOUGHT I'd found the solution when I noticed the GoogleMap/Nav app DOES let you "SAVE" a multi-step trip to the homescreen, but all you actually GET from that is the LAST point on the trip. Another case of not doing what common sense would expect. What other app allows you to save a list of things (in this case trip waypoints), but only actually saves ONE of them?
Originally Posted by Ken in Regina
Interesting video. And much more sophisticated than the way I use it!!

AFAIC, the guy in this video had to go through too many steps, and took way too much time. The large number of mouse actions (moves & clicks) is a measure of the inefficiency. He'd spend almost as long planning the trip as actually taking it. OK, maybe not really, but still, waaaay tooo long. I recognize this because in the past I've "gone down that road" myself, and found that the end result was wasted time.

But I can see where OneNote might be helpful... IF there was a more automated way to get the info into it from lists.

Since you use OneNote for travel planning, I'd appreciate your insight on what I've done so far.

I'm testing a potential "workflow" using data from a few lists.
In all cases, I am only interested in approaches that can be performed on an entire list. Manual intervention is impractical on list that typically have over a thousand entries, especially considering that would have to be repeated with every update.

I started with a couple of POI-Factory POI files (WalMarts, Rest Stops) that are formatted for PND compatibility (which isn't optimal). Some other lists (e.g.: TA/Petro Travel Center complete list) are better because they have more detailed data broken down into more fields.

Converting the Latitude&Longitude geoCodes in those files into URLs for, MapQuest or bing is pretty easy.

Just append the Latitude,Longitude values to the end of the following URLs
(inside the quotes, where this ____________ is at the end):
1. Google Maps: ""
2. Google Maps: ""
2a. Google Maps (the above format also allows specifying the map zoom level, by appending a 2-digit numerical value followed by "z" after the Latitude,Longitude values, like this): ""
3. MapQuest: ""
4. BingMaps ""

Examples of live URLs following the above formats:,-123.057083,-123.057083,-123.057083,16z,-123.057083,18z,-123.057083,20z,-123.057083,-123.057083

This can be done to the entire list at once, simply by copying & pasting three columns out of Excel as text (the columns will be tab delimited), then search & replace the tabs with nothing, and then copying and pasting that text into one column in the same Excel file. There are probably other even more automated ways to do this too, but this is very fast, even for a list with thousands of entries.

I was also eventually able to find a way to convert the .CSV lists to HTML bookmarks.

There are a LOT of ways to convert lists like these to HTML, but most do NOT result in a bookmarks.html file that will import as bookmarks into Firefox or Chrome. Most of these wrong approaches produce HTML files that Chrome or Firefox SEEM to import successfully. For example, Chrome reports this:

...but nothing actually happened in this case.

Some other approaches yielded bookmarks that displays the actual URL for the bookmark name, instead of the placename, which is not helpful.

But Linkman Pro works well. It will import a .CSV file, resulting in this:

...and export a set of bookmarks that appears in the browser's bookmarks by NAME (the first column in LinkMan).
The "LinkMan Pro" version is required to import tab- or comma-delimited data from spreadsheet. It costs $25 but also has 30 day trial.

So, a successful import into Chrome produces something like this:

If a new "Imported" folder does not show up in the list of bookmarks, the import did not work. If they aren't named by the name you wanted, there's something wrong with the list. I had to strip out excess quotes in some files (as you can seen the quotes had not been removed in the last three in the image above).

FWIW, the above Bookmarks html test file
"Test XLS file 2a"
is attached below in .ZIP format

There are probably other ways to do this than through Linkman pro, but I did not find any others that resulted properly named bookmarks.

This brings up the next problem:

Using one of the bookmarks in the attached "Test XLS file 2a" as an example:
Display name: Walmart Supercenter #5262
has this embedded URL:,-86.791032
which brings up this web page:

Although I can see the place name in the bookmark, it's in tiny print, in a list of many other bookmarks, and it's visually overwhelmed by the google map result shown in the image above.

Moreover, that only actually got me very CLOSE to what I really want.

Rather than use the first of the URL stubs in the list above, #2a is better to actually find the actual POI on, e.g.:,-86.791032,18z

So, let's say I set up a macro or script to run through a list of these "almost there" locations, searching for the nearest one of that particular POI (in this case the keyword to search for is "Walmart").

The original Lat-Long coordinates in the POI list are close enough that google will put the POI I'm looking for at the top of a list of others with the same name, resulting in this:,-86.792539,18z/data=!3m1!....340662!4d-86.791442
which is a lot better than the screencap shown above.

But I won't be able to see any of that without an internet data connection.

It would be great if I could just save each one of these as a "Place" in, because those can be used to plan & start a navigation in the Android Maps/Nav app (which will work offline with "saved places" but NOT URLs, even if the URL contains the lat-Long coordinates). But the other problem is google provides NO realistic way to handle a large collection of saved places; it's a flat list and relatively non-organizable too.

But assuming I could get to this point for every POI in several large lists of specific POIs, would I be able to manage them effectively in OneNote?

For instance, it would be nice to grab screen captures so I could see at least a reduced size version of what shows up here without having an internet connection. Apparently OneNote can do that (save the notes locally).

What I'm thinking about is having something analogous to an "Index Card" in OneNote that has a combination of links, screen captures and notes. Many POIs would have other links that just the page.

For instance, to use this example:
It's TA Eugene in isn't quite correct but that problem is for another day)
but I'd also like to have this link to the site for that TA location:
TA Coburg, OR #078
which has more information than and maybe a screen capture of the map (so it would be viewable without a data connection, all together on the software equivalent of an "Index Card"

I guess I'd have to find a way to automatically do screen grabs and automatically add them to OneNote. Doing all this manually is a non-starter.
Attached Images
import-bookmarks-actual-successful-result.png   linkman-screencap.jpg   google-maps-result-1.jpg   import-bookmarks-success-not-.png  
Attached Files
File Type: zip Test XLS file (2.5 KB)
Ken in Regina
Okay, for starters, once you have an Excel file with your Google Maps links in it you can simply copy/paste it into OneNote. Below are screen captures of two methods.

In the first one I double-clicked your "Test XLS file 2a.HTML" file which opened in a Chrome page looking just like a spreadsheet. I copy/pasted it into a new notebook page in OneNote. Things to take note of in the screen capture below:

1. I've selected the NOTES notebook, TRAVEL category, "Travel misc." tab, "Test XLS file 2a.HTML" page.

2. You can see that it's all organized neatly in the same columns as if it was in a spreadsheet.

3. Each wide column is neatly wrapped to fit the page. I could stretch this page as wide as I want if the wrapping bothers me.

4. The "url" column contains all the live links to the appropriate Google Maps pages so you only need to click on them to see the map page.

The next thing I did was to test and illustrate using the same info pasted from an actual Excel spreadsheet. So I copy/pasted the info from the .HTML file into an Excel spreadsheet. It pasted nicely into the right columns, complete with the url links. I then copy/pasted the spreadsheet into another OneNote page. The screen capture below shows that although it looks slightly different than when I copied the .HTML file, it's basically the same: nicely arranged in the original columns and rows, and with the live links all there.

This doesn't eliminate much of the work it took to produce the spreadsheet you wanted. But it eliminates the step to create the .HTML file because it's no longer needed, and it lets you pop the spreadsheet into a tool (OneNote) that lets you organize and find things easily for reference. Obviously you have the hierarchical organization of the notebooks/categories/tabs/pages. And you have the search function that will find any text you want in a notebook or category.

Further, when you have an updated spreadsheet you simply delete the existing one (a couple of clicks) on the relevant OneNote page and paste the new one into its place.

Finally, you can have OneNote clients on your Windows and Android devices and have the relevant notebooks sync so you can see them on any device you happen to be using. I created both pages on my Windows 10 PC and tested the live links on my Android phone and they work just fine.

Attached Images
test-file-html.jpg   test-file-xls.jpg  
Ken in Regina
You could put the spreadsheets containing the POIs on a POI tab in a TRAVEL notebook with a page for each spreadsheet.

Or you could make a POI notebook with a tab for each type of POI (eg. WalMart) and a page for eacy city/region spreadsheet.

Or some other method that best suits how the files are available in the first place and how you want to be able to find them.

Now, if you have a notebook that contains your POI info with its live links and want to start planning a specific trip where you may want to have, among other things, a pretty picture of a map of a WalMart Super Center, you just go to that entry in the relevant POI list and click the link to get to the map page, do a screen capture and paste it into your new planning page for that specific trip.

I've included two screen captures from the same page. First I clicked the link in the POI list to get the Pelham, AL, WalMart in Google Maps. I did a screen capture in Chrome and pasted it into the new page in OneNote.

Second, I copied the name from the spreadsheet "name" column, did a Google search for it and copy/pasted the store info into the new page. It's not that I think that information might be relevant to you. It was just to illustrate how you could build a trip page(s) on the fly.

Note the scrollbars in the first screenshot so you can scroll to see the whole map shot. The scrollbars are still there after putting the additional info onto the page. I just cut them off when I did the screenshot.

You can just as easily add your hotel info and reservation/confirmation info, entertainment and restaurant reservations, detailed info on any places you might want to go visit, etc. Then you can update the info as you travel so you have it for future reference, if that's useful.

You can do this on any of your devices because you can sync them all any time you like, or automatically.

As far as I know it won't automate any of the frontend stuff with the POI data (there's actually a macro capability but I've not done anything with it to understand what it can or can't do). But once you have your reference POI spreadsheets it becomes an really handy tool for the actual planning process.

Attached Images
pelham-walmart-map.jpg   pelham-walmart-info.jpg  
Ken in Regina
Here's one additional piece that I think relates to what we've been discussion. There's a "share" feature in the Android Google Maps app and that app also allows multipoint routing.

I used the app to create a route that would take me way out west and forcing it to keep me off the TransCanada highway where it made sense. That took 5 intermediate "stops". So it's a 7 point route. The only thing that's a bit of a nuisance is that you have to add all the stops in the right order. But that's not usually a big deal.

Once I had the route the way I wanted it I was able to share the route a number of ways. In this case I emailed it to myself. It ended up with a long detailed text description of the route. But what was most interesting and potentially useful was the link at the bottom of the text. On my Android phone it opens the actual route with all its detail in the Android Google Maps app, ready for navigation.

Even if I copy/paste the url into Chrome, it tells me Google Maps online can't do navigation and offers to open it in the Google Maps app. If I reject that, it opens and displays the detailed route in a browser window. If I accept, it opens the detailed route in the Google Maps app ready for navigating.

Also, by the way, if I hit the "share" button and select to add it as an icon on the phone's home screen, then go tap that icon on the Android home screen, it opens the Google Maps app with the detailed route ready to navigate. It contains all 7 stops and displays the exact route as it was originally created.

I mention this because I think in one of your notes you said that if you did the "add to home screen" thing it only resulted in the final stop. Mine works exactly as you would expect/want it to with the complete detailed route ready to go.

Originally Posted by Ken in Regina
...But it eliminates the step to create the .HTML file because it's no longer needed, and it lets you pop the spreadsheet into a tool (OneNote) that lets you organize and find things easily for reference. Obviously you have the hierarchical organization of the notebooks/categories/tabs/pages. And you have the search function that will find any text you want in a notebook or category.

Thanks for taking the time to test that.

I figured that copying & pasting between MS Office programs works pretty seamlessly. I use an ancient version of Excel (2000) and that functionality works even into the much newer version of WordPad that came with Win7.

Actually, it's possible to work from a list just in Excel because the URLs when clicked in Excel will open into the default browser that way too.

I assume that the more free-form arrangement and live linking and other features of OneNote give it an advantage over Excel, which quickly becomes cumbersome for data that doesn't easily conform to Excel's set row&column arrangement.

The reason I was trying to find a very easy way to create bookmarks for each POI in an Excel list was because my initial approach was to create clickable bookmarks that worked with any browser. Groups of bookmarks can easily be organized into folders as desired.

But I soon realized I would want more info than just the place name (i.e.: the bookmark name)

Vivaldi (a relatively new chrome-based browser) has an integrated notation feature for its bookmarks. But it appears to be intended for people to create those notes manually as they do research online. I haven't used Vivaldi much, so I don't know if there's a way to import notes that already exist in POI list files like I'm working with.
Ken in Regina
@GoneNomad, you posted your last note exactly as I posted one about Google Maps. In case you missed it you might want to scroll back up a bit and check just to be sure.

Ken in Regina
Something else that's handy when building something like a trip plan in OneNote is its linking feature. If one of your OneNote notebooks already contains existing detailed information about a motel, theatre, restaurant, or some other thing you want to include in your travel plan, you don't need to physically copy it into your travel plan page. You can simply add a link to the relevant bit of info.

You can actually do links in both directions. That is, if you're already looking at some info you want to include in the trip plan you can select the "add link to paragraph" (what an intuitive title!!!), then go to your trip plan and paste it into the appropriate spot. A link back to the original item will be created.

If you're on your trip plan page you can select the "Link" option and it will allow you to navigate to the relevant page and insert a link to it at the cursor location in your trip page.

In both cases it will insert a relevant name for the link or allow you to create your own name for the link.

Originally Posted by Ken in Regina
...Also, by the way, if I hit the "share" button and select to add it as an icon on the phone's home screen, then go tap that icon on the Android home screen, it opens the Google Maps app with the detailed route ready to navigate. It contains all 7 stops and displays the exact route as it was originally created.

I mention this because I think in one of your notes you said that if you did the "add to home screen" thing it only resulted in the final stop. Mine works exactly as you would expect/want it to with the complete detailed route ready to go.

I did "share" -> "add to home screen" several times, and in all cases when I later loaded the route into the GoogleMaps/Nav app, it only loaded the LAST step (the destination), but...

I should point out that the focus of my testing was to determine what google's various mapping components would do without a data connection. So it may be that data connection was turned off in all those cases where I only got the last step.

What I was looking for was to see what limitations there are when using the new multi-step routing and the improved offline map areas. All my apps are the newest versions, updated before testing.

I made a bunch of screencaptures of the testing I did on an Android tablet, but I haven't had time to upload them yet (they're still on the tablet).

I was going to post another article using them as illustrations, but actual life activities keep interceding

So in the meantime, here's how the testing went for me:

1. Planned several multi-step trips on desktop browser at
I verified that the work done in CANNOT be directly used for creating a navigable route in Getting a navigable route in requires manually re-selecting waypoints (one by one) already created in even though the map can be opened and viewed right there in
2. Saved the route URLs in several ways: text file to google drive, shared via email, etc.
2. Bookmarked the route URLs in a Win7 PC/desktop browser while signed into my Chrome account, bookmarks synchronized, which made them available on my tablet. Tested each of those bookmarks two ways on my Android device: opening the "desktop site" and opening the "Mobile site"
The "desktop site" shows all the steps, just as it did on the Win7 PC/desktop browser. But there's no option to launch the Android Maps app from the "desktop site" (even on an Android device).
The "Mobile site" shows ONLY the first three stops at the list at the top (which is odd because it is not possible in the "Mobile site" to CREATE a multi-stop trip). However all the stops are actually there, and can be seen at the bottom if you pull up on the (cleverly hidden) rollup at the bottom. The "Mobile site" has an option to launch the Android Maps/Nav app, and once you get THERE, all the stops show up, though only as Start, End and the number of stops between.

Starting a navigation saves that "trip" in the Map/Nav app. It shows up at the top of a list (all by itself) IF the data connection is off, but it can be navigated without a data connection, as can "saved places" or manually entered addresses.

With data off, the Map/Nav app won't work from a URL (even though the URL contains the Lat&Long data).

That and most (if not all) of the other methods of getting a new route into the Map/Nav app require a data connection. Whether clicking a link, or using a browser bookmark, what happens is that another app launches to make that happen: "Google Play Services"

Time after time I tested this, and with data connection turned off, the operational scheme (and the user's productivity) would grind to a halt, and all the user would see is the latest iteration of a wristwatch (a spinning ring thingy).

I'm going to go test the "share" -> "add to home screen" again to see if having data turned off was what made the difference between your experience and mine.

Thanks again for your input.

(as an aside, google's "simple" mapping product naming reminds me of George Foreman's "simple" child naming scheme: all his sons are named "George")
Ken in Regina
I found the problem. It is the data off condition. I've got two routes on the home screen on my tablet. When I first turned wifi off I got the error "Can't find route in offline data." when I tapped either of them.

I checked my offline data and of course I didn't have any because I have never downloaded any.

I downloaded the maximum size segment it would allow, just barely covering the shorter of the two routes. This time when I turned wifi off the shorter route worked exactly as expected but the longer route still got the error.

I downloaded a second maximum size segment to try to cover the rest of the longer route, turned wifi off and this time it is worked, too.

So you need to check your offline areas to see what's missing on the ones that don't work.

An interesting side note is that the offline areas I've download are massively *smaller* than it suggests after I make my selection.

Originally Posted by Ken in Regina
...check your offline areas to see what's missing on the ones that don't work.

An interesting side note is that the offline areas I've download are massively *smaller* than it suggests after I make my selection.

That could be it.

I downloaded offline map areas that "should" have been large enough to cover the entire trips. In fact, even though I didn't forget to download maps before starting my testing, after the first failure to load all waypoints, I checked the map area and enlarged it.

But I'll check it again.
All that time trying to use the URLs or bookmarks to start a trip, and time wasted while the device was trying to access a data connection that was turned off (ie: the "wheel was spinning") meant it was very late by the time I did all this.


BTW, in other testing, I've noticed the other big flaw in the scheme of using for trip planning: not only does it not allow enough "Saved Places" or effective or management of them, you cannot even USE them directly for route planning. And, even if it COULD be done, it would take THREE steps to get to that list from the "Route Planner" screen. FAIL!

No more than SIX "Saved Places" (Home, Work and only FOUR other "Saved Places"), nor ANY places that are bookmarked can be loaded directly into any point beyond the START of a route.

All other waypoints require either typing, or finding them in another browser window. At first I thought that also requires typing, but I found the same workaround works for this too: bookmarking the URL.
Example: Wherever you are, the following URL
Nearby Lowe's stores's
will show nearby Lowe's stores, like this:

Of course it's important to point out that google does not provide that capability. It's only available because google's URLs are pretty easy to "decode" meaning people like me can figure out a workaround (manually editing a URL so that it will work anywhere). As for the average user, forgetaboutit.

On balance, this is better than many mobile nav device alternatives (e.g.: CoPilot), which force you took look at EITHER a list OR a map. Here i can see both, and they are identified on the map, too.

I can chose one of these Lowes stores, like this:

(since Clicking on the "Directions" button:
starts a NEW route)...I cannot add it to a larger route plan, except by the workaround of copying & pasting the place name & address (a single line, thankfully) into the "route planner" and hoping it still finds the same Lowe's I found in the other browser tab.

It's important to remember that the people who need trip planning the most are often in areas they're totally unfamiliar with, meaning they don't know which POI is where by looking at a list (like many PNDs do). That's where good software should help. But what I see so far is that for busy travelers who need the info to be available "at their fingertips" and "at a glance" all the available tools still fall short.

I guess the answer is, google is all about SEARCHING, and it does not want to allow us to get anything done without SEARCHING for the tools we need to do the job!
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google-maps-result-2.png   google-maps-result-3.png   google-maps-your-places.png   google-search-lowes.jpg   google-select-lowes.jpg  

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Ken in Regina
Sorry, I should have been clearer what I meant by "massively smaller".

When selecting an area on the map to download for offline use you stretch the window, or pinch the map, until the window encompasses the area of the map you want to download. Or until you hit some limit, at which point the selected area will not expand any further.

At the point of maximum selection area, the download window contains a line that tells you it could take up to 1725 MB (or something like that) of local storage space and also tells you how much free space you have.

I downloaded two maximum size areas. In one case the offline storage is actually 78MB, in the other it's 128MB. That's a very long way from 1725MB!!

As for the actual coverage of the downloaded area versus what was covered in the selection area, it's actually better. In selecting the second download area to try to get the second route to work I know for certain that the western edge of the selection window was well short of the final destination. Perhaps as much as 150 km. It was short enough I expected to have to download a third area to catch the western end. But I turned off WiFi, tapped the home screen icon to test it, and to my surprise it worked.

Originally Posted by Ken in Regina
Sorry, I should have been clearer what I meant by "massively smaller".
Yep, right. I noticed that too. The download file size is always much smaller than the initial estimate/warning.

My recent frustration with / conflictedness about
(best data set, but they seem to want to force users to work too hard to use it)

brings to mind this alternative:

Works with Lat-Long or address data only (without place names).

Copy & Paste and BOOM there they are!

Directly imports spreadsheets too.

Looks like it may be gone soon.
Of course I'm sure the "replacement" will be better
Originally Posted by Ken in Regina
I found the problem. It is the data off condition...
So you need to check your offline areas to see what's missing on the ones that don't work...
OK, Last night I tested this again.

I was not able to duplicate the problem (only getting start & end, omitting all intermediary stops when using "Add route to home screen").

"Add route to home screen" saves the complete route even if data is turned off beforehand. It will even save a route with waypoints outside the downloaded offline map area, even with data off, as long as data was ON when the route was calculated. The GoogleMaps/Nav app just won't navigate those routes with data off (unless a larger map area is downloaded... which it actually prompts you to do in cases like this):

But I KNOW that some of the routes I "saved" on Friday night did omit the intermediary steps. Unfortunately I had already deleted them so I can't open them again now.

But there IS another problem, and I think that may be the real culprit.

Most of my testing involved using bookmarks to save routes planned on using Win7/Chrome browser. The GoogleMaps/Nav app cannot open Chrome bookmarks But that's not the case with bookmarks; they must be opened in a browser.*

Android/Chrome can open websites (including bookmarked routes) in two ways: desktop site or mobile site.

The desktop version of looks almost like it does in a Win7/Chrome browser, meaning that it has no capability to hand off to the GoogleMaps/Nav app.

The mobile version of looks different:

and it has the button at the right that will hand off the route to the GoogleMaps/Nav app.

Multi-step routes cannot be created using (mobile site). However (mobile site) WILL open multi-step routes created with (desktop site)

BUT (mobile site) does NOT handle multi-step routes correctly.

I had already noticed that only the FIRST THREE waypoints show up in the list at the top in (mobile site).

But that's not all. Deleting any ONE of those stops will also delete ALL stops subsequent to what was the third stop, and thereafter the route will be limited to only two stops in (mobile site).

Last night I discovered that ANY change made in (mobile site), apparently even if not involving the waypoints, will delete ALL BUT THE FIRST THREE waypoints!
And since only the FIRST THREE waypoints show up in the list at the top, the user may not even see this change (although the map does update). Here's a before & after:

To recap, I planned multi-step routes using (desktop site), bookmarked them (with bookmarks synced across all devices), and opened them using (mobile site) in order to get to here:

And I now think THAT is what is what caused the missing stops in routes subsequently saved from GoogleMaps/Nav app using "Add route to home screen."


My focus on bookmarks is because IMO the other methods (links in emails or text files) are more time consuming. But route URLs can be opened directly into the GoogleMaps/Nav app, because the Android OS allows the GoogleMaps/Nav app to be "associated" with that type of URL.

But that's not the case with bookmarks, even though the bookmarks have those same URLs in them.

It may be that OneNote would solve this problem too, providing an easier way to access the route URLs directly, without having to resort to sending emails or saving text files, while also allowing notations to be associated with those GoogleMaps/Nav-launchable URLs on the same OneNote "cards" that ultimately should be more useful than bookmarks anyway.

In all cases, though, a data connection is required to get route URLs into GoogleMaps/Nav, because google play service launches in the background to make that transfer. Still, that's not too bad.

* Although, now I'm wondering if the "Add route to home screen" is just another variation on the same URL scheme... meaning that it may be possible to convert routes into GoogleMaps/Nav app routes...
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tap-download-offline-directions....jpg   chrome-google.commaps-mobile-site-start-nav-button.jpg  
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