At the top of Google Maps are a few buttons that change how Google Maps looks and operates. To understand what these buttons do, we are going to skip over the "Street View" and "Traffic" buttons and concentrate on the three connected buttons, "Map", "Satellite", and "Terrain". Don't worry, we'll come back to the other two buttons.
These buttons modify how Google Maps appears:
Map. This button puts Google Maps in "map" view, which is the default view. This view is similar to a street map. It has a gray background. Small roads are colored white, larger roads are yellow, and major highways and interstates are colored orange.
Satellite. This button paints Google Maps with a Satellite overlay which allows you to see the area as it is seen from above. In this mode, you can zoom in until you can make out individual houses.
Terrain. This button highlights differences in terrain. It can be used to determine whether an area is flat or rocky. This can also give an interesting view when zooming into a mountainous area.
These buttons modify how Google Maps acts:
Traffic. The traffic button is very handy for those who have a commute that is often delayed because of slow-moving traffic. This view is for zooming into a street-level view so that you can see how traffic is doing. Roads that are moving well are highlighted in green, while roads that are experience traffic issues are highlighted in red.
Street View. This is a very interesting and even entertaining way to use Google Maps, but it is a little more difficult to navigate. This view will give you a view of the street as if you were standing in the middle of it. This is accomplished by zooming into a street-level view and then using drag-and-drop to move the little man to the street you want to see.
Note that street view will only work on streets that are highlighted in blue.