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Distance Calculators: How They Work and How to Use Them

Distance calculators are instruments that calculate the distance that separates two or more points on the map. You can change distance unit – miles, meters or kilometers – as you prefer. You can typically just type in the names of the places whose distance you’d like to find out, and then click a button in order to get results. Postcodes and addresses may be used as well.

How Distance Calculators Work

Once you click the search button, a search will be performed to look for the place you have indicated. First, a search will be done on an internal list of common locations. If this isn’t fruitful, a search will be done using Google Maps API GlocalSearch. If you still get no results, then you will have to click the specific location of the area on the map. This will show you the distance between the two points, and the location will also be stored in the internal database so that it can be located when somebody searches for it in the future.
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The moment a result is displayed, you can get the URL so you can go back to it for your own reference, or the reference of a friend or relative who might need it.
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How Distance Is Determined

The shortest separation between any two features is the distance between them, in which they are closest to each other. This logic is employed by any geoprocessing tool calculating distance.

If input data is in an equidistance projected coordinate system, distance measurements can be most accurate. Though distance calculations can be done anytime regardless of coordinate system, the results may lack accuracy or may even be meaningless when the data is in a geographic coordinate system or an incorrectly chosen projected coordinate system.

Significant Considerations

Several features can be equally closest to another feature. When this happens, one of the equally closest features is arbitrarily picked as the closest. When a feature contains or is contained in another feature, their distance is automatically zero. The distance between two features is given as zero if at least one x,y coordinate is shared between them.

Thus, distance is zero when between two overlapping, intersecting, touching or crossing features. Always, distance is calculated to the outer edges of a polygon feature, and not to the center. As indicated earlier, if a feature is entirely inside a polygon, their distance is zero. The distance between any two features remains the same regardless of the one being measured to and from.

Basic Distance-finding Operations

Distance calculations are dependent on the features’ geometry type, as well as on other factors such as the coordinate system. However, three basic rules dictate how distance will be calculated. First, the distance between two points is the straight line bridging the points. Second, distance from one point to one line can be the perpendicular vertex or the closest vertex. Third and last, segment vertices determine the distance between polylines.