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Distance Calculators: How They Work and How to Use Them

Distance calculators are tools that calculate the distance that lies between at least two points on the map. You can change distance unit – miles, meters or kilometers – as you prefer. Usually, you can just type in the names of the places whose distance from each other you’d like to know, and then click some button to show results. Postcodes and addresses could be used too.

How Distance Calculators Work

As you click the search button, a search will be run to locate the place you are referring to. First, a search will be done on an internal list of common locations. If there is no match, the Google Maps API GlocalSearch feature will now be used. If you still get no results, then you will have to click the specific location of the area on the map. This will allow you determine the distance between the two points, and the location will be saved in the internal database so that it can be located when someone 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 used by any geoprocessing tool that calculates distance.

Distance measurements are most exact when the input data is in an equidistance projected coordinate system. Although distance calculations can always be done no matter the coordinate system used, the results can be inaccurate or even insignificant when data is in a geographic coordinate system or a wrongly selected projected coordinate system.

Important Considerations

A lot of features could be equally closest to the next feature. If this occurs, any of the equally closest features can be indiscriminately chosen as the closest. If one feature contains or is contained in another feature, their is zero. The distance between two features is given as zero if at least one x,y coordinate is shared between them.

Therefore, when two features cross, intersect, touch or overlap, the distance is zero. Distance is always measured to the boundary of a polygon feature, rather than to the center. As indicated earlier, if a feature is entirely inside a polygon, their distance is zero. The distance that lies between two features of any kind, is always the same no matter which one of them is 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. But there are three basic rules that dictate how distance is calculated. First, the distance between two points is the straight line bridging the points. Second, distance from a point to a line is either the closest or the perpendicular vertex. Lastly, polyline distances are determined by segment vertices.