Google Earth

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Google Earth blew away a lot of people when it was released in 2005. Google Earth is a virtual globe program which maps the earth by the superimposition of images obtained from satellite imagery, aerial photography, GIS and DEM (digital elevation maps) onto a 3D globe.

This information might be outdated now, but in 2013 there were three version of Google Earth:

  • Google Earth Free - free - can explore navigate & take snapshots. (download here)
  • Google Earth Plus - $20 US/year - includes GPS device support, faster performance, the ability to import spreadsheets.
  • Google Earth Pro - $400 US/year - includes movie & advanced mapping support - intended for commercial use.

Navigation Controls


  • Left - hold and pan
  • Right - hole and zoom
  • Middle - hold and tilt/rotate
  • Mouse wheel - zoom
  • Double click - quickly zooms in


  • +/- - zoom in/out
  • r - reset orientation (north)


At the top left you can search any street address or landmark or even get directions between two places. To save these to you drag the items into the "places" panel under "my places".

Adding Content

Not just anyone can add labels to Google Earth and then have them displayed for the world to see.

You can however add your own content which is saved locally using Keyhole Markup Language (KML). On the top bar the icons can be used to add a "placemark", "polygon", "path" or "overlay images".... and these can then be organized into folders in the left side bar. You can right click to edit items or folders. To save a particular folder (eg: "America Trip") to send to a friend just right click and "save as" (using a .kmz extension).

To add a photo you can try the overlay image (adds a floating image to face the camera at your current position), but you can also add a photo to one of your placemarks. Placemarks support HTML code, so to add a photo you can add image tags... for example:

<img src="C:/Temp/me_in_germany.jpg"> <i>me in germany</i>

Taking a Tour

To take a tour, click to select a folder (or route), and then click the play button (take tour). The tour goes between each place on the list. To change the speed of the tour go: Tools >> Options >> Touring and change the "tour speed". When you first look at Google Earth I'd highly recommend taking the "Sightseeing" tour - which takes you to many famous landmarks.

Making Movies

Using Google maps for presentations looks fantastic, but only if you have a very high speed Internet connection which can download map textures rapidly - if not you might consider making a movie (which you can then put into PowerPoint slides etc).

Only in the Pro version can you record high-resolution movies. If there was ANY computer company I'd pay $400 a year it would be Google, but since I don't have that kind of money, I needed another way.

A second approach to making movies is to use a third party video capturing tool like SnagIt for PC ($40), or Snapz for OSX ($70)..... and there are also various free video capturing you can try.

To make the video:

  1. Set up all your locations & content as you want.
  2. Rehearse what you want to a few times - this will help you figure out timings & put most of the textures you need into cache.
  3. You will probably need/want to change the "fly-to speed" and/or "tour speed" via : Tools >> Options >> Touring
  4. Specify the area to capture using the video capture tool and hit record
  5. Go through the tour
  6. Hit stop and save the movie file when done.

I've found that it can be VERY tricky making these movies - timing is immensely difficult to get right and not all textures fit in cache so you'll probably have to record at a much slower-than-desirable speed. To get around this you can open the movie in a program like QuickTime and drag the play bar manually when showing the movie... or to use an advanced movie editing program like Adobe Premier CS3. Another problem is that the quality recorded with most video capturing programs does not match the original quality on screen.