There’s a new Google Earth in town and it’s quite an upgrade over its predecessor. Even if you haven’t spent much time with it, you’ve probably at least heard of it.
Google Earth is a geobrowser, a virtual globe if you will, a way to explore our planet through the window of your computer. It’s the modern, high-tech version of the old-style globes that sit in classrooms or hang around as decor in your living room.
Google Earth combines satellite imagery with maps and 3D representations of buildings and landscapes to take you from a wide view of the whole planet on down to detailed views of mountains, valleys and cities.
The biggest change to the new generation of Google Earth is that it will now run in your Chrome browser and doesn’t require downloading a separate software program. This is a huge step up in convenience, but you might be tempted to let your productivity languish as you spend time exploring its beautiful vision of our planet.
“With the new Earth, we want to open up different lenses for you to see the world and learn a bit about how it all fits together; to open your mind with new stories while giving you a new perspective on the locations and experiences you cherish,” Google said in its announcement of the revamped virtual globe.
Put some direction into your Google Earth wanderings with the new Voyager feature. Voyager offers a set of virtual journeys grouped by themes like “World’s Most Dramatic Mountains,” “Unusual Lakes,” and “Explore Paris.” These curated collections include commentary from local experts and help to put a vast amount of information available on Google Earth in context.
Some of the voyages also include videos. “Beautiful Birds-of-Paradise,” for example, features a video introduction from famed naturalist and television presenter Sir David Attenborough along with a series of videos showing the exotic birds’ fascinating behavior. You can access Voyager by clicking on the icon shaped like a ship’s wheel found along the left side of the Google Earth window.
Roll the dice
If you’re just looking to spend some time on Google Earth and you don’t care what you explore, then the “I’m Feeling Lucky” feature (symbolized by a classic die) is for you. You may end up in a small, urban park in India, at an amusement park in Sweden, or visit Mayan ruins in Honduras. No matter where you land on the globe, it will be interesting.
See in 3D
A 3D option (found in the lower right-hand corner) flips your view of Google Earth to make the landscape pop in 3D. It gives you a stunning new perspective on the world. Craggy mountains rise up and landmarks like the Eiffel Tower stand tall over their urban landscapes.
For a real treat, check out Grand Canyon National Park in 3D. You will also find the icon for the “Fly to your location” feature near the 3D switch. Click on this, allow the browser to use your current location, and fly along like a spacecraft coming down from orbit as you zoom from a broad perspective on the planet down to a 3D view of where you are now.
Business as usual
The new features are a lot of fun, but you can still use Google Earth in the usual ways. The very capable search function is a good starting point.
You can look up locations based on city names, country names, and street names, or by landmarks or business names, just like with regular Google Maps. The person-shaped icon in the lower right corner will put you into Street View for a close-up, ground-level look at the area. This can be a great way to orient yourself before you visit a new place.
You can hold the latest Google Earth in your hands with a fresh Android app that incorporates the new features, including 3D views and “I’m Feeling Lucky.” The regular downloadable Google Earth application will continue to work as normal, but Google will also be spreading the love soon to other major web browsers besides Chrome.
Links to use Google Earth:
Google Earth is free for everyone. There are several ways to use it.