10 Google Earth Tips for Power Users

Posted by Ryan Schaaf on

“Google Earth is a versatile program (or app) with numerous classroom applications. This free program will transport students out of the traditional brick and mortar school to explore far off places and locations. Teachers can assist students with mapping out the conquests of Alexander the Great, visiting the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, or visit the bottom of the ocean without the need of a parent permission slip. The list above identifies 10 tips teachers can leverage for a out of this world learning experience. ”

via Mashable
Google Earth is a free program that lets you explore the globe (and a few other parts of the galaxy) via satellite imagery. Street maps, terrain, 3D neighborhoods — you name it, Google Earth can show it to you.

But with the planet at your fingertips, it’s easy to miss some of the lesser-known features the program has to offer.

We compiled a list of tips and tricks that will help you get the most out of the program and make you a power user in a matter of minutes. Be warned, though: Google Earth can be very addicting. Between traveling back in time, exploring the ocean depths and flying around in an F-16 Viper, you’ll find it difficult to leave your screen and see the real world.

Before you embark on your Google Earth expedition, download the latest version of the program for free here.

1. Travel Through Time


One of Google Earth’s niftiest features is the option to view images of the world at different times. When looking at a particular location, check to see if there’s a date at the bottom-left of the screen (for example, “1943″). If you hover over the date, it says, “Click to see historical imagery from 1943.”After you click, drag the slider between the historical date and present day.

2. Measure Long Distances


Using Google Earth’s ruler tool, you can measure extremely long distances, whether it’s the length of New York City’s Central Park or the Grand Canyon.The ruler tool is in the menu at the top of the window. Once you have the tool open, draw a line between two points, and you’ll discover map length, ground length and more.

3. Use Layers


When it comes to Google Earth, it’s not just the world itself in which you can get lost; you can spend hours just playing with the various layers available. See city lights from NASA (pictured), view live weather systems, discover shipwrecks, find world heritage sites and much more.

4. Take or Create Guided Tours


Google Earth comes with pre-loaded guided tours, including its Sightseeing Tour, which takes you to Paris, Rio, Sydney and other famous cities. Find the Sightseeing Tour in the left-hand menu under “Places,” but you can also click “Tour Guide” in any location, and see the tours that are available in that area.

Pro tip: Make sure “3D Buildings” in the layers menu is checked to get the optimal view.Want to create a tour of your neighborhood or somewhere else you’ve visited? Click the video camera button at the top of the window, then press the record button that appears at the bottom of the screen, and explore with different angles and audio.

5. Use Flight Simulator


Why scroll when you can fly? Google Earth’s flight simulator lets you take off from your airport of choice and survey the world from the sky.Click “Tools” in the toolbar and select “Enter Flight Simulator,” then pick your aircraft of choice. You can use your own joystick, or find the keyboard controls here.Note that the keyboard controls are a little difficult to master (especially if you’re using a Mac), but once you get the hang of it, it’s as fun as any flight video game.

6. Create and View Maps


Google Earth works off of KML files for geographic visualizations and maps. You can create your own by adding placemarks, polygons, paths and images to any location. Then save and export it in order to share with others via Google Maps.Want to check out the maps that others have already created? Download some great examples here, and explore interesting sightings you may not have seen otherwise.

7. Build in 3D


Have you found locations without 3D capabilities? You can create your own buildings and even send them to Google for a chance to be featured, and it’s easier than you might think.Download Sketchup and use a digital camera for imagery. Check out Google’s own tutorial here.

8. Explore the Sea


About 70% of the earth is covered in water, so why limit exploration to land? You can travel the oceans by zooming in until you’re underwater, then use various layers to discover new things, like expeditions, dead zones and National Geographic facts.

9. Explore Space


Tired of Earth? Use Google Earth to explore constellations, the Moon and even Mars terrain. Click the planet icon in the menu at the top, choose among the sky, Moon and Mars, and live out your astronaut dreams.

10. Use Google Earth Offline


Google Earth is dependent on a good Internet connection, but you can cache 2GB of information for offline viewing. When visiting a certain area, look at the streaming indicator at the bottom right-hand corner of the program; when the indicator has reached 100%, Google Earth has loaded all the available information for that area, and you can disconnect from the Internet.While offline, you will only be able to see these areas on Google Earth.

Homepage image courtesy of Flickr, woodleywonderworks

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