Google Earth

You may remember two weeks ago that I reviewed the Google Maps website and got quite excited about the satellite imagery contained with allowed you to type in a place name and zoom right in to view it from space.I was aware at the time of a new program on the horizon called Google Earth which is currently in beta (testing) format but since Google weren’t at the time allowing any new users to download the software I was unable to review it.This has now changed as the new beta version of Google Earth is now back online and free for all to download so it seemed appropriate that I should feature this extraordinary program in Click this week.

Whilst the Google Maps website allowed you to view satellite images with ease the website wasn’t laden with features which is understandable when you consider that it was just an Internet site and hence the programming that could be integrated into it was very limited.Google Earth addresses this issue by providing a fully featured piece of software that is downloaded on your machine to manipulate these satellite images with ease.

Once you’ve downloaded the 10mb file from http://earth.google.com and installed the software on to your computer you start with a picture of the Earth zoomed out as if viewing it from space.From here you can either drag the globe to rotate it and then zoom in manually or just type in a place name and the globe automatically rotates and zooms until you are sat looking at the place in question at street level.It is important to note that when you zoom in that the view doesn’t change in set stages but you can smoothly zoom in foot by foot from several thousand miles above the Earths surface to several feet from ground level.The ability to use your mouse to rotate the earth and then to zoom in to any place you fancy is surprisingly good fun and you’re not limited to just looking at the USA and the UK – any country you choose can be explored right from your desktop.The search bar allows you to type in countries, cities, postcodes or places of interest which the program will then automatically locate for you.

It is worth bearing in mind that the detail of the images vary depending on where you are looking at; for example if you pick an obscure place in the North pole to zoom up close on then the detail won’t be as good as if you were to pick the middle of New York City, the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls.Certain areas have also special content available for them; for example major US cities can be viewed with 3D buildings, and the Grand Canyon can be viewed in a fully rendered 3D world.

The layers function allows you to impose specific data on to the landscape; for example you can have roads marked out on the satellite images or to have various buildings and facilities marked out for you.One nice feature was the webcam layer setting which highlights areas that have a webcam available so if you’re flying around London then you can click on one of these cameras to see a live feed of the area in question.

The program also includes a route finder so that you can enter a starting point and destination which Google will then plot for you on the satellite image and give you written directions.

I’m finding it quite difficult to explain this program in words as a review such as this should really be accompanied by pictures but since this isn’t possible I recommend that you get online and download it for yourself.The initial download is only small however it should be noted that you will require broadband in order to use the program – this is understandable as obviously dial up was not really designed for downloading high resolution satellite images.In addition you will need a fairly powerful PC as some of the calculations this program is required to perform are quite intensive.Head to http://earth.google.com/ for the free download and do bear in mind when using the program that it is not yet fully completed and so the finished version should be even more impressive.

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

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