Try Google Earth: A Magnificent Satellite View of the World

What Is Google Earth?

A man stands near a Google Earth exhibit at Google's Washington headquarters

 Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Have you ever wondered how your neighborhood looks when viewed from a plane? Perhaps you have seen an aerial map of your town at the local library, or spotted your house from the basket of the balloon ride? The view from up there can be spectacular but what do you do if you're not too crazy about heights?

Use Google Earth

Google Earth — brought to you by the talented folks at Google — is a 3D interface to viewing our planet. It combines satellite imagery, maps and the power of Google Search to put the world's geographic photography right on your computer's desktop.

How Google Earth Works

Google Earth is easy to use, informative, and well presented. By entering even a partial address in Google Earth search box, you can zoom into a specific satellite photo of almost any spot on Earth. You can find a business, get directions to a party, or even see what your next vacation resort looks like from above. You can search for schools, hospitals, hotels, restaurants, parks and another point of interest. By merely entering the name of an exotic destination into Google Earth's search, you can take a virtual trip to it. The program even lets you customize the view by tilting it at the angle you specify.

The Google team has also created an overlay of images of the impact of Hurricanes Rita, Katrina, and others collected by National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and provided an updated damage assessment file and a listing of Red Cross shelters. The recent addition also includes Google Earth KML files that show updated Pakistan earthquake-area imagery.

4 Versions of Google Earth Available for Download

Google Earth's versions — Free Version, Google Earth Plus, Google Earth Pro, and Google Earth Enterprise Solutions — are tailored to specific needs. Learn more about the four available versions of Google Earth below.

Google Earth (Free Version)

 This basic, yet feature-laden version will enable you to explore, search and discover all the nooks and crannies of your neighborhood, your city, or your planet. High-resolution detail of places around the world will astound you. Local searches will show, in 3D, the parks, schools, hospitals, airports, hotels, businesses, shopping, and more. You can even check out the location for your next apartment hunt right from the comfort of your Lazy Boy by zooming into a specific address. Planning your next trip couldn't be easier; all you need to do is feed the Google Earth program some details of your trip's start and end points, and you can see the detailed driving directions, or even fly along your route. An excellent program for any student to provide instant help with their geography homework!

Google Earth Plus

This is an optional, upgraded version of Google Earth. On top of the "basics" provided by the free version, Google Earth Plus also enables you to plug in your GPS to plan and see your travel routes. If you are in the market for a house, you can import the spreadsheet of the listings right into the program! Google Earth Plus will also let you get higher resolution prints, do your own annotations, and import data from .CSV files! All that, plus customer support via email for only $20 USD.

Google Earth Pro

If you are using Google Earth for business, this is your ultimate research, presentation, and collaboration tool for location information. With Google Earth Pro, you can see high-resolution 3D imagery of any location on the planet, import site plans, design sketches and even scanned blueprints. Add your own annotations, and even import your geo data spreadsheets with up to 2,500 locations all at once!

Some very interesting optional components even let you make movies of your zooms and tours, print gigantic high-resolution images, and import various GIS, traffic, or shopping data.

Google Earth Enterprise Solution

This version of Google Earth provides an invaluable professional tool for any business, large or small, that deals heavily with geographical information. A fast, complete and flexible, the Enterprise Solution makes it easy for non-specialist users to interact with massive quantities of satellite imagery and GIS data. Google Earth Enterprise Solutions comprises of very specialized components, key features and solutions to provide a first-rate business application capable of handling terabytes of geographical data to commercial real estate developers, architecture and engineering companies, insurance companies and media.