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Practical Tips on Using Google Earth

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A few days ago, we talked about how you can you can virtually travel the world from your couch through the updated Google Earth and Street View. But, if you’re a newbie and are not familiar with these applications, how exactly can you use them to find what you’re looking for?

Using Google Earth and Street View can be intimidating at first, but it becomes fun and enjoyable once you master them. We’ve created this guide to help you get started.

What You’ll See

Google Earth used to be a desktop program, meaning you had to download and install it in your computer. Google has recently revamped it so you can now access the program on your web browser. The web application only works on Google Chrome, though, so you’ll need to download the browser before you can do anything.

Once you have Chrome, open it and go to google.com/earth. When you’re on the site, you have two choices: browse around on your own or go on a Google-curated virtual trip. (Think of it as choosing between independent travel and packaged tours.)

If you have a specific destination in mind, you’ll want to choose the first option. Click on the “Launch Google Earth button” to access the main interface. If it’s your first time to visit the website, you’ll be treated to an introduction to Google Earth, which gives short descriptions of the site’s search function, Knowledge Cards, 3D view, Voyager adventures, and the “I’m Feeling Lucky” option. Hit the “Skip” button if you already know all of these or just want to get right down to business.

After viewing the introduction or clicking on “Skip”, you’ll be taken to the main interface. The left side of the screen shows the main menu, which contains the buttons for search, Voyager, and “I’m Feeling Lucky” as well as buttons for sharing and saving your favorite places. The right side of the screen, on the other hand, shows a bunch of options for Street View, 3D, zoom-ins, zoom-outs, and other things.

Navigation Basics and Shortcuts

The settings and options for the new Google Earth are highly intuitive. Whether or not you’ve used Google Earth before the latest update was released, you’ll have no trouble finding your way around the new web application. You can use the following tricks to easily navigate to your desired places:

  • Click and drag on the screen to move up and down, left to right.
  • Do a double left click to zoom in and a double right click to zoom out. Scrolling up and down using your mouse’s scroll wheel also lets you zoom in and zoom out of the screen, respectively.
  • Take advantage of keyboard shortcuts. For instance, you can press the space bar to stop the earth from revolving, press O to switch between 2D and 3D views, and press N to see the north-up view of the area. Pressing the slash key (“/”) brings up the search bar, so you won’t have to press so many buttons to do a search.
  • Hold down the Shift key then click and drag on the screen to change the tilt of the screen, and hold the Ctrl key and click and drag to change the viewing angle. These are greatly helpful if you’re driving from north to south and need to see a north-to-south view, or if you simply want to see how a place looks like from a different angle. Don’t panic if you make a mistake; you can simply click on the compass button on the lower right part of the screen to bring back the original tilt level and viewing angle.

Use these tips to make the most of Google Earth and take a look at our previous post on Google Earth and Street View.