Setting Up Google Earth Options

This blog entry describes some tips on how to set up your Google Earth 4 options (“Preferences” on the Mac). If you are still using GE 3 this earlier blog entry covers the same topic, but I recommend you upgrade to GE 4. If you click on the “Google Earth Tips” category of this blog you’ll find many other tips for improving your experience with GE. Or, check out the “Basics” page for a list of stories covering the basics for using GE.
To get to the GE options, select the menu “Tools -> Options” (or “Google Earth -> Preferences” on the Mac). This opens a window of options with the following panes: 3D View, Cache, Touring, Navigation, General.

Here are my recommendations for each pane of the options:

  • 3D View
    • Set Detail Area->Large if you have a decent graphics card, and run your screen at higher resolutions, this will improve visual detail as more of your window will be in full detail. Better for taking screenshots as well.
    • Try adjusting your fonts so the labels are readable, but not too distracting while browsing in GE.
    • If you use Google Earth to look at mountains, try setting Elevation Exaggeration to 1.5 or higher. This makes the 3D terrain have exaggerated heights. A setting of 2.0 would be twice as high. NOTE: the “Terrain” layer must be selected to see 3D terrain. Also, it is best to return the exaggeration to 1 if you are loading 3D buildings as they are sometimes set up with the default terrain setting.
    • I suggest you adjust the Overview Map size to what works for your screen size (tip: use Control-M (or Apple-M on the Mac) to bring up Overview Map in GE)
    • For other graphics performance tips:see this blog entry.
  • Cache
    • GE 4 automatically optimizes this setting. You can adjust it, but I recommend leaving it alone unless you change the amount of memory on your system.
    • If you can afford the disk space, set your disk space cache to 2000 MB (2GB) – the maximum you can use – this will mean less downloading when viewing the same locations. Also, you can use GE offline better.
  • Touring
    • Set the Fly-to/Tour Speed to a faster speed if you use GE a lot. This means you will fly more quickly when you double click or search for a location.
    • The Driving Directions Tour Options allow you to change the default camera view, speed, range, and angle while doing a flying tour of your driving directions.
  • Navigation
    • Mouse Wheel Settings – I recommend adjusting the speed of the mouse wheel setting which will increase your control for zooming up and down in GE.
    • You can also invert the mouse wheel direction so it makes sense for you whether forward or backward zooms you down/up.
  • General
    • Click “Show web results in external broswer” if you want (or don’t want) to use an external browser when clicking on a link in a placemark description.

Now, go enjoy an improved experience with Google Earth 4!

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. Any way of setting up your right click to tilt instead of zoom? That would be really helpful since my scroll wheel already zooms.

  2. Actually, you can click and hold your mouse-wheel and it will tilt dynamically. That’s one of my favorite features.

  3. Also zooming with the right click is much more sensitive than zooming with the scroll wheel, regardless which speed you assigend to the mouse wheel. For all the zooming pleasure you need 😉

  4. i just want to ask tht how can i add a google earth communtiy mark?

  5. I am an absolute beginner in using GE. In my sidebar, I don’t have a “layer” listing. What can I do to restore this to my sidebar? TOM

  6. “Actually, you can click and hold your mouse-wheel and it will tilt dynamically” -yes. But there´s an issue with it. Ive got 2 computers. One has this option and the other doesn´t have it (Vista), although these are both the latest versions. Where are the options for it?

  7. Hi,
    I was on the NASA site and clicked on what I thought was to be an image called The Blue Marble. Since then my Google Earth is in what appears to be a night time / city lights mode and for the life of me can’t find a way to revert to normal daylight imagery.
    Any tips otherwise I will have to blow it away and reinstall the program which will loose some of the other cool things I have.

  8. How do I get rid of “map disclaimers” and similar boxes that are overlaid on my google earth?? These are from a prior visit of looking at the east coast of US. They are taking up a large portion of my view now, and I can’t seem to get rid of them even after loading the new version… Thanks, Bob

  9. Stanley Raw says:

    Hey my Google earth seems to be having problems, there is BLACK box shapes all over the space i’m viewing…no matter where in the world it is, ad when i re-zoom out to the entire earth view, half of the world (Eaeth Ball) seems to be black and missing??
    Is it my computer or the program, i have downloaded the google earth program 3 times to try and fix it…but still no luck
    regards Stanley Raw JR from South Africa

  10. Just wondering if you can tell me how you go about taking off an overlay. I am a Jimmy Buffet fan, but whenever I use Google EArth his Summerzcool banner shows up in the left. How do I take this off?

  11. I have installed google earth 5.0. i am getting one problem..
    Whenever i am trying to zoom any hills… mountain.. it not showing.. tilt… like …. tall. its looks flat… only… is there any option to see it as a real mountain / hills.. look.
    gadhvi ramesh

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