New Navigation Gadgets in Google Earth 4.3

The new navigation gadgets are a pretty big change from the previous versions of Google Earth. They are designed to help you realize the full potential of the 3D environment in Google Earth. Google has updated the Google Earth User Guide, and they have added the following video to help explain the new gadgets:

Here are some other tips for navigating:

  • Fast zoom – You can zoom in/out quickly by pressing the right mouse button and dragging up and down. NOTE: I find it annoying that the direction of motion is the opposite from the behavior of the zoom gadget (up is out, down is in for the mouse zoom).

  • CTRL arrow keys – you can move your view like with the “look around” gadget by pressing CTRL and using the arrow keys on your keyboard to move your view.

  • Middle Mouse Button – if you have a 3 button mouse, use your middle mouse button. Click and hold the middle button – you now get a marker for the place you clicked and you can hold the button down and use your mouse to tilt and rotate about that point. This is a little different than in previous versions of Google Earth, but it works quite well.

  • Reset your view – to get your self re-oriented quickly – click in the 3D window and then hit the “r” key on your keyboard. This resets to “straight-down, north-up” viewing.

  • New shortcuts – Here’s some other tips on shortcuts for navigating from the new user guide.

Also, read the official GE User Guide on navigation (as linked above).

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.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. Frank:
    1. I like the way the right mouse button zooms in/out. I think of my screen, at the top of the mouse pad, as the earth, and I’m either pushing myself away from it (moving the mouse up/toward the screen) or pulling myself toward it. What I don’t like is the default action of the wheel. I always turn on “Invert Mouse Wheel Zoom Direction” so that it matches the action I get with the right mouse button.
    2. Does the Middle Mouse Button you refer to behave the same as clicking the wheel? From your description of its action, I think it’s the same. My wheel-click action is the same as it’s always been. The only difference is that now there’s a “pivot point” displayed onscreen. When I don’t have my 3D Connexion, I’m always using my mouse wheel, rolling and click-moving it.

  2. Oops! I spoke too soon. The pivot point in this version (when you click the middle mouse button / wheel) does indeed work a bit differently. Before, the pivot point was the center of the screen. Now, the pivot point is where your mouse cursor (hand) is when you click that middle button.
    BTW, I always used a screen center crosshair overlay to show me where that pivot point was. The crosshair serves other purposes too, so I’ll keep using it.

  3. Thanks for the information. I think this way it is much more comfortable. Just my three mouse buttons and the CTRL key to do everything without once moving my cursor to navigation gadgets.

  4. And the zoom in/out have been relocated from the ctrl-arrow keys to PgUp/PgDn

  5. Frans Blok says

    I found it difficult in this new version to zoom to an exact altitude, in other words, to get a round number in the scale legend. I always did that with the slider in the upper right screen corner, but the new slider seems to also rotate the viewing angle when zooming in. Using the right mouse button is kind of an alternative but it asks for very delicate clicks, otherwise the view suddenly makes a big leap back.

  6. Frans Blok says

    Oops! I found out that in “options” you can easily turn off the “automatically tilt when zooming”-feature. Problem solved!

  7. MCBastos says

    I have a weird problem with the new controls: the mouse wheel in my mouse now behaves inconsistently. Most of the time it rotates the view, but now and then it will zoom in or out for a couple seconds. I really miss zooming with the scroll wheel, and I can’t find a way to lock the wheel into zooming. I don’t think it’s a problem with either my mouse or the driver, since it ONLY affects Google Earth — and only since version 4.3.

  8. juniperdude says

    I really dislike the new “middle mouse button” pivot point. I was VERY used to clicking on the upper or lower sections of the map, and rotating as I wanted.
    Now, everytime I click-and-hold, I end up rotating always the same way… or I have to do additional mouse moves to get it to rotate where I wanted (i.e. click, hold, go down, then rotate, etc..)
    Can we PLEASE make an option to disable this feature (options).
    – JuniperDude

  9. In the previous version of Google Earth I used to use CTRL and UP to zoom in. This feature is no longer available and I find it less comfortable to use the mouse or the page up/down keys instead.

  10. Well this explains why my Ctrl-arrow keys no longer zooms like I am used to. The other features seem good, however, I like having my pans, tilts and zooms all with the arrow keys. Instead now, I’m having to shift up to zoom in and out, and then back to the arrows for the tilts.
    I wish there was a way to customize it to default back to the way it was…

  11. Google Earth 4.2, which allows zooming with the up and down arrows (along with ctrl), can be downloaded at

  12. Bill Hays says

    How does one eliminate the crosshairs so a tour recording can be just the terrain view?

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.