If you’re wondering what Google Earth experts do to make things run faster or better, then read this article. This blog entry describes tips on how to set up your Google Earth 5 options (“Preferences” on the Mac). These options can greatly improve your experience with Google Earth by optimizing important graphics and data constraints, speeding up certain actions, or improving the quality of your views.
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 recommendations for each pane of the options (Read the Google Earth User Guide for settings not covered here):
3D View tab – You will have to restart Google Earth after applying most of these settings.
Anisotropic Filtering – This advanced graphics feature improves resolution when viewing 3D at an angle. Things at a distance will seem clearer. If you have a relatively new computer/graphics card you should try turning this setting to “medium”. If you have a gaming machine, you can probably use “High”. I recommend using this setting (at least at “Medium”) if your computer can do it, you will enjoy GE views even more.
Graphics Mode – For my Windows computer, OpenGL seems to give better results. However, depending on your graphics card, DirectX may do better. The primary difference is 3D update speed, and support for features such as antialiasing, and polylines.
Antialiasing – New to GE 5, this option lets you turn on antialiasing within GE which smooth jagged lines in the 3D views when viewed at an angle. You should only turn this feature on if your graphics card is new/powerful. Gaming machines can usually handle at least “medium” without impacting performance. Once you have it on, turn on a vector layer like “Roads” or “Borders” in GE. You should see a great improvement verses looking at them without anti-aliasing. It also improves the look for 3D buildings a great deal. Turn this on for screenshots.
Terrain Quality – this setting can be very important for graphics performance and realism. A higher setting of quality will improve the realism and detail of the 3D terrain. However, higher quality means more 3D rendering which will slow performance. If you have a faster / newer graphics card you can probably have a higher quality setting on all the time. If you want to take a screenshot, you might want to temporarily set this setting higher. If you have slower performance, you might want to check this setting and lower the quality level.
If you use Google Earth to look at mountains, try temporarily setting Elevation Exaggeration to 1.5 or higher (maximum of 3). 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 – otherwise 3D buildings and other features won’t work right.
Overview Map – I suggest you adjust the map size to what works for your screen size. The Zoom relation is handy – a smaller value has the zoom level more closely match your view. (tip: use Control-M (or Apple-M on the Mac) to bring up the Overview Map)
Memory Cache Size 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.
Disk Cache Size – If you can afford the disk space, set your disk space cache to 2000 MB (2GB) – the maximum GE will allow – this will mean less downloading when viewing the same locations. Also, you can use Google Earth offline better.
When creating a tour from a folder – You can “tour” a folder of placemarks. These settings effect the time between placemarks.
When creating a tour from a line – You can also tour a drawn line in GE. This lets you set the camera position relative to the line. Very handy for driving direction playback, or for guided tours.
When recording a tour – this setting lets you determine how much data is stored (size of resulting file) while recording motions in a “recorded tour“.
Fly-To Speed – 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.
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.
Automatically tilt while zooming – turn this off if you prefer the old GE behavior which would not tilt as you zoom closer to the Earth.
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!
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.