Revisiting the SpaceNavigator

Space NavigatorIt’s been more than three years since Frank introduced the SpaceNavigator to all of us, and I thought it was time to give it another look. I mentioned a few days ago (in the comments) that the iPhone version of Google Earth (with multi-touch control) was similar to using a SpaceNavigator when compared to the single-touch version on Google Android devices. After posting that, I thought I should explain what a SpaceNavigator actually is for those that don’t yet know.
In a nutshell, the SpaceNavigator is a 3D mouse. Rather than having to pan, then zoom, then pan a little more, then tilt, etc, you can do it all in one motion. You can zoom in, while panning, while tilting a little more, to really feel like you’re flying around the world. I’ve told many people that using the SpaceNavigator made Google Earth feel brand new again.
You can get a pretty good idea of what it can do by watching this video that Frank made a while ago that showed off some of the basic features of it:

You can also check out his review of Disney World 3D, which was done using the SpaceNavigator:

To be honest, I expected that we’d see some competition to the SpaceNavigator by now. A year after it came out, Sandio released their “3D O2 mouse”, which was supposed to be even better — you could use it as a mouse, but it also had various 3D control sticks on it. However, it was a piece of junk and the SpaceNavigator remained king.
Here we are three years later and I still use mine every day. It’s a wonderful tool, and Google Earth simply wouldn’t be the same without it. It works for Windows and Mac, and you can pick one up at the 3DConnexion online store, or at a handful of specialty retailers.

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. Without a doubt the best USB peripheral I’ve ever purchased. I thought it was an extravagance at the time – but 4 years later I can’t bear to use GE without it.

  2. I still absolutely love mine! I forgot to bring it home with me last night and tried to use Google Earth without, but felt lost, like I was using completely the wrong tools for the job… I could only take it for a few minutes…
    One of very few peripherals I’ve purchased that years later I’m still quite happy with.

  3. Wow, has it been three years?
    Time flies when you work in the salt mines.

  4. van Dinther says:

    I only have one for a few months. A very nice device but it remains difficult to use for smooth tour recording. It only takes a small twitch to stuff it up. In Sketchup it is simply impossible to use in my opinion. Why can’t it work the same as in Google Earth I don’t know.
    I want to pitch my “Places” control system again here which you can try on my site Here you can almost do the same and in some ways better than Space Navigator with only a keyboard and mouse.
    I just wish the Space Navigator driver would incorporate simulated inertia so you can do smoother movements without sudden jerks.

  5. Too sad that the Linux version of google earth still does not support the space navigator. For some reasons the google earth linux team seems to completely ignore the requests for support, although there are drivers available.

  6. It’s unfortunate the device works only on a limited number of [very specialized] applications. With the gaming industry being a 12-billion dollar market (2008), it might be a good idea to create drivers/devices for strategy, RPG, or flight-sim games, where moving in a 3D plane is 90% of the action.

  7. regarding the french version comment at 1:22 in the video: the song starts french but at 1:51 it switches to italian, then from 2:22 it is spanish and from 2:55 on it is german. thought you should know

  8. With the freeware “SpacemouseCursorTool” you can even use the SpaceNavigator in every other software, which is controlled by keys, to navigate with it. With this I use the SpaceNavigator to handle “Celestia”, a freeware 3D space simulation software, or navigate through videos in my video editing software.

  9. Is there a way to use the spacenavigator with google earth plug-in into google maps???

  10. You can use spacenavgitor in google map app. As i recall on a space museum they thought it on how to use it by using a certain program.Overall of this article is great because it tackled on how the space navigator can be done.

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