GEB takes an expert look at the new features in Google Earth 6. We have had a chance to play with some of the powerful new features and content. And we have a few important tips and observations to share.
As you know, Google Earth 6 was just released and has some amazing new features. The major focus of this release is focused on the “Ground-Level View”. As you approach the ground, Google Earth 6 will automatically shift you into Ground-Level mode, which provides a great way for you to browse around while anchored to the ground. (That’s the default behavior anyway – more on this later.)
This enhanced realism (3D trees, better handling of close-up 3D views – first released in 5.2) from the ground-level is a great addition to Google Earth, so Frank and I have been testing the new release. Keep eading for GEB’s observations and tips.
Getting to Ground-Level
By default, you can simply zoom into the Earth and it will automatically switch you to Ground-Level View, as seen in the image above. The Ground-Level mode is a whole new experience in Google Earth. It provides a new way to see all the 3D data Google, and millions of SketchUp modelers, have been adding in to Google Earth. We’ll talk more about how to move around next – and then we’ll have tips for experienced users to combine the best of the old ways of using Google Earth with this new feature. And, there’s an even faster way to get to Ground-Level in our tips below.
To exit Ground-Level, simply click the “Exit ground-level view” button located in the top-right corner of your screen.
Moving Around on the Ground
Once you’re in Ground-Level mode, you have a variety of ways in which you can move around. Those of you who love your Space Navigator will find it is disabled while you’re in this mode (but, read on for a solution!).
Mouse: You can use the scroll wheel on your mouse to “drive” and you can click/drag to move the view around and change directions. You can double-click on any location in front of you to fly directly there.
Keyboard: Use the arrow keys to drive around. If you use the Page Up key, you’ll go faster (or Page Down to slow down). Hold [ALT] with the arrow keys to move more slowly. Hold [CTRL] (or “Command” on Mac) and up/down arrows to tilt your view.
Tips for Experienced GE Users
Experienced GE users may find it annoying that, out-of-the-box, you can’t zoom with GE 6 close into high-res imagery like you’re used to. That’s because you’ll get switched to Ground-Level mode before you can get close enough. You can go to Tools > Options (or “Preferences” on Mac) and choose the “Navigation” tab. On the right you’ll see three options. Choose either of the top two to disable the automatic Ground-Level entry. Leaving the Ground-Level mode also enables you to fly close in with the Space Navigator as well (if you have one). I think most experienced GE users will want to change to one of these options. Especially with the tip below.
Now it seems you have a new problem — how do you get into Ground-Level mode? No worries. Just grab the Street View Peg-man with your mouse from the navigation controls and drop him into your view. If Street View imagery is available in that area, you’ll go to that mode (you can toggle back to 3D mode by using the controls in the top-right corner). If no Street View imagery is available, you’ll simply go to Ground-Level View. This tip makes it fast and easy to zoom straight into Ground-Level mode any time.
The same controls work in Street View mode, and it’s great! Being able to “drive” in Street View is an excellent experience. Much better even than with Google Maps.
The one downside is that you essentially lose the “zoom” feature that you’re used to with Street View imagery. The up arrow will somewhat zoom into buildings, but it’s not nearly the freedom you have when you’re in Google Maps. Hopefully, Google will fix this missing feature before GE 6 leaves beta. Bring back the zoom Google!
Another neat thing to do is to compare the Street View imagery with the 3D view (using the selector in the upper right). Its especially cool to compare the new auto-generated 3D trees to the reality of a Street View image. We’re getting a lot closer to reality in the virtual globe world!
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.