Introducing Google Earth 7

Google has just unveiled Google Earth 7, packed with great new features.
First, as promised, the new 3D Imagery” is now available on the desktop. As expected, the imagery looks amazing when viewed from above, but kind of messy when you zoom in tight. This is something that will certainly improve in future releases.
For example, here is a high view of Austin, TX:


Here is a lower-level view inside of Austin. Trees seem to have the most issues, but it varies quite a bit from area to area:

As a nice touch, Google allows you to disable the new 3D imagery if you’d prefer to view the older 3D models. To do that, go into [Tools] –> [Settings] and uncheck the box for “Use 3D Imagery” as shown here:

In addition to releasing this feature on the desktop they’ve unveiled fresh new 3D imagery for Avignon, France; Austin, Texas; Munich, Germany; Phoenix, Arizona; and Mannheim, Germany.
They’ve also added the tour guide, very similar to what we saw released on Android earlier in the year. It flies you through famous landmarks, offers stats and info from Wikipedia, and you’ll find quite a few to choose from. The tour guide can be enabled and disabled by using the [View] –> [Tour Guide] option in the menu bar.

All in all, it’s an awesome update. The tours are fun and the new 3D imagery is stunning — though it’s nice to be able to toggle the old imagery for close-up shots. Go download Google Earth 7 here and leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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.

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. On Octcober 31, 2012, Slovakia was added!!!

  2. When viewing 3D buildings in New York, The display driver stops working. Any solutions?

  3. I think it’s terrible that I now can’t disable terrain. It makes everything slower. Thank God I kept a copy of GE 6.

  4. New Imagery!!!!
    Goblin Valley SP, Utah

  5. Well, I don`t like the new auto generated 3D Buildings. I hope this technology will improve a lot!

  6. Stupid version … how can I switch of the 3D areal view? In v. 6.X it was possible to switch it of. Now I am forced to use it…

  7. If the 3D feature is bothering you, simply go to -> “tools”, then click on -> “options” and switch off the 3D feature. That should revert things to how they were in version 6 (prior to the upgrade). It’s that simple people; this is not nuclear science.
    The 3D does look messy (when zooming in too much) for the new cities. But if you notice, the 3D looks much cleaner for San Francisco than it was a couple of months ago. The 3D improved for San Francisco considerably, so that should be a sign of how much it will get better for the other cities too. 🙂

  8. Going back to GE6.2 immediately…
    Having terrain always on makes things messy and awfully slow. Specially as the new 3D imagery is only available in some metro areas.
    GE needs to have three 3D states:
    1- OFF – Plain 2D imagery
    2- Terrain only – 3D elevations and possible activation of old 3D buildings
    3- Terrain + 3D imagery – New style 3D buildings on 3D terrain.
    This seems to be Google playing catch-up with Apple on 3D buildings. But at least do it right.

  9. @MC – That’s the problem! Switching off 3D imagery in “Tools” -> “Options” doesn’t disable terrain elevation, but only the 3D buildings.
    That means that people that used overhead view 99% of the time, like myself, will have to wait for unnecessary terrain data to be loaded, and the end result is that the imagery gets “softer” due to the terrain mapping.

  10. I will do a rollback …

  11. @Andreas – It is always best to download it from Google…
    Uncheck “Include Google Chrome” and select “Advanced Setup”. That way you can get the 6.2 stable release installer (you can also include the updater and select the all user setup – recommended except in places where you don’t have admin rights).
    Google must think that we all have 100Mbps Internet data links and unlimited data plans. The same applies to “Pretty Earth” you download layers and layers of useless data when you zoom in and out.

  12. Terrain always on, 3D imagery in a few cities, tours of popular places … er … anything else in GE 7 ?
    Unless I am missing something, there seems little to gain from downloading lots more data in a land of low speed connections.

  13. Paul van Dinther says:

    Besides the fact that the new 3D data look awful. What is worse is that Google Earth Pro is crashing my PC as soon as I zoom in to San Francisco.
    Strangely enough, this does not happen with the free version.
    The plugin behaves erratically too while the new 3D data and the lack of building detection means half my applications on have been reduced to junk.
    Not even remotely happy with this release.

  14. How often will you be updating 3D Imagery?

  15. What a daft idea not being able to disable Terrain, going back to 6.2.

  16. I still can turn terrain off, it’s still in my Layers list to turn on or off.

  17. @Ben I don’t think so. You are sure that you use the 7? I checked again and it is impossible to switch of the 3D Layer for the Terrain.

  18. I don’t see any changes to the 3D Building content in the Google Earth web plugin, and the version code hasn’t changed from 6.x. Looks like changes affecting the Earth API are still to come…

  19. @Andreas – From About: “ (beta)”, Build Date: 10/29/2012
    I am using Pro, maybe it’s still there for pro for some reason.
    Anyone notice that the Disk Cache size still says that you are limited to 2000 mb file size, but it doesn’t give you the warning if you make it more like it used to? And in the local cache folder there is a new folder called: “unified_cache_leveldb_leveldb2”. I’m hoping this lets you cache more than 2 gigs. I’m trying to test it now.

  20. @Ben, it is a Pro only feature. Here’s Google’s answer to my question on terrain disabling:
    “If you have access to Google Earth Pro, you can turn off the Terrain option, since terrain is a standalone layer. We do this because many enterprise developers load and explore terrain data of their own that they don’t want confused with the terrain data that we provide.”
    So it’s there for GIS professionals.
    If someone else wants to join the discussion, follow it here:!category-topic/earth/pc/ABe_Rnm3wu0

  21. Jeez, some product launch… the main GE download site is still boasting about the New Features in “Google Earth 6”:

  22. Historical imagery became amiss work.
    I will do a rollback to version 6.2.2

  23. I can’t even get the new plugin to work on my computer (though it doesn’t sound like I’m missing much, from the comments here). I installed it, but it keeps saying in Chrome that the WebGL version crashed and they had to auto-revert me to the “Classic” version.
    I’m using Chrome on an i5-processor iMac, latest OSX.
    Why, oh why, Google, do you neglect and treat your plugin like a bastard stepchild? It is actually a gem in the GE product world. This obsessive “OMG MOBILE IS EVERYTHING” mania is really starting to harm some of your core, awesome products… like Google Earth.

  24. Historical imagery became amiss work.
    I will do a rollback to version 6.2.2

  25. One thing I don’t like is that it now forces you into crosshair zooming. By that I mean it zooms into where your mouse is located instead of simply the center of your screen. I have a tough time zooming where I want to.
    Also this prevents me from using a little trick where I could position my view near the ground while looking out and then right click/move the mouse. This allowed me to move straight up and down while looking over the landscape, kind of like a rocket perspective.
    With the forced crosshair I can no longer do this.
    Also it seems to reload the whole screen now when going into historical imagery mode or turning on and off 3d buildings. Slowly and annoyingly.

  26. Toni Laitinen says:

    At 37°47’5.04″N 122°23’11.35″W (San Fransisco) there’s a hole on the sea?

  27. Hi Mikey. Another issue of this last ver. is that SpaceNavigator doesn´t work. I´ve just updated the SN driver but it doesn´t work.

  28. Little Hack: type 0.01 as the value in the “Elevation Exaggeration” and you´ll have a flat world… =)

  29. @Gerardo – 0.01 is not 0. This means that all the elevation data is still downloaded and applied, albeit with a lighter effect.
    The terrain data must be completely off. Period!
    Google Earth history has been full of poor regressions, like:
    – Merge of GECommunity layers (a total mess nowadays)
    – Move of Street View from 360º perfect bubbles to a continuous but distorted view
    – Patched but data friendly Earth to “Pretty Earth”. You can still click the historical button and get a faster view, but low-res areas disappear and if you save a placemark then it gets a timestamp…
    – And now replacing beautiful 3D cities with less than perfect shaped buildings (a bit faster though) and making terrain permanent.
    I must agree with wookie… this mobile trend is ruining most software.

  30. Yes, AC, the mobile trend is ruining GE as many other software… so we have to be happy to still have Google ofering a desktop version of GE (I really thought 6 could be the last one)…
    The 0.01 works only to me ( I don´t use the mobile GE ver. je.. ) to take flat pictures in Photoshop for using as terrain textures. I need the terrain to be flat for that. And the 0.01 works. But you maybe right about the data downloading.

  31. The fact that they pushed the new 3D buildings to mobile before desktop shows Google’s priorities. They only embraced the new 3D modeling tech defensively, because Apple bought C3 Technologies. Google just wanted their new 3D buildings out before Apple launched their new maps for iPhone. So petty… and pointless in the end, since Apple stumbled pretty effectively on their own, didn’t they? So what was the point of the rush to get the feature out and simultaneously abandon Sketchup? It totally blindsided the entire 3D geo-modeling community. In doing this, Google has disaffected thousands of people who loved and used their products daily. Larry Page & Company have totally lost their minds in trying to “beat Apple” at everything. Careful, geniuses… in the rush to get customers, you’re losing real fans.

  32. Another new GE version rollout, another regression leaving scores of people disgruntled. This has become a pattern. The last time that a GE update did not break stuff, have longstanding features disabled, take something away from the users, put company policy over user experience and useability… must have been version 4 or somewhere in that timeframe. As far as coding quality, interface design, and decisionmaking processes are concerned, Google seems to have a serious problem in the GIS department, and a massive disconnect between developers and users. It’s sad to say that for the longest time now, a new GE version is no longer something to look forward to, because you can just bet that there’s going to be something that’s a major annoyance or simply plain broken. And chances are slim that it’s going to get fixed or improved or reverted, or even acknowledged.

  33. @ Wookie et al – couldn’t agree more with your comments on ‘mobile is everything’. I would never wan to use GE on a micro screen, but Google must have (wrongly) concluded that the money lies in guiding disoriented souls to Starbucks as they clutch their mobiles.
    It would be nice to read some reasoned explanations from Google, rather than the puff that launched GE 7, but on past form it seems unlikely.
    GE is stupendous product, don’t mess it up !

  34. Even on mobile there are issues. GE7 for Android is also a bit slower and most of the times it is better to just use the Google Maps app.
    It introduced 3D buildings and the 3D option disappared, so the tours now look poor unless you have a dual-core or quad-core tablet/phone (and even on some it is not supported).
    I have a simple 7″ ICS Android tablet, and 7.0.1 is also buggy, to a point it just crashes on startup. Like on the desktop I just had to revert to a previous version… (although I did sent Google pages and pages of debug data)
    They are seriously messing it up.

  35. Upgrade Fail. So many things went wrong with this upgrade, you would think Google didn’t have the money to invest. I agree with all the comments so far. The saddest part for me is that antialiasing changes are no longer an option. When looking at ‘legacy’ models, they are pixelated. I am on a free version right now, but would imagine this is on Pro as well. That means we can’t record high-quality videos any longer. I guess it’s back to 6.2.

  36. Some people like to complain way too much. Do these people even know how to live their lives anymore without complaining in excess? It begins to fall into the category of moaning. When things get emotional, which is the case with the disappointed “fans” of GE, people start to get irrational.
    So relax everyone. The new version of Google Earth does have nuisances but these things get fixed over the course of time. Don’t expect everything to work magically well from the first day.
    I hate it when people talk nonsense. Who says Google embraced 3D maps only when Apple announced their own? This technology was being tested way back in 2005 when Google Earth first became available FOR FEE to the public, but it was constantly delayed until the right time. Seven years later, I should think it’s the bloody right time for it to be introduced by now, and it’s got nothing to do with petty competition with either Apple or Microsoft.
    Be patient and things will get better. This is a revolutionary feature in mapping. Both Apple and Google will go through turbulent moments when first implementing 3D technology or any new technology in their programs, but that’s the fabric of the hi tech industry. Many big ideas start out with problems and eventually get better. In good time GE will improve and 3D technology will get better. Do people even remember the weird bugs that used to happen in GE back in 2005? But back then, nobody was complaining. Everyone was just grateful for the fact Google bought BBS Keyhole, which was not free and extremely expensive, and ended up making it free to everyone. Nobody was moaning. People simply reported the bugs and Google got them fixed, but today all we see is moaning left and right.
    As for bugs, glitches, etc, they’ve always existed in GE and they were always resolved in upgrades. I expect an upgrade for GE 7.0 to do the same thing.
    So just relax, it’s not like it’s a matter of life or death.

  37. Hi Mustache
    If no one complaints, then things won’t get fixed in the first place. I thing that’s rational, not emotional.
    As for bug fixing, not everything gets solved. Just look at the graphics issues (black patches when zoomed out)introduced in 6.2 (back in April) when everything was working ok in 6.1. Those unexpected regressions are what bothers users.
    As for being grateful for Google’s service offer, I believe that everyone truly is thankful that they bought Keyhole. But we can also look on another perspective and see that the free user base is also a beta tester group for new features and that leads to improvements on the paid Google Earth Pro. And you also get bombarded with ads in searches. Nothing comes free…
    Personally, what bothers me are not the bugs (you get used to them) but the regressions and feature removals. I would gladly pay a reasonable amount for some features, but since “Plus” was made free, the only step is the GIS professionals oriented Pro that is far too expensive for a home user.
    As for 3D, as I mentioned before, I couldn’t care less, as I use GE in flat 2D most of the time. But after criticizing Apple’s release of an app lacking in features, you would expect that a better effort would be made when presenting these auto generated 3D buildings. I would say this isn’t a beta, but an alpha version 7.
    A happy GE 6.2.2 user

  38. Hi AC,
    Yes I would also like to call it an alpha 7.0 version instead of a final version, which would perhaps explain why Google Earth’s homepage hasn’t mentioned the upgrade in full detail.
    If you only use Google Earth in 2D then good for you… More power to you. That’s the beauty of Google Earth. If some people don’t like the 3D auto-generated buildings, they can simply switch it off and use the old Sketchup 3D option instead. And if they don’t want both, they can simply turn off both of these options and just use Google Earth in 2-dimension, as you are doing.
    But for those who are moaning, they don’t appreciate the improvements that have already been made. I’ve personally monitored Google Earth since 3D was first introduced in June until now. The 3D has improved by 200% in the cities where the feature was first introduced. So there have been improvements on that aspect. It’s supposed to keep on getting better, that’s the whole point for these upgrades. It’s a matter of impatience by some complainants. Also, it’s way better than Apple’s 3D and I happened to use both. Apple’s 3D buildings look like some of the poor quality Sketchup buildings I made when I was a freshman. Embarrassing in comparison. Even so, I still trust that Apple (just like Google) will continue to work on improving their 3D feature and overall mapping experience / service. So it’s not all doom and gloom.
    And as for the bugs, I remember a number of problems with Google Earth freezing constantly in June. This problem is now obsolete from my own experience, but I can’t speak on behalf of others.
    So there are improvements being made.
    The thing that bothers me is the moaning. There’s a stark difference between “reporting bugs, criticizing the removal of features and things like that” and “moaning and getting too emotional”. Some people have overblown the whole thing, it’s just an overreaction on their behalf in my honest opinion.
    Now I realize that some upgrades remove some features and some people want these features back. They’ll come back, rest assured of that. We’ve been through this before. Over the years, there were some upgrades that removed certain features, and then only to have them restored in the next upgrades. It’s a work in progress.
    Like I said before, it’s one thing to complain, suggest and report, but it’s a completely different thing to moan. I’m not going to point at anyone in particular of moaning, and I’m certainly not going to demonize them for that. They’re free to complain excessively if they want to, but I just feel it’s not healthy for anyone.
    We all hope for GE to get better and better, that’s for sure.
    A happy GE 7.0 user who’s enjoying Avignon in 3D and wishes that everyone gets satisfied in the next upgrade 🙂

  39. Hey Mustache, quit moaning about all the moaning and get that ridiculous fuzzy caterpillar off your upper lip. It’s soaked with Kool-Aid.

  40. I know Google’s move to webGL makes technical sense for them, but the end result seems to be a bunch of irritated users, so something is amiss. This is tricky territory for them, where they have to continue to evolve their tech, but also not disaffect existing customers. Apple, though their mapping tech is currently inferior, has the advantage that they have no legacy customers to keep happy in this space, so they can afford to “just innovate” without regard to backward compatibility and breaking functionality for existing customers. If Apple releases a good 3D maps API, then watch out.

  41. Google Earth under Communist or Monopoly rule.
    “We provide these products for you free of charge backed up by government grants so don’t give us any lip or we will terminate any accounts you have”.
    Google Earth under Capitalism rule (smart Capitalism).
    “We charge a small fee for Google Earth Standard but we have excellent customer service as a result which if you complain you will hear a helpful reply within 3 business days under the most extreme circumstances.” (usually way less)
    Google earth Capitalist version fixes minor bugs with free patches every month or so (using your Google Earth key) when enough people complain.
    Communism and Monopolies actually go together hand in hand which both control from the top down.

  42. In reality we live in a world where it’s all monopoly rule instead of positive competition allowing free choice.
    And also how come the spam captcha is now the second letter instead of the third?

  43. The official Google Earth 7 beta download is now providing version Bug check mode: ON. 🙂

  44. It’s even worse than I thought… version 7.0.2 is no longer labeled as Beta. Despite that:
    – Zooming mode is still fixed at the crosshair type (moves to were the cursor is while using the mouse wheel)
    – The messy 3D buildings are still messy…
    – You still can’t disable 3D terrain, but they added an option to used less resolution and faster rendering… Up GE6 you could control the terrain quality with a progressive slider. Now you have an HQ/LQ switch.
    As you still can’t disable 3D, the imagery still wobbles for a while as data is downloaded (and a large amount of it!!! not for slow or metered connections).
    – When you create a polygon, the resulting placemark always displays a tilted view! A bug reported in 7.0.1.
    – The street view bug when using Intel cards (patches flashing in view)seems to have been solved.
    I’m keeping 6.2 for now… Let’s wait for 7.1. 🙁

  45. Of no imp says:

    Take care, it uses an new filesystem. Off line database don’t work. Its a shame! Very slow olso.
    I am back to v 6.2

  46. If you don’t like the 3D buildings, just right click on them and select ‘Hide Building’. The crude polygon goes, revealing the satellite image below… which is probably the building, ground feature, wall, or other miss-calculated 3D object below. It works for me on Simples.

  47. Try to fly over the swiss alps. Especially over “Titlis”. You will see, the tour is wobbling. Impossible to make a smooth and stable animation “fly trough” the mountains. IT’s A DISASTER !!!!!! Immidiatly go bakc to V6.xx

  48. In Google Earth Pro for Windows, how do I keep Historical Images turned off through an entire tour? I already know where the check box is in the dropdown menu, the icon on the menu bar, etc. I keep turning them off and seeing the look I like and as soon as I start the tour again, they come back on. Thank you.

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.