ArcGIS Earth from Esri

Esri has just released version one of ArcGIS Earth, a Google Earth like 3D globe for the desktop. It is not really a Google Earth competitor, as it is targeted at the professional GIS user. Google Earth has historically been used by both professional GIS users and casual users, with Google Earth Pro aimed more at the professional GIS user. In early 2015 Google announced they would be discontinuing their enterprise GIS products, Google Earth Enterprise and Google Maps Engine and at the same time made Google Earth Pro free. We mentioned at the time that they appeared to be assisting their customers to transition to Esri products.

We wouldn’t really recommend ArcGIS Earth for the casual user, but there is no harm in trying it out. For the professional GIS user it is definitely worth a look. It is currently only available for Windows (version 7 and above). You can download it here. It does require you to enter an email address, organization (optional) and industry (you can use ‘civilian’ if it is for non-professional use), but other than that the software is free and easy to install.

As far as we can tell, it has no ‘historical imagery’ feature and the imagery transitions between several different sets as you zoom in. There is no indication on screen as to the age or origin of the imagery.

A view of the Swiss Alps in ArcGIS Earth.

The same location as above in Google Earth.

One feature we found interesting is the ability to show completely different global datasets, including the more traditional map type views. This is something Google Earth lacks.

It appears to have good support for KML, so you can easily copy placemarks between it and Google Earth.

It is only version one so we expect it to improve significantly with time.

We do not know what features GIS professionals look for in a product like this. If you are a GIS professional, do let us know in the comments what you think of it.

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.

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. So, are we losing temporal functions like historic imagery. I hope esri picks up on some of those features built into the interface

  2. Only for 64-bits (x64) 🙁

  3. Christina R says

    GEPro has seen fit to discontinue the parcel map layer which is an extremely important feature for a real estate-oriented GIS professional such as myself. Is there any indication that this product may integrate that layer, whether in this version or in future versions?

  4. Tim,

    Thanks for the constructive post. We really appreciate your comments and perspective. If you have any questions or want any more in-depth info on our plans, please feel free to reach out.

    Also, for James’ question above, we are planning to handle timesliders in one of the upcoming releases. We are also looking at other platforms, including Mac and mobile, but are unlikely to have a 32-bit version for Windows. ArcGIS Earth is a Work in Progress and we have a long way to go.

    Feedback is always welcome.

    Chris Andrews
    Product Manager, 3D and ArcGIS Earth

    • Christina R says

      So…nothing about that vital parcel map layer, populated with both parcel numbers and border lines, something that the real estate sector relies on heavily?

      • Hi Christina,

        Apologies, I didn’t see this as it’s not my blog. 🙂

        It was not part of our original plan, but we will look at it. It can take a few months to sort out contracts, licenses, etc., but I’ll see what we can do.

        Best regards,

        candrews ( at ) esri ( dot ) com

        • Douglas Johnson says

          Agreed — I love Google Earth, but a file with a parcel overlay (at least for California) would be all I need to switch.

          • Timothy Whitehead says

            There is nothing to stop you using both. They are both free (unless the parcel layer would be charged for).

  5. ArcGIS Earth version 1.0 is a great start! As a GIS person, being able to open shapefiles natively, even if in another projection, is huge. Sure, I was able to export to KML or KMZ before, but this saves me a step if I want to look at something quickly (opening ESRI’s ArcMap program has been notoriously slow). The ability to measure distance and area quickly is a boon as well. Switching basemaps is also great. For example, it’s nice to be able to discover names on the National Geographic basemap then switch to the imagery basemap to see the character of the place. Then for ArcGIS Online users (basically online storage and mapping interface), you can log into your account and add your private data to the map. This is a fantastic alternative to ArcReader or geoPDFs.

    While this is version 1, I’d like to be able to save “My Drawings” features as files for later use. And while I was able to add imagery in an ArcGIS Online map service and in a KMZ file, it isn’t possible to add image files with world files or MrSID files. It would also be great to add access to National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) web services. Again, this is version 1, so I suspect ESRI is saving these and many more features for new releases. I hope they come quickly.

  6. I relied heavily on the following features of Google Earth Pro:

    Parcel data (now missing from GE Pro)
    Traffic counts (now missing from GE Pro)
    Historical photos
    Enhanced image save (also now missing from GE Pro) which included the ability to place a north arrow, scale, title, legend, and HTML code text box on the saved image. The north arrow and scale are critical to producing usable maps for presentations. I can add a a north arrow, but I haven’t figured out a good way to add a scale to the saved image.
    Importing shp files directly into GE Pro
    Image overlays. The one aspect of the overlay feature in GE Pro was the inability to fix ratio when stretching or shrinking image. If ArcEarth can include image overlays that can have the ability to not just fax the dimensional ratio of the image, but be able to warp the image to fit known reference points, this would be a significant improvement over GE and GE Pro.
    I also found the weather radar layer to be very useful as my job involved scheduling field crews.

    One additional feature I always wished for with GE Pro was the ability to import CAD files such as dwg files directly into GE. If ArcEarth can manage to create a better, more seamless interface between CAD and GIS platforms, it would be a huge benefit as many of my past frustrations have centered around rectifying my CAD files with my GIS/GPS data.

    I look forward to trying ArcEarth and definitely look forward to its updates. After Google’s recent changes, I see it isn’t reliable and I am hesitant to continue to,place much trust into using it. If ArcEarth can produce a comparable or better product, and reliably deliver it, I will be a loyal fan.

    • Timothy Whitehead says

      No changes have been made to the save image options. When you save an image, a new tool-bar appears above the view. Look for the ‘Map options’ button for any options that might have been turned off.

  7. I’m surprised to see that we can’t add data from file geodatabases. Esri has pretty much mandated the use of file geodatabases over shapefiles, so you’d think their new product would open them. I’m not looking forward to converting all my data over to shapefiles… am I missing something?

  8. Scott Anderson says

    I use Google Earth as a quasi database to log articles, information, sales, leases, etc. as they relate to commercial real estate. So, if I come across information on a shopping center, i’ll write up a summary, create a polygon, insert the text into a text balloon (formatted for HTML). Then when I’m searching the area regarding a deal, I can quickly click on surrounding properties to understand what issues or sales or leases have arisen.

    What I could use is an ability to link a set of photos to an album in google photos (for example). As it stands now, I have to copy/paste each photo url into the text balloon, which is tedious.

    There is also a website ( that allows you to copy text and have it automatically formatted in HTML for pasting into the text balloon. this has been huge….although it tends to blow up the KML file over time.

    It would be great to be able to support different file types within the text balloon (i.e. pdf). RIght now I need to convert a pdf into an image, upload to google photos and link thereto. If I could link to the pdf directly and open within the balloon, my life would be complete.

    I also create heatmaps for income/demographics from census data. It’s a bit of a tedious process, but very helpful. I extract .shp files, census ACS demographic data, join them and create the heatmap in Google Fusion tables. This allows me to get demographic data down to the census block level. If there were a more direct way to get this info directly from the Census Bureau, I could update the information more frequently than present.

  9. Please make this work on Windows Server 2003.

    • Lepus Maximus says

      @Jude – Not a chance! MS support ended mid-2010 and “extended support” ended mid-2015. Just an FYI, not trying to be harsh.

  10. It won’t download!!

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.