The “backspace key” in Google Earth

We recently accidentally pressed the Backspace key in Google Earth and discovered that it takes you back to the previous ‘view’ and even pops up a little help window to tell you what it did and also suggests Ctrl-Backspace has the opposite effect i.e. if you had pressed backspace and gone back to a previous view, Ctrl-Backspace will take you ‘forward’ to the view you just came from.

The interesting thing is that we couldn’t find this keyboard shortcut in any lists of keyboard shortcuts for Google Earth.

We did some experimenting and found that Google Earth remembers everything you have looked at in a given session. A ‘view’ counts as when the earth is stationary in the viewing pane. So, if you move around and zoom in and out stopping between each movement then Google Earth records each pause as a ‘view’. Pressing Backspace repeatedly takes you back through all the things you have looked at. Then if you don’t click anything, you can use Ctrl-Backspace to take you forwards again through the same sequence.

We found that in ‘historical imagery’ it is able to remember what date you were looking at. However, Ctrl-Backspace does not. This is a pity, as it would have made switching back and forth between dates in ‘historical imagery’ much easier. It also does not automatically switch between ‘historical imagery’ and normal view. In addition, it doesn’t remember other settings, such as what layers were selected, etc.

We closed the little help window telling us about the functionality and could not get it back without editing the registry:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Google\Google Earth Plus\UndoViewNotificationShown=true

For it to work, it requires the ‘map’ area to be selected. So if, for example, you click something on the tool bar, such as switching to ‘historical imagery’, backspace will no longer work until you click on the map again. Also, if you have a placemark selected, backspace will offer to delete the placemark rather than the above functionality.

If any of our readers knows any other shortcuts not found on this list please let us know in the comments.

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.


  1. Ctrl-Shift-B causes network diagnostic information to be displayed (download rate from server, latency, etc.).
    Ctrl-Shift-A displays graphics diagnostic information, such as FPS, triangle and vertices being displayed, and VRAM be used (nice!).

    These are two lesser-know but interesting shortcuts, I suppose.

  2. Alchemist251 says:

    Ctrl-Shift-c copies the lat/long under the mouse pointer to the clipboard.

    Thanks for a and b Kengrok!

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