13 Useful Google Earth Tips and Tricks


Discover Google Earth in a new dimension: We show you how to create your own maps, view images from the past and fly across the globe.

Google Earth does a great job if you want a quick look at your hometown. But Google Earth is much more than just an interactive map. We’ll show you how to get even more out of Google Earth with a few tips and tricks.

With Google Earth you don’t just see the present. You can also take several steps back in time and view historical satellite imagery. In Google Earth, click on the year at the bottom of the screen and then use the upper slider to scroll through the images. For example, you could look at how far the famous Las Vegas Strip has stretched since the 1950s and 1960s until today. Or take a closer look at New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

13 Useful Google Earth Tips and Tricks

How far away is that?

The Ruler tool helps you to measure the span between two cliffs of the Grand Canyon. Or you can use it for more practical purposes: for example, to calculate the distance of your bike ride before you start cycling. The ruler also provides some advanced information, such as the elevation profile of a particular area. To see this, draw a line with the ruler, save it, then right-click in the Cities tab on the left and select “Elevation Profile”.

Live weather

Current weather information adds another component to Google Earth. You can see real-time weather conditions and forecasts for North America and Europe. You can activate the weather layer in the layer box of the sidebar. A click on the clouds layer and you can see, for example, where rain clouds are gathering. Here you can also select the weather radar and the temperature forecast.

Level game

Why not experiment with the layers in Google Earth away from the weather layers? With dozens of pre-installed layers, you’re guaranteed to spend hours. Choose from NASA satellite images of city lights and National Geographic satellite images with views and sounds of landmarks, photos, and related information articles. All these options can be found in the “Gallery” folder in the layers box of the sidebar. Tip: Activate only a few layers at a time, otherwise you might lose track in the mess of markers.

Create your own maps

Google Earth works with KML files to allow you to create and share your own maps. Using the Add menu at the top of the screen, you can add paths, polygons, placemarks, and photos to any map, then export (file, save) the result and share it via email or view it on Google Maps. The beauty of this feature is that other users have already created hundreds of interesting maps that you can easily download and view yourself on Google Earth.

Taking a tour

Guided tours on Google Earth are the best way to experience an expedition around the globe. To join a Google Earth tour, select the route you want to take from the Google Gallery or the Google Tours collection. Then click the Play button and enjoy your journey. Start with a tour of the Seven Wonders of the World or see the world’s skyscrapers – including 3D models.

Taking the lead

If you already have a few tours behind you, why not try one of your own? For example a tour through your home district or to the sights of your last holiday. To record a tour, simply click on the camera button in the menu and then on the record button at the bottom of the screen. Now all you have to do is jump to the desired locations in Google Earth, add a few camera pans and zooms and present your sights from different angles. You can even record audio comments if you wish.

Flight Simulator

A slightly different way to explore the world of Google Earth is the flight simulator. You can find it under “Tools, Enter Flight Simulator”. Choose between two different aircraft (F-16 or SR22) to get a bird’s eye view of the world while you actively control your plane. You can take off from and land at different airports around the world.

Own 3D buildings

Cool 3D buildings are still a rare commodity in Google Earth. But at least Google has simplified the process of designing your own home or office building in 3D. If you live in one of the places on Google’s list, you can start building right away using the free Building Maker tool. This allows you to place 3D digital building blocks on two-dimensional aerial photos.

Google Earth Offline

Google Earth requires a constant internet connection for navigation. On the other hand, if you want to present a map section on your laptop in a place where there is no Internet connection, there is a trick: Google Earth has a maximum disk cache of 2 GB, which you should take advantage of in advance. To do this, first visit the desired map section while you still have an Internet connection and, if necessary, add the desired layers. As soon as you disconnect from the Internet, Google Earth will still display the desired image.

Reaching for the stars

The sky function in Google Earth (Discover, Sky) sends you to the remotest corners of our universe using high-resolution telescope images. Thanks to the latest technology, impressive close-ups of the universe are visible. Here, for example, you can comfortably observe constellations of stars.

The red planet

Even expeditions to Mars are possible with Google Earth. Select “Discover Mars” and the virtual globe will change to a render image of the red planet. Layers for the Mars expedition include images of spacecraft and you can even track the Odyssey and MRO – the two satellites that orbit Mars.

Behind the Moon

The Moon module of Google Earth (Discover, Moon) allows you to explore the surface of the Moon with images from various lunar expeditions. Additional layers show photos from Apollo missions and human artifacts. A guided tour takes you on the Apollo 11 and 17 missions.

Under the sea

Back on planet earth you can now explore the oceans. To do this, first adjust the perspective in Google Earth so that it is approximately parallel to the sea level. Then zoom into the image until you find yourself below the surface of the sea. Google Earth offers several layers that give you a basic understanding of marine observations, including climate change and endangered species. You can also discover shipwrecks and diving oases. On Google’s website you will find some locations for the perfect dive.