Google Earth Pro, an interactive mapping tool originally called EarthViewer, used to cost a steep $400 a year, but in case you haven’t heard, the intuitive mapping program is now free. Google announced the change back in 2015, but continues to offer Google Earth downloads to anyone who wants to use them.
The Pro package will be familiar to anyone who has used Google Earth before, but the software comes loaded with a host of extra features. Scientists, students, and many others take advantage of the extensive GIS (geographic information system) data for reports and studies. Media companies use the video export feature to supplement reporting, construction firms can use the tools to digitally survey, and nonprofits use it to raise awareness. Governments have even used the features for development planning! Here’s how to get these and other previously expensive features for free on multiple platforms.
Step 1: Choose the download that’s right for you
Google has renovated the process for downloading Google Earth Pro and made it easier than ever. Start by heading to the Google Earth website. You will immediately notice in the upper right-hand corner of the webpage an option to Launch Earth in Chrome. If you just want the basic Google Earth, this is the best option, because the in-browser extension is speedy and readily accessible.
However, we’re focusing on Google Earth Pro, a more versatile and complete option that’s designed to be downloaded to your desktop. Scroll all the way down until you see the heading that says, “Create maps with advanced tools.” Here, you should see an option to Download Earth Pro on desktop.
This should give you the right download for your operating system. However, you can choose specific downloads for Windows or Mac on this webpage if you need to. Note that Earth Pro is also compatible with Linux systems.
Step 2: Agree to the terms
The file will now be downloaded to your computer. When it is finished, open it to begin the installation process. Google will ask you where you want to install the program and how the installation should work. You may have to use your login information for the desktop operating system at this point.
Step 3: Read startup tips
When the download is completed, Google Earth will be among your applications. Launch it, and the software will start — but it should also include a window with a list of tips for beginning. Read these tips to learn more about the software and how to use basic features. It’s a great way to start!
Step 4: Experiment with the features
When you open Google Earth Pro, it’s a good idea to spend some time getting acquainted with the software and seeing what it can do. The buttons at the top of the program allow you to add shapes, paths, and other features into the map as you want, as well as exporting images. On the left, you will see menus for searching, saving specific places, and choosing various information layers to add or take away, depending on what you want to look at. On the map are zoom in/zoom out feature reminiscent of Google Maps (which you can switch to at any time with one of Earth Pro’s tools). Earth Pro’s data has been collected not just by Google, but by a variety of United States agencies, so the data is top-notch.
This video can help show how this works in practice, but here are a few of the interesting things you can now do with Earth Pro.
- Show historical views of places in years past, examine past traffic and development.
- Create tours of geographical areas or cities.
- Add or remove a variety of geographical feature.
- Survey distances and the size of specific areas.
- Export images.
- Use it for storytelling.
- Import and export a variety of GIS data from common software like ArcGis, QGis, ESRI Shapefile, and others, which can turn the program into a professional GIS tool when necessary.
- Adjust the time of day.
Note that images and some data may be a little dated, since updated old software isn’t exactly a priority. Imported GIS data may help deal with this issue, depending on your goals. Google has changed some information on the software in the past, and notably removed the demographics and traffic overlays in the beginning of 2016. However, the software is still great, and the superior desktop option for Google Earth users.