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Google Earth and Google Maps are excellent resources, made even more so by the utilities and resources that can enhance their use. This short article goes into a bit more detail. New resources are added at the bottom of the page.

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Google Earth and Google Maps

Google Earth, if you've not yet discovered it, is a 3D mapping interface to the entire planet. It allows you to move around the world to any particular location and view it from space, and then get closer and closer until, in some cases, you can see individual cars on the street, boats in the water, or various buildings and monuments. It's a free product and can be downloaded quickly and installed without any problems at all - although you will need a broadband connection to both download and view it, since it draws data from Google servers, rather than storing it on your own machine. There are also various overlays that you can use, such as roads, borders and other, user added data as well. There are also various other utilities that are available that you can also use in conjunction with Google Earth.

Google Sightseeing is a website that allows you to post interesting places that you've found on Google Earth, or alternatively you can just spend time looking at the images, and then visiting them yourself on your own version. Categories include aircraft, bridges, monuments, structures and weirdness. The site is being added to on a regular basis, so it's worth checking out or adding to your RSS feed.

When you're browsing around Google Earth, if you look in the bottom left hand corner of the interface screen, you'll see that there are a number of boxes that you can tick to give you more information on the place that you're looking at. One of these is the Keyhole Community. If you're wondering what this is, they can explain it better themselves: "Keyhole is a computer system that interactively streams more than 10,000 gigabytes of Earth information (images, elevation, business data, ...) to personal computers over the Internet. As a Keyhole user you can explore the earth and zoom down to cities and points of interest, seeing buildings, roads, cars, and even people."If you're interested in finding out more, or perhaps adding your own data to Google Earth, visit the site and take a look around!

You may want to take your own photographs of places that you have been and add these to a variety of different systems, such as Flickr or Google Earth. It's not difficult to do this, but quite complicated unless you know how. Fortunately, this article from MAKE: Blog shows you exactly how to do it, easily and without any fuss at all.

Another similar resource is the Google Globe. This again allows you to add your place (home, work, favorite holiday destination) on the site, and you can fly directly to that location. Obviously you can also see all of the other places that people have added to the system as well. The website and Google Earth interface extremely well with each other.

Another interesting (although of no practical use to people in the UK) Google Earth, if you've not yet discovered it, is a 3D mapping interface to the entire planet. It allows you to move around the world to any particular location and view it from space, and then get closer and closer until, in some cases, you can see individual cars on the street, boats in the water, or various buildings and monuments. It's a free product and can be downloaded quickly and installed without any problems at all - although you will need a broadband connection to both download and view it, since it draws data from Google servers, rather than storing it on your own machine. There are also various overlays that you can use, such as roads, borders and other, user added data as well. There are also various other utilities that are available that you can also use in conjunction with Google Earth.

Google Sightseeing is a website that allows you to post interesting places that you've found on Google Earth, or alternatively you can just spend time looking at the images, and then visiting them yourself on your own version. Categories include aircraft, bridges, monuments, structures and weirdness. The site is being added to on a regular basis, so it's worth checking out or adding to your RSS feed.

When you're browsing around Google Earth, if you look in the bottom left hand corner of the interface screen, you'll see that there are a number of boxes that you can tick to give you more information on the place that you're looking at. One of these is the Keyhole Community. If you're wondering what this is, they can explain it better themselves: "Keyhole is a computer system that interactively streams more than 10,000 gigabytes of Earth information (images, elevation, business data, ...) to personal computers over the Internet. As a Keyhole user you can explore the earth and zoom down to cities and points of interest, seeing buildings, roads, cars, and even people." If you're interested in finding out more, or perhaps adding your own data to Google Earth, visit the site and take a look around!

You may want to take your own photographs of places that you have been and add these to a variety of different systems, such as Flickr or Google Earth. It's not difficult to do this, but quite complicated unless you know how. Fortunately, this article from MAKE: Blog shows you exactly how to do it, easily and without any fuss at all.

Another similar resource is the Google Globe. This again allows you to add your place (home, work, favorite holiday destination) on the site, and you can fly directly to that location. Obviously you can also see all of the other places that people have added to the system as well. The website and Google Earth interface extremely well with each other.

Another interesting (although of no practical use to people in the UK) use of Google Earth allows you to view properties for sale in the Chicago area. It's a really clever idea, and it won't be long before other estate agents get in on the act.

Perhaps the very best place to go for information on what you can do with Google Earth is the Google Earth Hacks site. This is a fantastic resource, with information, forum, newsletter and downloads that you can use to make your Google Earth experience even more fantastic. People post pictures of places that they have found, and there are downloads or overlays for 3D views of cities, current events, sightseeing, traffic and weather. If you only visit one site related to Google Earth, it should be this one.

Google Maps

Try the US version or the UK version. (There are others, but I guess these are the two that most people will be interested in.) I probably don't need to go into too much detail - they're mapping services, and you type in the place you're interested in, and Google Maps will display the place/road/whatever for you. You can get directions on how to get there, useful information regarding the location and so on. I find the scrolling function of east/west/north/south is very smooth, as is the ability to zoom in or zoom out.

Google Maps Mania is a weblog with lots of new information about how Google Maps are being used. It also has an RSS feed if you want to keep up to date.

Google Maps transparencies is a very nice site. It allows you to view a Google Map from the satellite view, but overlay that with the map view. You can also toggle the views as well. It's a great way of finding a particular place and then seeing the satellite view (or vice versa) quickly and easily.

Google Weather Maps is another useful function you can use in conjunction with Google Maps. Simply type in the place that you're interested in (not only the US, but if you're looking at other countries, check the 'About' link to find out how to input that data), and you can then see the temperature and so on. It also works with Google Earth, but only for US states.

There are even games that you can play with Google Maps. This one, Find the landmark, displays the name of a place and you then have to find it as quickly as possible.

The competition

Of course, Microsoft and the rest are not just standing around letting Google take all the glory in this area; they are trying to fight back. Microsoft is confident that they can produce a better product, which they are calling Virtual Earth. If you're interested in learning more, probably the best place to go is Channel 9, which has a lot of links and a 30 minute video broadcast about it.

A9 is also getting in on the mapping business although they are providing a slightly different approach, by giving visitors the opportunity to view city blocks. If you go to a limited number of US cities you can look at the maps, and some places will indicate that you can 'walk' along the road, viewing the buildings that you would pass if you were physically there. It's a really nice idea, and worth a few minutes of your time. As yet however, it is US only.

Yahoo also has a map service, but it's very much in its infancy and, in my opinion, not worth wasting time with. It doesn't really do anything that the other systems don't, though to be fair it does give very quick access to nearby hospitals, museums and so on.

Miscellaneous resources

Not directly linked to either Google Earth or Google Maps, but still of interest are a couple of other resources.

43Places is a site that you can use to add in photographs of places that you've visited, and share stories. It's also a nice place to get in touch with people to have been to a particular location, or who want to.

World66 is a fun little utility. It provides you with a list of countries in the world, you tick the ones that you've visited, and it will create a map of the world that you have visited, and tell you what percentage of the worlds countries you've been to. It also works for US states and European countries as well. If you have a mind to, you can save the map and display it on your own site for example.

New resources

Since I originally wrote this article a number of other resources have been added. I'm mentioning them briefly below.

Google Address Translation This is a hack that brings the power of address translation (converting a US Postal Address into a Latitude/Longitude) to the Google Maps API - something that wasn't provided in the default distribution.

Housing Maps (US) Want to live somewhere else? This resource might help.

The Bible and Google Maps Certain cities from the life and ministry of Jesus

How to make Google Earth Movies such as zoom in and zoom out. A bit technical.

Hot or Not lets you see the location of the person that you're rating. I think it's a bit creepy on lots of levels.

US Census data Pretty much does what it says on the tin.

High Yield Detonation effects Are you going to get blown to bits along with your city? Check here to find out.

Geolocation of a URL Type in a URL and see where it is physically located.

Track a spacecraft Want to know where Hubble is right now? Or the ISS? Wonder no longer.

Using Google Maps on your site Easy instructions on how to put a map on your site for directions for example.

Map your ancestors See where Great great aunt Ethel came from.

How aliens would look at Earth Apparently by checking out all the military installations first!

Dig to the other side. if you went into your garden and started digging, where would you come out? You can now find out.

How dangerous is Chicago? This utility lets you see what crimes are committed where.



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Phil Bradley - Internet Consultant. This page last updated 19th April 2006