Vail Tech Bytes: Google Earth gets even cooler |

Vail Tech Bytes: Google Earth gets even cooler

Jessie Williams
Tech Bytes
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado –By now, chances are that you’ve seen, or at least heard of, Google Earth. Google Earth is a computer application that lets you explore the world from your desktop, via satellite imagery that you can zoom, pan and fly through.

But in case you’ve never looked at it, haven’t checked it out in a while, or even if you use it every day, I thought I’d use this week’s Tech Bytes to highlight some of the new and amazing features they’ve recently added to the program.

If you don’t currently have Google Earth, you’ll want to download it from There is a Pro version available for purchase, but all of the features highlighted in this article are available in the free version, which is where I recommend starting.

If you already have Google Earth installed on your computer, make sure that your copy is up to date to take advantage of all the new additions. The current version is Google Earth 5.

One feature that’s actually not so new, but that I’ve recently started using, is the ability to open and view waypoint files created by some GPS-enabled devices. If you have a GPS that can save waypoints and then transfer them to your computer, you can most likely display them in Google Earth.

Personally, I use an app called MotionX-GPS on my iPhone to record points of interest, such as trailheads, peak summits, favorite places and more. Using the built-in e-mail function, I can send the waypoints to myself and then open them from my desktop computer.

To open a waypoint in Google Earth, simply go to File > Open, and select the waypoint file from your computer hard drive. So far I’ve tested both .kmz and .gpx file types and have had no issue opening either. Now I can see exactly where those hidden trailheads are located, and show my family and friends on a map just where my adventures took place.

A new feature in version 5 is the ability to go back in time and view previous satellite images of an area. A great example I found of this is if you look at Las Vegas. With the historical imagery feature (activated via a button in the toolbar), I was able to see images that went back to 1950 when there was really just an airport, and only a few hotels starting to appear on the north strip. Even just the change in images over the past few years with all the demolition and new construction is astounding to see.

Near the historical button in the toolbar, you should see one with a planet on it. Click on this, and you can choose from the earth, sky, moon and – new in version 5– Mars to explore. Complete with links to featured articles and photos of various highlights of Mars and the moon, as well as location points for the moon landings, these new additions to Google Earth are pretty spectacular and informative. And the sky view shows the constellations and stars as they stand in relation to one another.

Some other interesting new additions to Google Earth 5 include the ability to record a tour, compete with audio, to share with others. You can also now explore the oceans and fly underwater to see certain ocean features such as deep sea trenches and coral reefs. Just make sure the option View > Water Surface is checked, and then just keep zooming into the area of the ocean you want to explore until you pop under the surface of the water.

You can also see the current level of daylight at any location you are viewing by clicking the sun icon in the toolbar.

So if you’ve never checked out Google Earth, or haven’t seen all the new changes, I highly recommend taking a look – it’s pretty fascinating.

Jessie Williams is the owner of Second October Media,, a Web development and graphic design firm in Edwards. Have a tech question you’d like answered? E-mail her at

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