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Choose how you see imagery in Google Earth

You can set a number of preferences to affect 3D viewer imagery, as well as how icons, labels, and other elements are displayed. To access these settings, do the following:

  • Windows/Linux: Click Tools > Options > 3D View.
  • Mac: Click Google Earth > Preferences > 3D View.

Viewing Preferences

Keep in mind that some enhancements affect Google Earth performance; that is, the more enhancements, the more your computer's resources are required. Settings include:

  • Texture colors - Modify this feature to set the number of bits used to represent colors in the 3D viewer. True Color (32 bit) produces a more realistic view.
  • Anisotropic filtering (smooth horizon) - Anisotropic filtering is a method used to filter pixels in texture mapping in order to produce a smoother looking image. Enabling this feature produces a much smoother image around the horizon when viewing the earth from a tilted angle. It also requires more graphics card memory, so use this option only if your graphics card has at least 32 MB of memory. By default, this option is set to Off.
  • Labels/icon size - Use this feature to change the default size for labels and icons in the 3D viewer. A setting of Small is optimal for detailed urban areas where crowding of labels and icons often occurs, but if you typically look at both large and urban areas, choose Medium so that placemarks viewed from higher elevations appear in the 3D viewer. See also Tuning Display of POIs.
  • Graphics mode - Most graphic-intensive computer applications (including Google Earth) rely upon one of two possible 3D rendering capabilities on your Windows computer: either OpenGL or Direct X. On Linux and the Mac, Google Earth only supports OpenGL. Because OpenGL is the rendering software for most graphics cards, Google Earth uses that mode by default. However, your system might require DirectX (Windows), or your system might run best in safe mode. When you start Google Earth, you can select the rendering of 3D imagery best suited to your system hardware. If you are using Windows, Google Earth tries to determine which setting is most suitable for you graphics card and automatically suggests that you switch.

    (Windows only) There are two ways to choose either OpenGL or DirectX as your 3D graphics rendering software:
    • Start Menu Selection - Select Set DirectX as the Default Renderer from Programs - Google Earth under the Start menu of your computer, or choose Set OpenGL... After selecting the graphics mode, a dialog box alerts you to the selection, and you can start Google Earth to run in the chosen graphics mode.
    • Graphics Mode Selection - Select OpenGL or DirectX from the Graphics Mode section of the Google Earth Options dialog box.

    Select the "Safe Mode" feature when you notice problems with the Google Earth 3D viewer. This option turns off such advanced rendering features as mipmap texture rendering and filled polygons, thereby reducing the amount of work for your graphics cards. If the problem is resolved after turning on this feature, the problem is likely due to your graphics card or graphics card driver. For more information, see How do I upgrade my graphics card driver?
  • Show Lat/Long - As you move the mouse pointer in the 3D viewer, latitude and longitude coordinates are displayed in the lower left corner of the 3D viewer.

    By default, the display of these coordinates is in degrees, minutes, seconds (DD.MM.SS) or degrees, decimal minutes (DD MM.MMM). This is an example of DD.MM.SS:
    Coordinates in degrees, minutes, seconds

    You can choose the Degrees option to display geo-coordinates in degrees decimal (e.g., 37.421927° -122.085110°).
    Geo-coordinates in degrees decimal

    Additionally, you can display these coordinates using Universal Transverse Mercator (e.g. 580954.57 m E 4142073.74 m N)
    Universal Transverse Mercator

  • Show Elevation - Set the elevation measurement units as they appear Google Earth. As you move the mouse pointer in the 3D viewer, the elevation of the terrain beneath the pointer is displayed in the lower left corner of the 3D viewer. By default, the display of elevation is in feet and miles when high enough.
    Elevation in feet and miles

    You can choose to display elevation in meters and kilometers.
    Elevation in meters and kilometers
  • Fonts - Adjust the font size and appearance for text as it appears in the 3D viewer. In most cases, use the primary font setting, as the secondary font setting is only for rare circumstances when there is a problem with your primary font. Use the secondary if your label data has characters in it that are not available in the default font of Arial.
  • Terrain quality - Turn terrain on or off by selecting or deselecting the 'Show terrain' box. Use the slider to set the terrain quality to be lower (less detailed) quality with better performance or to be higher (more detailed) quality with slower performance. To adjust the appearance of hills when you have terrain turned on in the 3D viewer, you can set the Elevation Exaggeration value from 0.n to 3.0, including decimal values. The default setting for this value is 1. Typically, settings higher than 1.5 create an overly exaggerated appearance for most terrain. See also Tilting and Viewing Hilly Terrain.
  • Overview Map - See Adjusting the Overview Map Size and Zoom Ratio.

See also Showing or Hiding Items in the 3D Viewer.