Navigating on the Earth

This tutorial describes the basics of navigating the globe within Google Earth. You will learn to tilt, rotate the globe and zoom in on the Grand Canyon in the western United States.

 

 

Note - The following tutorial describes only some of the ways you can move around in Google Earth. To learn more and watch a video tutorial see Navigating in Google Earth in the Google Earth User Guide.

Viewing the Globe

Each time you start Google Earth, the Earth appears in the main window. The area that shows the Earth is called the 3D viewer. The 3D viewer always appears in Google Earth and shows you imagery, terrain and information about places around the globe.

Google Earth 3D viewer

Zooming In and Out

In these exercises, you will zoom in and out of the Grand Canyon. There are a number of ways to accomplish this. To become familiar with Google Earth, try all three:

  • Zoom in using a placemark
  • Zoom in and out using the mouse
  • Zoom in and out using the navigation controls

Zoom in Using a Placemark

In Google Earth, a placemark is a visual notation that marks a location. Each placemark appears as a pushpin with a label. To zoom to the Grand Canyon using an existing placemark, let's first use the Fly To command and create a placemark for future use.

  1. In the Fly To search panel (see diagram below), type "Grand Canyon" into the search box, and hit Enter. Alternatively, you can click the Begin search button, which looks like a magnifying glass.
  2. Google Earth zooms to the Grand Canyon. If no direct match is found, Google Earth will prompt you with Did you mean suggestions to click.
  3. Save this search to your Places panel for future use by dragging the search result and dropping it into My Places. Or, right-click the search result, and select Save to My Places. This will create a placemark for the search result.
  4. Leave the Grand Canyon site using the mouse or keyboard, or by using the Fly To command to visit another location.
  5. Locate the placemark you saved under My Places and double-click it. Google Earth flies back to the Grand Canyon at the same zoom level where you saved the placemark.

    Zoom in Using a Placemark

Zoom In and Out Using the Mouse

Once you have zoomed in using a placemark, you are ready to zoom in and out using your computer's mouse. To do this:

  1. Zoom out from the Grand Canyon by doing one of the following:
    • Scroll the mouse wheel down (toward you) a number of times.
    • Hold down the alternate mouse button, drag the mouse up. Do this a number of times.
  2. Zoom in to the Grand Canyon again by doing the opposite. In other words, do one of the following:
    • Scroll the mouse wheel up (away from you) a number of times.
    • Hold down the alternate mouse button, drag the mouse down. Do this a number of times.

Note - If you zoom in far enough, you view point tilts to a ground-level view. You can always reset the view to a top-down orientation by pressing the "u" key on your keyboard. You can also reset North to up by pressing the "n" key. Or, to reset to a top-down orientation AND set North to up, press the "r" key.

Zoom In and Out Using the Navigation Controls

The navigation controls appear in the top right corner of the 3D viewer. They offer the same type of navigation action that you can achieve with mouse navigation, plus some additional features.

To view and use the navigation controls, move the cursor over the top right corner of the 3D viewer. The navigation controls automatically appear whenever you do this; they fade from sight when you move the cursor elsewhere.

Note - If you don't see navigation controls when you hover your cursor over the top-right corner of the 3D viewer, you may have disabled them. Go to View > Show Navigation and make sure Automatically or Always is selected.

For now, just practice zooming in and out with the navigation controls. To do this:

  1. Zoom out by clicking the zoom out button Zoom out button. Click and hold the button to zoom out continuously.
  2. Zoom in by clicking the zoom in button Zoom in button. Click and hold the button to zoom in continuously.

Note - You can also use the zoom slider to zoom in or out (see diagram above).

Tilting the View

Now that you know how to zoom in and out, you are ready to look at the Earth in three dimensions. To do this, you tilt your viewpoint so that you can see elevation changes on the Earth's surface. This feature is an extremely fun aspect of Google Earth, particularly when you are viewing hilly and mountainous terrain.


Steep terrain of the Grand Canyon as it appears in Google Earth.

As with zooming, there are multiple ways to tilt the view. Try both:

  • Tilt using the mouse
  • Tilt using the navigation controls

Tilting Using the Mouse

To tilt the viewpoint using your mouse:

  1. Make sure Terrain is on. You can easily turn on terrain by checking its respective box in the Layers panel.
  2. Zoom to the Grand Canyon. This exercise works best if you zoom to a viewpoint of about 35,000 feet. For help setting eye altitude, enable the status bar (View > Status Bar) and reference the Eye alt figure in the bottom right corner of the screen.
  3. If your mouse has either a middle button or a depressible scroll wheel, tilt the view by depressing the button and moving the mouse up or down. Notice that you are looking at the sides of the Grand Canyon walls and the Colorado River appears at the bottom of the canyon.
  4. If your mouse has a scroll wheel, you can tilt the view by pressing the SHIFT key and scrolling DOWN to tilt the Earth to top down view, or scrolling UP to tilt the Earth for horizon view.

Note - The Eye Alt figure at the bottom of the 3D viewer refers to eye altitude (the elevation of your viewpoint).

Tilting Using the Navigation Controls

You can tilt simply by zooming in. Once you zoom in far enough, Google Earth tilts your view.

Moving and Looking

In Google Earth, you can look around and move around. These are different and it is useful to know the difference. Looking around involves gazing from a single vantage point, as if you were turning your head. Moving around involves shifting your location from one place to another. Both actions change your perspective.

 
  1. Look joystick
  2. Move joystick

Looking with the Navigation Controls

To look around:

  1. Move the cursor over right corner of the 3D viewer. The navigation controls appear. The Look joystick is at the top of the controls; it has an eye icon at its center.
  2. Click an arrow to look in that direction.
  3. Click an arrow and continue to press down on the mouse button and drag outside the Look joystick to quickly turn your viewing angle.
  4. Click and drag the outer ring of the Look joystick. This rotates the view.

Note - You can always reset the view to a top-down orientation by pressing the "u" key on your keyboard. You can also reset North to up by pressing the "n" key. Or, to reset to a top-down orientation AND set North to up, press the "r" key.

Moving with the Navigation Controls

To move around:

  1. Move the cursor over right corner of the 3D viewer. The navigation controls appear. The Move joystick is in the middle of the controls; it has a hand icon at its center.
  2. Click an arrow to move in that direction.
  3. Click an arrow and continue to press down on the mouse button and drag to move quicker.

Note - You can also move using the arrows on your keyboard.

About the Navigation Controls

To learn more about using the features of the navigation controls, see Using the Navigation Controls in the Google Earth User Guide.

Updated on Sep 11 2009