|Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET|
I mean, seriously, for centuries the only way to get a "bird's-eye" view of our planet was to spin an actual globe. Now we can "fly" to any location and zoom all the way in from space to a couple hundred feet above real, satellite-mapped ground.
Most amazing of all, Google made this tool available for free. This despite an educational -- and, let's be honest, entertainment -- value that's virtually impossible to measure.
What you maybe didn't know is that Google has long offered a Pro version of Earth as well, one that cost a hefty $399 per year. Now, however, you can get Google Earth Pro absolutely free.
First things first: The words "free trial" still appear in that URL, but as you'll see when you click through to the sign-up page, "Sign up is no longer required for Google Earth Pro." All you have to do is download the installer, run it, then sign in using your e-mail address (as your username) and license code GEPFREE.
Second things second: Do you really need this? Probably not, as Pro was created with business/enterprise users in mind -- but it does afford some pretty cool extras not found in the free version, including:
- Advanced measurements: Measure parking lots and land developments with polygon area measure, or determine affected radius with circle measure.
- High-resolution printing: Print images up to 4,800 x 3,200 pixel resolution.
- Exclusive pro data layers: Demographics, parcels, and traffic count.
- Spreadsheet import: Ingest up to 2,500 addresses at a time, assigning place marks and style templates in bulk.
- Movie-Maker: Export Windows Media and QuickTime HD movies, up to 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution.
And don't overlook the huge thrill of scoring a $400 product for free. That's always fun.