Google Earth has delighted web users for years, allowing them to explore the globe from the comfort of their computers or mobile devices.
The software makes it easy to whiz around and view satellite imagery, zoom in and out, visit landmarks and examine towns and cities from above. In some cases, you can even take a 3D tour, revert to Google Street View or browse through photos submitted by users.
Last year we wrote an article on the 7 Wonders of Google Earth, displaying the likes of Stonehenge and the Great Barrier Reef in all their virtual glory. We also published this neat guide to getting the best from Google Earth on an iPad.
But now it gets even better. There’s a premium version called Google Earth Pro, which until very recently cost $400 (around £273) to buy and offers additional, high-end features. Now it’s free to download and use.
How to get Google Earth Pro for free
PC or Mac users can download Google Earth Pro directly from Google. Just hit Agree and download and follow your usual software installation process.
Once you open the software, you’ll be asked for a Google Earth Pro username and password. Just use your own email address and the password GEPFREE. Now you’re ready to explore the virtual world.
What can I do with Google Earth Pro?
First of all, let’s not sell Google Earth short. The standard tool is still an incredibly powerful, often mesmerising piece of software that’ll meet your needs and pique your curiosity. However, if you ever need to go that extra mile, so to speak, Google Earth Pro can help.
Record accurate distances and areas
Google Earth Pro lets you accurately measure distances and estimate sizes. While the standard version is good for measuring straight-line distances between multiple points on the ground, Pro features a Polygon tool which measures the distance/area of a shape on the ground or the Circle tool to measure the circumference of an area.
Better still, there are 3D tools that allow you to measure the height and width of buildings. It’s fun to play with, but can be a great tool for study or work purposes too. Perhaps you’re planning a hike into unchartered territory? Tap the ruler tab in the tool bar to see the options.
Print high-resolution images
Ever wanted a high-resolution aerial photo of your hometown to adorn your office, a clear crisp image for a project or report, or a site plan for business use? Google Earth Pro makes all this much easier. Whereas the standard version of Google Earth enables printing at up to 1000x1000 pixels, Pro lets you reel off imagery up to 4800x3200, which you can reproduce as a 16x10-inch print at 300dpi – that’s as sharp as pictures in a glossy magazine. Just tap the Save Image tab in the toolbar to see the resolution options.
Record and export HD movies
The Pro edition of Google Earth has a neat HD Movie Maker tool, which lets you export recorded tours as a full HD video file. So as you whiz through the software, you can hit the Record Video button and narrate the journey using the microphone on your computer. Once the recording is complete, you can export it to your computer where you can share it with friends and family. Hit the Record a Tour option in the toolbar and click the red Record button to get started. To export it, select Tools > Movie Maker.
Here’s a video to help you create great tours in Google Earth
Pin addresses onto maps
Google Earth Pro also integrates with spreadsheets, letting you import thousands of addresses at a time and display them on a map. This could come in handy when targeting mail-outs, or looking at the population density of an area for a geographical project?