There are many fun ways to use street view. It might be fun to view your current house with your children but also to explore other places that are important to your family. During childhood, I moved many times, and I never got to show my kids where I grew up, but with Google Earth, I can show them the houses I lived in—even when I lived overseas! You can also use this mode to preview areas you’re planning to visit or to see famous places you read about or hear about in the news. 

Street view is most useful in urban areas, as the coverage is more complete. Ground-level view is more interesting when you’re looking at interesting geography, such as the Grand Canyon or a volcano.

Exploring the Sidebar

Depending on your settings, you may have a sidebar to the left of your primary screen. If it is not visible, click on the left-most icon or choose Sidebar from the View menu. The sidebar opens a whole new world of opportunities. 

The most immediately useful tool is the search box. Using the Fly To tab, you can go from wherever you are to any place in the world. Type in “Tokyo, Japan” or “Grand Canyon” to enjoy some examples. You can use the other tabs to find a business (in a flagrant nod to advertisers, I suspect) or use the Directions tab to get a set of directions from anywhere in the world to anywhere else. Although you’ve probably seen this before, the Google Earth version has a fun bonus feature: you can click on each of the instructions and fly from one point to the next, seeing exactly what each turn looks like.

Managing Places

You can mark places that are of interest to you and view them again later. To mark a place, move the view so you are looking at the place of interest (say, your house). Use the Placemark button on the Add menu to add a new pin to your map. You can add a name to your placemark and also change how it appears. Your new place will now appear in the Places section under My Places. You can then double-click on your place name from anywhere in the world to get to your place immediately.

You’ll also see some great places to view in the Sightseeing tour available under Places. Expand the Sightseeing Tour menu and double-click on Start Tour Here. You’ll be transported to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Wait a few moments for all the scenery to pop into view. Things may look fuzzy at first, but be patient, and you’ll see the Eiffel Tower and the Seine River. (You’ll need 3D buildings turned on for the full effect. It should be on by default, but if not, be sure to read the Layers section in Part 2 of this article for tips on how to turn it on.) Feel free to move around and look around the city. There’s plenty to see. 

A new control panel will appear on the screen. Hit the Play button, and you’ll fly to the next point of interest (which is the famous “Christ Redeemer” statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). Go through the tour and you’ll see several of the most interesting places in the virtual (and real) world, including the Grand Canyon, Mount Fuji, and even the wreck of the Titanic at the bottom of the ocean!

If you like, you can record your own tour. Simply use the Tour item from the Add menu. This pops up a little recording box. Hit the record button, and the application will record your motions. Press the microphone button to record your voice explaining your tour. When you’re done with a recording, you can play it back and use the Save icon to save the recording. Your tour will now be listed under My Places. This can be a great way to record things such as historical paths, family moves, and other multi-site activities. 

And Much More Next Month  

It’s hard to believe that Google Earth can do more than this, but we’re literally scratching the surface here. Come back next month and I’ll show how to do much more with this great tool. Here are some things to look forward to: