Aerial Maps

How Google Earth Works

Most of us have been using one online mapping program such as Google Earth for years now. They're a godsend for those of us who get lost within a 3-mile radius of our homes, and they're just plain fun for people who enjoy figuring out where stuff is.

With this in mind, imagine how amazing Google Earth must be for it to elicit awe from the online community and cause South Korea to demand changes to the program.

Google Earth is no ordinary mapping application. Type "Denver, CO" into the Google Earth search box, and yes, you can learn where Denver, Colo. is in relation to Grand Junction, Colo. and how to get from your address to 1600 Curtis St. in downtown Denver. In the same search, though, you can also learn that 1600 Curtis St. is in the 80202 zip code and that there are 12 Starbucks Coffee shops within a half-mile radius of that address; you can zoom out from 1600 Curtis St. and watch it disappear into a satellite view of the Earth and then zoom back in as if you were falling onto 1600 Curtis St. from space; and if you click on "Forbidden City" in the "Sightseeing" column, you can see what it would look like to fly Superman-style from 1600 Curtis St. in Denver to the Forbidden Palace in Beijing, China.

And you thought the world was small before.

The application is fairly easy to use, but there are a lot of functions to try out. See how Google Earth gets images and data and learn how you can get started with Google Earth so you can explore some of the features and customization options.

The best way to get to know Google Earth is to start with a location and see what Google Earth will tell you about it. So let's start with HowStuffWorks headquarters in Atlanta, Ga. If you type "3350 Peachtree Rd. Atlanta, GA," into the Google Earth search box and click "Search," you zoom in from space to HowStuffWorks headquarters. You are now looking at a photograph of the location.

To get more information and turn the photograph into a real map, the next step is to turn on some layers. Available layers include dining, lodging, banks, roads, terrain, malls, grocery stores, gas stations, parks, transit, schools and geographic features.

To create a nice, functional map, you might just turn on the "roads" layer.  If you zoom out a bit, you've got yourself a good driving map of the broader area surrounding 3350 Peachtree Rd. in Atlanta.

Let's say your little tour of Atlanta includes a stop at HowStuffWorks headquarters followed by a trip to the Georgia Dome to check out a Falcons game. A click on the Google Earth directions button reveals two slots: one for the starting address (3350 Peachtree Rd. Atlanta, GA) and one for the ending address (1 Georgia Dome Dr NW, Atlanta, 30313). Clicking "Search" reveals both written directions and a highlighted route on the map, which has automatically zoomed out to accommodate the entire route from HowStuffWorks to the stadium. On top of that, with Earth Satellite Map you will be looking at a satellite view of your house in just seconds!

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