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CNET First Look
Explore the world with Google Earth 4With the release of Google Earth 4, Google has stepped up the mapping software with new features and sharper graphics. CNET News.com's Neha Tiwari takes a look.
[ Music ] ^M00:00:01 >> Now I may not travel that frequently, but I'm always up to discover more about my surroundings. Lucky for me, the newest addition of Google Earth, Google Earth 4, is out and ready to use. The big change that I instantly noticed was a clean user interface. Though some things are still the same. The places and search bar are still on the left hand side and you can still mark what you want to see. With release 4, there seem to be some new additions to the list like featured content as well as other subdivisions. These are great, but I would advise against checking too many boxes. If you do, your information will appear too busy to read. One big difference however is the navigation bar, which used to be on the bottom of version 3. The new nav tool has to be my favorite modification. I always thought the cursor in version 3 had way too many buttons and was pretty confusing. Now you can toggle, tilt, and zoom in a more graceful fashion with the overlay cursor on the top right hand corner. Another improvement is the visual quality of the terrain. Whether panning from side to side or tilting, there is much less pixilation of the topography. Another element that is huge is a community aspect. Like here, on Mount Diablo, you can view pictures that someone took while hiking there, which adds a realism that can't be captured by any simple map. You also see a small icon resembling a web cam which means that you can view shots captured with, what else but, a web cam. Usually leads you to an external site that enhances your understanding of the location. When I looked up a few buildings on Google Earth 4, I noticed a lot of gray boxes. If you want to modify the way your company or home looks, you can do that by using Google Sketch Up version 6. You can then submit that to the folks at Google. And if they like it, they'll add it to the Google Earth landscape. If you select a ticked featured content box I mentioned earlier, you'll get yelp reviews of places to eat, salons and tourists spots in a pop out window. Let's say I want to look at bird view of two of the places in Berkley. I could see all the orange stars and select let's say Zachary's Pizza. A pop out appears and I can figure out if it's worth my trip. One useful feature that looks a bit different is the emailing function. You could send directions and an image before, but now you can either send a JPEG or a current snapshot of the Earth page in front of you. Additionally, you can still send it via Outlook or Gmail rather easily. Google Earth 4 is great, just as long as you don't OD on it. I found myself getting a little motion sickness with all the zooming and panning. Also if you have an older rig, don't upgrade. This thing takes a ton of RAM. In any case, enjoy roaming where you want to with Google Earth 4.