Google Earth does the job when you want to zoom in on your hometown or see your own roof, but it’s more than an interactive map. Discover a new dimension to Google Earth, and find out how to create your own maps, scroll through historic imagery, or fly across the globe with these power tips--they'll keep you busy for hours
Scroll Through History
You can travel through time to see historical satellite imagery. In Google Earth, click on the year at the bottom of the screen, and then cycle through imagery with the slider at the top. For starters, check out how the Las Vegas Strip expanded from the 1950s and 1960s to today (pictured), and examine New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005
How Far Is That?
The ruler tool can help you determine the span between two rims of the Grand Canyon, or you can use it for more-practical purposes, such as measuring a running or biking route before you head out. The ruler can also give you advanced information, like the elevation profile of a certain area. To see this, make a path with the ruler, save it, and then right-click it in the Places tab on the left and choose Elevation Profile
Live weather information adds another dimension to Google Earth, with real-time conditions and forecasts across North America and Europe. You activate the Weather layer in the sidebar's Layers box. You can tick the clouds layer to see where rain is forming, and you can select the weather radar and temperature forecasts (pictured
Create Your Own Maps
Google Earth works with KML files to allow you to create and share your own maps. You can insert (via the Add menu at the top) paths, polygons, placemarks, or photos to any map, export the result (File, Save), and share it via email or view it on Google Maps. The beauty of this feature is that other users have created hundreds of interesting maps so far that you can download and view in Google Earth yourself, such as the one PCWorld made with placemarks for the strangest sights in Google Earth. Google also hosts an extensive gallery of available maps.
A different way to explore the world is to use the flight simulator in Google Earth. You can find it under Tools, Enter Flight Simulator. Choose between two aircraft (F-16 or SR22) to view the world from above while controlling your plane. You can take off from several airports across the world--or from any given point on the map--and if you have a joystick kicking about, you can use it to control the plane, too.
Create Your Own 3D Building
Cool 3D buildings are still pretty scarce in Google Earth, but Google has made it easier to construct your own house or office block in 3D. If you live in one of the places on Google’s list, you can start building your own 3D models with the free online Building Maker tool, which allows you to combine 3D digital building blocks on top of two-dimensional aerial images, just as you might use physical toy blocks to represent a real building
Use Google Earth Offline
Google Earth requires a constant Internet connection to navigate, but if you want to show something on your laptop where Wi-Fi will be unavailable, here's a trick: Google Earth allows a maximum disk cache of 2GB, and you can take advantage of that. First visit your desired location when you are connected to the Internet (including any layers). Then, once you disconnect, you will still be able to get the imagery for that specific place offline
Fourth Planet From the Sun
Go extraplanetary with Google Earth--on Mars. Choose Explore, Mars, and the virtual globe changes to a rendition of the fourth planet from the sun. Layers for Mars include imagery from spacecraft, and you can even track the Odyssey and MRO, the two man-made satellites orbiting the planet
A new update to Facebook's standalone messaging app, Messenger, on Monday includes a new camera option for taking photos within the app. A camera icon above the keyboard surfaces the phone's camera, which can also be flipped for front-facing photos (selfies!). The photo is both captured and sent with just one click.
Users can still send photos the old-fashioned way within the app by attaching an existing photo from their camera roll, but the new in-app camera allows users to do so without having to leave a conversation. Users can also upload and send videos from the camera roll, a feature that was unavailable before Monday's update.
This is yet another example of a social network making it easier for users to share photos and videos. In what almost feels like an industry-wide push, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat have all been building messaging services in which photos are a major means of communication.
However, Monday's update adds several key features that Facebook rivals do not yet offer. Twitter users are able to take photos within the app, but they can't send videos. Snapchat users can't save the photos or videos they receive, and the one-touch element of Facebook's camera update may inspire more off-the-cuff pictures usually reserved for a service like Snapchat (e.g. selfies and goofy pics).
The benefit to Facebook, of course, is keeping users within the app. Even when you attach an image, you are momentarily taken away from the conversation screen. The in-app camera literally replaces the keyboard, which means users can still see the actual conversation thread while taking a photo.
The downside of the one-touch feature is that you can't edit or retake a photo if you don't like the outcome.
The app update is available now on iOS, and a Facebook spokesperson said an Android version is coming this week.More From Facebook