Link: Google Earth Pro is Now Free

Over on the Google Lat Long blog, the latest news is that Google Earth Pro is now free. I use it on every single project for my virtual pre-site visits and for lots of contextual research. It helps me get a jumpstart on my design and has been an invaluable tool. It being made available for free is great news. It's better than the previously free version (just called Google Earth) for a few reasons:

  1. You can export super high res satellite imagery and use it as an underlay for your 3d modeling - up to 4800 pixels wide. The extra large exports come in handy when making large format presentation boards. Tip for underlays: turn off Terrain and 3d Buildings layers, and get a straight down view by Command+clicking and aiming straight down with your mouse.
  2. We can see property lines and US Parcel data. It includes lot size as well!
  3. Turn back time and see how neighborhoods have developed by skimming through old satellite photos with the Historical Imagery slider.
  4. Use the Path and Polygon tools to take measurements. Turn on the Ruler in the tool bar to see how long the paths you draw are.

Here are a few other things you can do with Google Earth; either free or pro versions:

  1. Find a 3d building that highlights in blue. You can click on them, and download them with textures from the SketchUp Warehouse. If you use SketchUp, they will come into your project geolocated and can be great 3d context.
  2. Use the heck out of Street View. Just keep double clicking all the way down to a street and you'll get into street view mode. Then click on the street in the direction you want to go, or scroll with your mouse wheel and drive down the street. 
  3. Take a trip to the Moon or Mars and explore. There is some crazy stuff embedded in those models.

These are the most valuable things I use it for on my projects. What do you use it for? Leave a note in the comments.