The launch of a new version of a Google app is such big news that sometimes it even reaches beyond the boundaries of software-related online media. Yesterday evening the new Google Earth 5 hit the news on TV and after seeing the new features explained by the company's marketing managers, I was really looking forward to trying them out for myself.
Regarding the user-interface, the new Google Earth hasn't changed that much. It keeps the same intuitive navigation tools and freedom of movement that make of this application not only an excellent interactive atlas of geography, but also a great time-waster.
Focusing on the new features in Google Earth 5, the first one you'll probably notice is the new Ocean layer. When clicking on it, you'll activate a dozen new sublayers with all sorts of information about oceans, seas and marine creatures worldwide. You'll be able to watch Youtube videos about whales, learn about ocean expeditions, track animals on their underwater migrations and even spot shipwrecks worldwide.
Don't, however, expect to see fish swimming under the sea like you would while scuba diving; the new Ocean feature is more focused on information and knowledge about the sea, rather than realistic imagery. Also, I must say this information seems a bit chaotic sometimes; it's hard to browse all data – unless you don't mind spending 3 hours on the program – and you can't use the built-in search tool to find specific locations under the sea.
The other great tool in this new version of Google Earth is Historical navigation. You can enable it from the View menu by clicking on the "Historical Imagery" option, or click o the clock button in Google Earth's toolbar. This tool enables you to see old satellite images from certain places, just like travelling back in time. Google's time machine goes back only a few years, but that's enough to see new skyscrapers, stadiums and other constructions while they were being built.
Last but not least, the new Google Earth 5 lets you record videos of your own virtual tours more easily – including voice over to explain details – and share them with your friends