Google Earth and Other GIS Programs

What is it?

Google Earth and GIS programs are programs that contain aerial photographs with geographical data combined to allow you to virtually visit anywhere on earth.

Key features
  • Walk the globe right from the comfort of your computer
  • Get directions for places you need to go and know exactly where to turn based on landmark
  • Send information contained within specially designed files to people around the world
  • Anyone with internet access can view files from Google Earth if you provide a proper link to the file through Google maps.
Who uses it?

While on the surface, this application may not seem to have many uses, but Google Earth and GIS programs can be used wherever high detailed maps are needed. Recently archieologists have enjoyed the ability to overlay their own images precisely so that they can easily share their information with others, and it helps them organize their findings. Even colleges have found uses for it by overlaying higher quality images of the campus so those unfamiliar will feel like that they had been there before on their first trip to a campus.

How does it work?

The programs use online databases of aerial photography along with geographic coordinate data to produce the images you see on the screen. You can add you own data such as pinpoint locations with bubbles that contain information, photos from the location being pinpointed. Google Earth supports numerous plug-ins that allow more data to be placed on the screen. For example, a person who makes 3D models can place buildings over the data already there so that people can feel like they are standing right in front of the building.

Things to consider before using these programs

  • Keep in mind that the data is all online on a server, the faster the internet connection, the better.
  • Google Earth and some of the other applications are based in Java, which is notoriously slow on some machines and in some instances
  • These apps may be overkill if you just need directions here and there. Try Google Maps ( for an alternative.

Resources at Wooster

Google Earth is free to download at
Instructional Technology provides limited training and support for Google Earth.

7 things you should know about Google Earth