Google June 14 began launching the latest version of its Google Earth and paid professional Google Earth Pro applications, adding an integrated Web browser, support for Apple's iPad tablet and other utilities.
Downloaded by more than 700 million people around the world, Google Earth is a free desktop application that lets users search for satellite images of maps, terrain and buildings, from the depths of the oceans to the reaches of outer space.
Google Earth 5.2, which is rolling out gradually this week, sports an embedded Web browser to let users search the Web without clicking on a link to open it in a full Web page. Now when users click the link, the browser pane appears on the screen.
See what the browser pane looks like in this blog post, along with pictures of the other new features.
The Google Earth team also added the ability to view elevation, speed and other information as a graph layer in Google Earth.
With the Earth 5.0 upgrade in January 2009, Google began letting users connect GPS devices to Google Earth to import their hiking, running, biking, skiing and sailing paths.
Google Earth 5.2 lets users connect a Garmin or other GPS device to upload their tracks and select "View Elevation Profile" from the menu. This will call up the elevation and speed graphs.
Previously, users viewed their GPS tracks as lines or points on the map. Now, when they're done, hikers and cyclists can click on the time animation button to play back the track.
Users can even move the time slider to animate time and retrace a trip, and show multiple tracks at the same time.
"Google Earth will draw an icon so that it is properly positioned for the given time that you are viewing," explained Dan Barcay, a Google Earth software engineer, in a blog post. "As you move through time, the icon will animate along your path. You can also select a window of time, which will highlight the corresponding section of your trip."
See this in action in this video.
Also, several bloggers report that Google Earth 5.2 works well on an iPad, the tablet PC that Apple has shipped more than 2 million units of in two months. Search Engine Land featured screenshots here, and ReadWriteWeb raved about the application here.
Finally, Google Earth Pro 5.2, which lets engineers, researchers and others pay fees to see geographic data sets, brings several new capabilities.
These include new layers for parcel, demographics and traffic, automated super-overlays for fat image files, auto-regioning of large data sets, improved GIS (geographic information systems) import and support for MGRS (Military Grid Reference System) grids.