Using GE

 
The download link is here.  It's just a Next-Next-Next install.

Run the program, expand it to full-screen size.  The first thing you'll want to do is uncheck everything down in the 'Layers' area except '3D Buildings'.  Then click on the top bar of the Layers box to close it down.

Next, some settings.  It's important.

On the View menu:

  • Uncheck the toolbar.  There are a few things on it you might use, like 'Add Placement', but there's no sense wasting real estate and the main menus are easy enough to access.  Turn off 'Tour Guide'.  Turn off 'Atmosphere' unless you like it on.
     
  • You can leave the 'Navigation' on until you get used to the program, but you might eventually want to turn it off, just to clean up the screen.
     
  • Select 'Scale Legend' so you can tell how big things are on the ground.  It's surprising this isn't on by default.

Go to the Tools menu, open 'Options':

  • On the first panel, set 'Anisotropic Filtering' to 'High'.  That's how good backgrounds look.  Set the 'Labels' to 'Small'.
     
  • On the 'Cache' panel, assuming you have a fairly new computer and tons of hard drive space, put in a healthy figure like "10000" (10 gigs) for the 'Disk Cache' size.  That'll (hopefully) keep most every place you visit stored on the drive so, if you go to the same spot a month from now, it won't have to re-download the images.
     
  • The 'Touring' panel is when the program's touring a series of checked spots on the sidebar.  You can adjust the pause at each stop and the flight speed ('Time Between Features').  The lower the time between, the faster you'll travel.
     
  • The 'Navigation' panel's 'Fly-To Speed' is how fast you move when double-clicking on a sidebar entry.  Over on the lower-right, check 'Do not automatically…'.  I find the feature kind of annoying and I'm not sure why it's on by default.
     
  • On the 'General' tab, you might want to turn off the 'tooltips', and select your email program if you're planning on emailing spots to people.  Close the Options.

As far as the 'Layers' area goes, when you're looking for more info on a remote spot, turn on the 'Photos' and 'Gallery' and double-click on any icons that appear next to the object of interest.  If those don't produce anything, check everything and hope for the best.


Usage

There are a handful of ways this program can be used:

  • You can just wing it.
     
  • Clicking on a Google Earth link (a KMZ file) on a web page or email will pop the program open and go to the spot.
     
  • You can download entire tours, then open them in the program and play them, saving the spots you like best for your own collection.
     
  • A building that doesn't actually exist can be viewed by the custom file it stems from.  Note that this might create a bit of confusion as someone will swear they saw some fantastic something in GE — unaware they were looking at a custom file, not the GE that everyone else sees.


Operation

  • 'N' resets to north, 'R' resets to north and resets the overhead angle.
     
  • The arrow keys and mouse react differently by themselves and in conjunction with the Shift and/or Control keys.
     
  • Holding down the ALT key slows down the keyboard (and possibly mouse) movements for fine-tuning.
     
    In other words, this thing has a lot more control than it appears to have, so you should spend some time testing out different key/mouse combos.
     
  • Some movements can only be accomplished by actually grabbing the screen with the mouse.  If you're mouseless, the plus and minus keys act as the zoom, and there are probably other key combos that take the place of the mouse functions.
     
  • You can collapse the 'Search' box for a larger display of your collection, although it won't stay closed like the 'Layers' box will.
     
  • To find a file in your collection, hit Ctrl-F to open a small Find box.
     
  • For full-screen mode, hit F11; again to return to window mode.

 
The official instruction manual is here.   

Info & examples on the time-shift feature is here.

If you'd rather store the master files on a separate partition in case your C Drive melts down, read this.

All in all, a very well thought-out program, and only getting better.