I have recently moved and I know, just from the words of those that hear of the move, that it’s a step down in most opinions. Now, I appear to have confirmation of that fact, thanks to Google Earth.

I’d been using Google Maps over the past several months and I was amazed at the ability to zoom in on a location via the satellite view, allowing me to see buildings and streets. Sure, I could zoom in far more on my old house than on my new one, but I figured this was a function of the images Google had made available for its mapping system.

I was partly right, but mostly wrong. Google Earth is a powerful free program for PC users who like to look at things like airline traffic, or weather patterns. It’s also very useful if you want to find something.

With Google Earth I could zoom down to around 150 feet above my old street, which is about the same close up Paris gets. New York City comes in closer to 60. The town I’m living in now however, only gets a view at around 10000 feet. The difference between my former and present location probably reflects the percentage drop in coolness I’ve suffered since this the move this summer. I should mention, however, that, even though I’m now living in a town that has 1/10 the definition of my last place, Google Earth will still show restaurants and other places of interest.

(Here’s what Google has to say about resolutions and functionalities available in Google Earth:

“The whole world is covered with medium resolution imagery and terrain data. This resolution allows you to see major geographic features and man-made development such as towns, but not detail of individual buildings. Additional high-resolution imagery which reveals detail for individual buildings is available for most of the major cities in the US, Western Europe, Canada, and the UK. 3D buildings are represented in 38 US cities (the major urban areas). Detailed road maps are available for the US, Canada, the UK, and Western Europe. And Google Local search is available for the US, Canada, and the UK.”)

For fun, I recommend checking the restaurants box and typing in New York City and then zooming in to watch myriad fork icons spring on to the screen and then zoom past you.

Google Earth will let you tilt the views of the location you’re zooming in on or get directions from one place to another. You can also email or print out images or edit them by putting pointers on a specific location.

There are a paid versions of Google Earth for those interested in more capabilities. For a $20 annual subscription Google Earth Plus will integrate with a Garmin or Magellan GPS system, higher resolution printing and some further sketching tools. Google also offers more versions for commercial use.