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Google Earth Pro is now free for anyone to use

You’re probably familiar with the Google Earth software that sits on many a laptop and mobile device, but you’re less likely to have tried the Pro edition of the software that companies and experts fork out $399 per year for. Now everyone can get upgrade to the more advanced version, should they wish to, because Google has decided to release it free of charge.

Google Earth Pro includes features that only serious explorers are going to need, such as advanced measurement tools, extra import options and the ability to print pictures in high resolution. It enables governments and organizations to produce detailed maps and fly-through videos using the data stored by Google, and it doesn’t cost a penny to use any more — those HD fly-through videos are perhaps the most interesting feature that casual users will want to upgrade for.

Related: Google applies new 3D imagery to NYC, San Francisco maps

Exactly why Google has decided to make the Pro upgrade free isn’t clear, as the company’s official announcement doesn’t go into a lot of detail. It may be in response to the growing competition from other mapping services (such as Apple Maps and Here Maps) or it may be part of an effort to consolidate the number of products available from the Mountain View firm. Or maybe it just wasn’t making much money.

Google is still going to be making money from its huge database of terrain maps and locations however — enterprise users still have to fork out if they want to access the advanced APIs required to incorporate the data into other programs and platforms. With the big players still paying for access perhaps Google executives thought this intermediate tier was no longer necessary.

If you’re a Google Earth enthusiast or are eager to try it out for the first time, you can access the Pro features free of charge by signing up for a key online. “Whether you’re planning a new office building or a trip to the mountains, check out Google Earth Pro and see how easy it is to visualize your world,” says Product Manager Stafford Marquardt.