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Google Earth for desktop gets tour guide feature and additional 3D imagery

The latest version of Google Earth for desktop computers was rolled out on Wednesday, bringing many of the features that Android and iOS users of the virtual-globe software have been enjoying for a few months now.

Version 7 brings with it the tour guide feature, which Google describes as “a local expert”. To try it out, look for thumbnails appearing at the bottom of the screen as you’re viewing various locations around the world. These thumbnails indicate that a tour has been created. Click on one that looks appealing and you’ll be taken on a virtual flyover of the landmark or location, with various relevant facts and figures pulled from Wikipedia showing up on screen.

As you might expect, the feature works best with cities where buildings have been rendered in 3D by Google, rather than in locations like Paris which are still waiting for a makeover. Flying around an Eiffel Tower showing up as flat as a pancake is, of course, no fun at all. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and Rome’s Colosseum, on the other hand, both offer a superb demonstration of the feature. To view the buildings in 3D, you need to first check the 3D Buildings box in the layers column on the left side of the screen. To find out more about which landmarks are currently viewable in 3D, check out Google’s dedicated webpage here.

Locations updated with 3D imagery on Google Earth 7 include those that have been available on Android and iOS devices for several months such as Boulder, Boston, Charlotte, Denver, Lawrence, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Portland, San Antonio, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Seattle, Tampa, Tucson, Rome and the San Francisco Bay Area (including the Peninsula and East Bay).

And there’s more – from Wednesday additional 3D imagery is showing up for a number of other places including Avignon, France; Austin, Texas; Munich, Germany; Phoenix, Arizona; and Mannheim, Germany.

“The experience of flying through these areas and seeing the buildings, terrain and even the trees rendered in 3D is now consistent across both mobile and desktop devices, making all of your virtual travels more realistic than ever,” Google Earth product manager Peter Birch said in a blog post announcing the update.

Uou can download Google Earth 7 here.