Google Earth

Best Free and Open Source Alternatives to Google Earth Pro

Google has a firm grip on the desktop. Their products and services are ubiquitous. Don’t get us wrong, we’re long-standing admirers of many of Google’s products and services. They are often high quality, easy to use, and ‘free’, but there can be downsides of over-reliance on a specific company. For example, there are concerns about their privacy policies, business practices, and an almost insatiable desire to control all of our data, all of the time.

What if you are looking to move away from Google and embark on a new world of online freedom, where you are not constantly tracked, monetised and attached to Google’s ecosystem.

In this series, we explore how you can migrate from Google without missing out on anything. We’ll recommend open source solutions.

Google Earth Pro
Click image for full size

Google Earth Pro lets you fly anywhere to see satellite imagery, 3D buildings, 3D trees, terrain, Street View, planets and much more.

In addition to Earth navigation, Google Earth provides a series of other tools through the desktop application, including a measure distance tool. Additional globes for the Moon and Mars are available, as well as a tool for viewing the night sky.

While Google Earth Pro is available to download without charge, it’s not open source software.

What are the best open source alternatives to Google Earth Pro?

Marble Virtual Globe
Click image for full size

Our strongest recommendation goes to Marble, a lightweight, fast, educational geographical virtual globe and world atlas. It offers a classic topographic map, a global roadmap created by the OpenStreetMap, and a satellite view (shown in the image). The software offers other views: Behalm Globe 1492, Earth at Night, Historical Map 1689, Plain Map, Political Map, 2 Precipitation views, 2 Temperature views, and Vector OSM (a global roadmap). There’s also a satellite map based on ESA’s Sentinel 2.

Marble is supplied with a database of more than 12,000 locations (cities, mountains, volcanoes) which can be searched for and which are integrated with Wikipedia.

WorldWind
Click image for full size

WorldWind is an open source (released under the NOSA license) virtual globe initially developed by NASA’s Learning Technologies project.

This Java software offers a geographic context with high-resolution terrain, for visualizing geographic or geo-located information in 3D and 2D. The software offers a basic interface.

Some of the functionality provided by Google Earth Pro is covered by other types of open source software.

OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a collaborative project to create a free editable map of the world. OpenStreetMap allows you to view, edit and use geographical data in a collaborative way from anywhere on Earth. It’s kept up to date by people using GPS devices, aerial photography and other free sources of information.

There are various open source software that taps into and other similar services. Our favorite is QGIS, an Open Source Geographic Information System (GIS). In QGIS version 3, there are built-in features to use raster and vector data from OpenStreetMap. The OSM plugin, a core QGIS plugin, provides the basic functionalities for OSM data manipulation; this includes data loading, importing, saving, downloading, editing and uploading data back to the OSM server.

QGIS
Click image for full size

All articles in this series:

Alternatives to Google's Products and Services
GmailEmail is an essential activity and starts the ball rolling in this series
MapsWeb mapping service offering satellite imagery, aerial photography, +
PhotosStore your images in the cloud for convenient access from anywhere
TranslateMultilingual neural machine translation service
CalendarManage your busy life with a digital calendar
ChromeApplication software for accessing the World Wide Web
SearchPrivacy-focused alternatives to Google Search
DriveFile storage and synchronization service
Earth ProMaps Earth by superimposing satellite images, aerial photography, and GIS
DNSResolve a particular domain name to its IP equivalent
YouTubeOnline video sharing and social media platform l
Google DocsWeb-based productivity office suite

Ongoing series
Linux for StartersNew to Linux? Read our Linux for Starters series.
Free and Open Source SoftwareThe largest compilation of the best free and open source software in the universe. Supplied with our legendary ratings charts.
Linux ReviewsHundreds of in-depth reviews offering our unbiased and expert opinion on software.
Alternatives to GoogleAlternatives to Google's Products and Services examines your options to migrate from the Google ecosystem with open source Linux alternatives.
Linux System ToolsEssential Linux system tools looks at small, indispensable utilities, useful for system administrators as well as regular users.
Linux ProductivityLinux utilities to maximise your productivity. Small, indispensable tools, useful for anyone running a Linux machine.
Home Computer EmulatorsHome computers became commonplace in the 1980s. Emulate home computers such as the ZX81, Amstrad CPC, and ZX Spectrum.
Now and ThenNow and Then examines how promising open source software fared over the years.
Linux at HomeLinux at Home looks at a range of home activities where Linux can play its part, making the most of our time at home, keeping active and engaged.
Linux CandyLinux Candy opens up to the lighter side of Linux. Have some fun!
Best Free Android AppsBest Free Android Apps. There's a strict eligibility criteria for inclusion in this series
Programming BooksThese best free books accelerate your learning of every programming language
Programming TutorialsThese free tutorials offer the perfect tonic to the free programming books series
Stars and StripesStars and Stripes is an occasional series looking at the impact of Linux in the USA
Share this article

One comment

Share your Thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.