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Google Earth for Mac, alternatives

It seems a lot of Mac owners, like me, are anticipating the arrival of the Google Earth client for Mac. Alas… it is nowhere in sight. :-( But do not despair. Actually, there are alternatives available, here’s three I can think of. ‘Virtual PC for Mac‘, ‘Remote Desktop Client for Mac‘ and ‘Google Maps‘.

#1: Virtual PC for Mac

This alternative creates a virtual environment on your Mac that’ll run Windows XP and -hopefully- therefore Google Earth. But you’ll have to shell out some money to buy it. Then you’ll have to make sure you meet the requirements (power of the system). And then hopefully GE has enough room to run.
It is possible but I don’t see any raving stories…
For more info see: Microsoft Virtual PC for Mac.

#2: Remote Desktop Client for Mac

The second alternative is based on a free remote client connection. But you’ll need to obtain a connection to a GE-capable Windows machine. This alternative is pretty sweet, because the CPU-cycles needed are executed on the ‘server’-machine. The only bottle-neck is the speed of the connection.
What you need is:

  1. A decent connection to a Windows XP Pro machine. Be it a spare GE-capable machine or a friend who is willing to share his/her machine via Remote Desktop Connection Sharing. And of course having GE installed.
  2. The Remote Desktop Client for Mac from Microsoft. It’s free.

You’ll need to fiddle around with the settings and LAN. But… in this way you can take over a Windows Desktop from ‘any’ Mac Desktop. So you are not just confined to Google Earth. :-)

#3: Google Earth converter for Google Maps

This alternative isn’t a reality already. But it could be done. If someone, other than me, would implement a KML/KMZ parser combined with the Google Maps Api, you’d have a killer-app. (I’m looking at you, GEH)
Although I must say Google Maps is no match for Google Earth as for the 3D experience. But the only thing you’ll need is a browser (Safari, Camino or Firefox), drop in your placemarks and enjoy the view.
My experiments so far have led to implementing the top 25 impact structures in GMaps. You can view the alpha version in the lab (alpha meaning it’s severely broken).

If you know of another way to run GE on a Mac, let me know.

Update: I stand corrected on the ‘Remote Desktop Connection’ option. Although RDC is a very nice way to connect to & run a Windows XP Pro desktop inside a Mac, it does NOT (in most cases) let you run Google Earth. I will spare you the other technicalities, but it all boils down to color (bit) depth.
To conserve bandwidth, the colors of the RDC session are tuned down. If you are lucky it’ll be 16-bits or more. If not, you are stuck with 15-bit color or less.
And that’s why GE won’t run. It either wants 16 bits (high-color) or 32 bits (true-color) color. (DirectX demands 32-bit color!) So if you connect and start GE, the only thing you will be presented with, is a completely white sphere (in OpenGL mode that is).
But… there are other ‘remote desktop’ options. So I’ve tried with TightVNC server on WinXP and Chicken of the VNC for Mac OSX. But there is a very distinct lag and the screen fails too many a time to refresh to make it a viable solution.

I’m open for any other free ‘remote desktop’ option. Free as in beer. :-)
BTW: Peenie Wallie encountered this same problem, via

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9 Responses to “Google Earth for Mac, alternatives”

  1. Dan Says:
    October 24th, 2005 at 3:03 am

    Here is one of the few Mac OS versions (actually any platform) that I can find:

    Displays both MS and Google mapping.

  2. me Says:
    October 28th, 2005 at 1:05 pm

    You don’t have to buy Virtual PC, just download Limewire, from and search (after install) for “virtual pc for mac”, and tadaa, the .dmg version for virtual pc for mac! :)

  3. Caspar Says:
    October 28th, 2005 at 4:38 pm

    I think I don’t need to remind everyone about the legality of the above comment. Do I?

    As stated on the download-page:

    LimeWire BASIC is a P2P program for use only in the exchange of authorized files.
    Downloading LimeWire BASIC does not constitute a license for obtaining or distributing unauthorized material.
    Please do not download LimeWire BASIC if you intend to use it to infringe copyright.

    A legally free route, like having GE natively on OSX, is preferable. :-)

  4. remote desktop Says:
    November 4th, 2005 at 3:29 pm

    Good post about the remote destop application for mac computers. Looks like it’s a good piece of software. Nice blog. I am going to bookmark your site.

  5. Bob Says:
    November 8th, 2005 at 2:27 am

    google earth using virtual PC on an ibook G4 is painfully slow but it works! I wouldn’t recommend it though.

  6. Caspar Says:
    November 8th, 2005 at 2:56 am

    Thanks for your confirmation Bob. If only Google were up to the task of porting…

  7. Mauricio Says:
    November 24th, 2005 at 5:48 pm
    This is my best option for an Google Earth alternative, only that you need to check it inside Safari or Firefox.

  8. Dale Chayes Says:
    December 9th, 2005 at 10:35 pm

    There is a “closed beta” Google Earth for OS X going on now (12/9/2005) or scheduled to start on Monday (sources are in some conflict.)

    World Wind is an open source “alternate” to Google Earth. The problem (as I understand it) is that some parts are built on .net which has frustrated efforts at porting thus far.

  9. Caspar Says:
    December 10th, 2005 at 12:05 am

    Dale, I can confirm the “closed beta” has leaked, big time. :-)
    I think we can count the days before we can drop the alternatives (open-source World Wind excluded).

    As I type, I am perusing with a non-public beta version of GE. It definitely is a beta. For instance: Why is there a DirectX option in the preferences on a Mac? OK, nitpicking, but it seems to work allright.

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