Saturday, April 30, 2005

Satellite Imaging Software Comparison - Google's KeyholeLT ($29.95) vs. NASA's WorldWind (Free)

I've been a long time user of Keyhole, even before Google purchased them. I saw a recent post by someone about using Google's address locator feature and then looking at the Satellite image option that comes up. This Google feature is not as "zoomable" or feature enabled as Keyhole but not bad for free.

I was reading a recent e-newsletter and they had the below snippet of information:

Dig This: NASA World Wind is similar to Google's KeyHole, but it's free. World Wind uses USGS data, satellite images, and other sources to give you some cool images of anywhere in the world. [Thanks to Mike D. for this gem.]

Here's Keyhole:

I have not downloaded the WorldWind program as of yet (see below where I detail the download) but it seems to be about 171Mb in size (actually ended up over 500Mb) and it requires a relatively newer PC with at least a 1Ghz processor and says most computers purchased in the past two years are compatible. The screenshots on the website seem impressive.

I know that with Keyhole (a much smaller and more efficient program), I can actually zoom into a single house and get pretty decent resolution for most major cities. I can't read a license plate like the CIA/FBI can probably do but it aids in looking over an unfamiliar area and street ingress/egress. I can also put in an address and zoom into that address however I have found a few errors over the years where it will go to an address as much as a block away so it is not infallible. Keyhole does have a FREE Trial edition (only 10 days) so if any of you want to compare the products more closely, please download both of them. I will be downloading WorldWind soon and will report back with more info (see below for my continuation of this report).

I know that Keyhole can get pretty high resolution images (where you can zoom into an actual building) of most of the metro New Orleans area and most of the westbank (but not all of Metairie nor any of Kenner). It also has high-resolution images of Baton Rouge and Shreveport/Bossier City. It has lower resolution images of the rest of the State where you can still look at streets but not zoom into actual clear images of a particular address. I recently emailed Keyhole support since the satellite image on the FREE Google Address page had a better image than my Keyhole program and they responded that they are updating the Keyhole database on a daily basis.

On a separate note, for those P.I.'s or other businesses who do not have a website as of yet, Yahoo is offering a FREE easy to build small business website with up to five pages and a FREE listing in their search engine and White/Yellow pages. Go to: and you can have your own website up in about an hour's time. It may not have all of the bells and whistles of a website designer's multi-hundred dollar website but heck.. it's FREE and you can make changes whenever you like. If you have never utilized a FREE website service such as Geocities or if you are not very good with computers/websites, email me off list and I will be happy to help via email or over the phone, also FREE. I put my website together last night in about 45 minutes if you want to take a peek at my partially completed website at I only used three of the five pages available at this time but I will be adding more in the next few days.


Well, I just finished downloading WorldWind from NASA. Even with a DSL (Lite) connection, it took nearly 3 hours because you first have to download a small program called BitTorrent which is a download utility that also works as an upload utility. As you are downloading a program, using BitTorrent, it is also uploading the same file to another BitTorrent downloader so it uses your ISP upload bandwidth as a way of enabling more people to download the software. This is my first time using BitTorrent but it seems to be a pretty efficient way for people to download really big software programs like WorldWind which is 171Mb. (It actually ended up being 564Mb !!!!!) BitTorrent has a default setting to download the program to your Desktop. You can change the default setting by browsing to a particular folder of your choice if you do not want the program download created on your desktop.

And after you finish downloading WorldWind, BitTorrent keeps running, uploading the file to someone else who is downloading it until you close out BitTorrent, I think. I'll have to look into how long BitTorrent will continue to run. I'm just going to let it keep running while I finish installing World Wind. Does anyone else have any information about BitTorrent? Good, Bad or otherwise?

Next, you have to open the WorldWind.exe program which is identified by the NASA logo on your desktop. (There is also an update to WorldWind but you have to finish installing the downloaded version first, then go back to the WorldWind download site and download the upgrade.)

I have Windows XP-Pro with SP2 but I next had to install Microsoft's DirectX for Managed Code Update (December 2004) and the EULA requires you to have a legal copy of the Windows OS that you are using.

After completing the MS-DirectX download, the NASA World Wind 1.3 Setup Wizard opens. After accepting the EULA for World Wind, you get the option of which components that you want to install. I accepted all of the NASA original components and all of the NASA add-ons but I unchecked all of the Community Add-ons since I did not know what they were. Hopefully, as I learn more about this program, I can look into the Community Add-ons and maybe add some of them. Some of them looked interesting from an education standpoint.

Next, you choose where you want the program installed. I accepted the default Destination Folder - C:\Program Files\NASA\World Wind 1.3 (The final size of the program WITHOUT all of the Community Add-ons is 564.1 Mb) It still took about another 20 minutes to install this bad boy. This better be worth it! I don't remember Keyhole being nearly as lengthy of a download or install process. I would also recommend that you close any other programs while you are installing World Wind as it seems system intensive. Even typing this email causes glitches or slow-downs in my typing where it takes a few seconds for letters to appear after typing them. I have 512Mb of ram but it seems the install process utilizes quite a few of them Mb's.

O.K., The Wizard says the Setup is complete. When you click Finish, it gives you the option to view the release notes. I accepted just to see what they say and here is the beginning of the release notes:



World Wind 1.3Release Notes
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS===================
* Windows 95, 98, 98SE, ME, 2000, or XP* 3D graphics card (* Internet connection* DirectX 9.0c and Managed DirectX 9.0c* .NET Framework 1.1 runtime libraries
Minimum configuration---------------------
With the minimum configuration, performance and functionality may be less than expected.
* 700 MHz or higher CPU* 128 MB RAM* 1 GB disk space (World Wind's cache size is 2 GB by default; you must reduce the size of your cache)
Recommended configuration-------------------------
* 1.4 GHz or higher CPU* 256 MB of RAM* DSL/cable connection or faster* 3 GB of disk space


O.K., back to my download of the upgrade.

I attempted to move the World Wind.exe file from my Desktop to the WorldWind folder that I created in MyDocuments but it would not allow me, saying another program is using the file.... I'm guessing the still open BitTorrent upload that I still have running.

O.K., I started the download of the upgrade, which is 6.3Mb, and upgrades World Wind 1.3.0 to version 1.3.1. I executed the upgrade and installed it via the Wizard but once again, I unchecked all of the Community Add-on components although some of them look intriguing.

I did not have to restart Windows like with some downloads so here goes!!!!

O.K., it opened up with the Earth visible from space with the continent of Africa showing. There are about a dozen icons across the top. Keyhole opens with the USA visible and there is a series of controls at the bottom including a place where you can just enter an address or city/state and it will zoom into that address. I don't see that feature on World Wind yet. I decided to just click on the western horizon of the Earth and it spun the image around. O.K., I'm beginning to see how this works. Keyhole has the same feature.

I had to experiment a little... I know I should just read the darn Help Manual but I'm hard-headed. I decided to hit Shift-+ and it started zooming into the good old USA. I kept pointing my mouse and clicked on the New Orleans area and then hitting Shift-+ and it zoomed in but then stopped zooming while I was still looking at the entire Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas.

Not sufficient!!!

I then clicked on different Icons but nothing was happening. I opened the "Place Finder" window and entered "New Orleans, LA" in the Search box and clicked Enter. A list of "Places" showed up (i.e. - Churches, Hospitals, Radio Stations, etc.) I clicked on the New Orleans Jazz Museum and some Lat/Long numbers showed up in the position box. I clicked "Go" and it started zooming in and the various "Places" names showed up on a blurry picture. The altitude was set at 9Km so I lowered it to 1Km. Still only the name in yellow on a dark gray image.

Nothing visible.

Doing some more experimenting, I clicked on the "WMS" Icon which opened up the "Web Mapping Server Browser" window. Hmmmm.. .nothing really user friendly in there.

O.K., some more experimenting and I finally have something showing up. I clicked the "USGS Urban Area Ortho" icon and it started bringing up some type of image. The first actual viewable image since I started trying to zoom in closer than the Gulf Coast area. A rather blurry B&W image of the "New Orleans Jazz Museum" came into view. I clicked the "USGS Digital Ortho" icon and lost the blurry B&W image, only to be replace by another blurry B&W image.

So far, Keyhole is far superior to World Wind as far as ease of use and learning curve goes.

I remember being able to jump right into Keyhole and start using it's basic features and functions.

I started Shift-- keying out of the close up of the New Orleans Jazz Museum. Keyhole has a simple game type control panel for moving around, zooming in and out, etc., where with this program, you just have to click on one of the edges of the map to pan the image that way.

I opened up the Place Finder icon/window again and tried putting my street address into the "Look for place named:" box but it said "Not found". I then just put "Veterans Blvd., Metairie, LA" into the box and clicked Search. It's taking a while in it's "Searching" mode. Keyhole is superior to World Wind in this function. I probably could have just kept clicking the edges of the map or zooming out and finding Veterans Blvd on my own and zooming back in but I'm waiting to see what the Search produces. The 5 minute search for Veterans Blvd. (a very large street if you are not familiar with Metairie, LA) produced no results.

Hmmmm.. not very good so far.

Using my own locate and zoom, I was able to bring up a better image of Veterans Blvd. and David Drive intersection than Keyhole has although Keyhole says they are upgrading their high resolution maps of metro areas. I could never find a way to bring up street names on the image which is very easy to do with Keyhole. Also, I do not see an easy way to email an image to someone. With Keyhole, you just click on the envelope icon.

I did find out that you do not have to use the shift key when using the + or - signs for zooming.

Also, you can just use the cursor up, down, left and right keys for panning around the image.

In conclusion, I LIKE KEYHOLE MUCH BETTER THAN NASA'S WORLD WIND PROGRAM FOR PRACTICAL USE BY P.I.'S, REAL ESTATE PEOPLE AND GENERAL MAP PRODUCING PURPOSES. World Wind looks like it would be good for world wide viewing but not as useful for mapping out streets and addresses with an overhead satellite image.

I hope this review wasn't too long but the NASA program is kind of complicated... maybe kids and astronauts will be able to jump right in but this old computer geek had a little trouble. I'll keep this program for a while since I have about 40Gigs of free HD space but at over a half a Gig in size, this isn't for everyone. As I play with the program and figure out how to use more of it's functions, I may write a follow up review. I hope I can figure out how to put a layout of Streets into the image.

I really like that feature on Keyhole.

For ease of use, size and functionality, Keyhole for $29.95, gets my vote, even though it's not free like World Wind.

After trying WorldWind for two weeks, I uninstalled it. I'll keep using KeyholeLT and Address Search for my Satellite Imagery.

Hope this helps some of you guys and gals.


Lenny Vasbinder (Retired P.I.)

Yahoo! Groups Owner/Moderator:

EDIT ADDED 05/11/2005-


I just got a Keyhole email saying that they have updated the entire database and I checked it out and the images of my area are SOOOOOOO MUUUUCCCHHHHHH BETTTTTTTEEERRRR, I mean so much better than it was a few days ago!

And now when you sign in, you can choose from the Old Database, called the Legacy Database, or you can pick the New Database, called the Primary Database.

Now, without a double, Keyhole is MUCH, MUCH, MUCH better than WorldWind, even though it costs 10 cents a day to use.


  1. Hi,
    Firstly you didn't read the manual.

    Secondly you didn't install the add-ons which really make World Wind what it is.

    Thirdly you don't even attempt to use the program or guess what the different mapping modes are.

    Fifthly you believe that a free program will have as much high-res imagery as a commercial product. World Wind's Urban Area Orthography layer has .25m colour data for ~50 US cities via public domain imagery from the USGS, whereas Keyhole has much more because they paid for the frigging stuff.

    Sixthly, World Wind is not a mapping tool like Keyhole, it is a 3D visualisation tool which is designed for educational use. This is why so many addons exist for it. Infact, try some of the icons on the right hand side of the toolbar to see.

    I hope you re-install World Wind and realise its true potential.

    Please see the Community site at as well as the Wiki, which contains a plethora of information, at

    Seventhly, please ask on the forums if you have any problems, at

    Lastly, I don't work for NASA, however I am one of the open source community volunteers who has supported it for months on end, and it is very annoying to see people tick something off as bad when they haven't even made the effort to read all the documentation and information we've created.



    PS - the tone of this comment is aggressive, however I hope you don't find it offensvie. Please understand my frustration! I wish you all the best with World Wind and hope you realise it is much more than a house-viewing program.

    Try for instance going to Moutn Fuji, zooming (scrollwheel) to ~10,000metres with NLT Landsat7 selected, and tilting by holding the right mouse button and moving the mouse. I promise you will be amazed.

  2. Hi,

    It's me again. I should mention, there are plans for a much smaller (~5Mb) World Wind download in the next few months, so that should help the dial up users :)

    Also, the forum URL is - whoops!

    And I appear to have forgotten a "fourthly"....eek!



  3. Dear TheBeanSprout,

    If you re-read that review, you will see where it was written for a P.I. group since I am a retired P.I. and I clearly state that WorldWind is probably good for educational use but it was compared to Keyhole by PCWorld or PCMag... I don't remember off-hand, so I did the review based on the fact that it was being compared. They are both good programs but it does not have the commercial applications that Keyhole has and I am a business person, not a student.

    Most people don't have time to read manuals. I've got a wall full of program manuals and if people had to read them to learn a program, they would never learn it. Programs need to be easy to use out of the box, at least for the basic functions. I am not a computer dummy, like many people my age, so programs that are not user-friendly right out of the box get off to a negative start with me. Unlike students and teenagers, most business people do not have time to read manuals or hang out in forums trying to learn how to get a program to work right.

    Go complain about someone else's blog. lol Just kidding... it's good to know that someone read my blog already. I just put that up. I've got more RROI's coming from my other website but I just did that comparison and decided to start off my blog with that since it was ready made for posting.

    My blog is for MY "Rants, Raves, Opinions and Information" but you are welcome to post your constructive comments which might help others who want to try WorldWind. Most people don't have the knowledge or time to go into forums for information. Programmer's need to make their programs easy to use and for "dummy's" like 90% of computer users are.

    I belong to several Yahoo Computer Groups and also regularly post on other forums with my questions and providing answers to others so I know the turmoil most people go through with a new program. I am always helping my friends and co-workers with their computers. If a program is not "easy" for me to use, then I know it's going to be HELL for 90% of the rest of the "adult" computer users out there.

    Keyhole was pretty easy to use right out of the box and I never had to read a manual or go into a forum to use it. WorldWind was not that easy and I did not do all of the add-on's because it was already so HUGE in size.

    Good luck with your posts and thanks for adding the link to the WorldWind forum so others may find it. I'll "edit" my post and add a P.S. to the main post telling people to look at your comment since many people do not bother.

    I'll visit your blog soon (when I find it since you posted anonymously) and rant and rave on one of your posts soon. lol

    Another major problem that I have is that NASA, wholly funded by tax-payer dollars developed this HUGE program that they should be trying to sell to recoup some of OUR tax dollars but they are giving it away for free. It's another typical example of Government doing something that ends up costing the taxpayers millions of dollars in the long run.

    Lenny Vasbinder

  4. I totally agree on the user interface. It's not as easy to use as it could be, however most people seem to pick it up alright.

    About the huge size - hopefully we'll be getting out a smaller download (~5Mb). The reason for the huge download is that the entire Blue Marble dataset is included to give people something to look at when they open the program.

    The point about the tax dollars is interesting....World Wind is very popular outside of the US, something like 50% of users were non-US I think. Also since it's open source, it's developed by the community, and we've done lots with World Wind. If it wasn't free & open source then I doubt World Wind would be where it is today.

    Also in terms of the budget, virtually all of the server kit has been donated by Dell / Microsoft, which is nice.

    Lastly - I checked in the chat room and I think that for the 1.3.1 patch to take effect, World Wind must be restarted.

    But I wouldn't bother installing again, I'd wait another few weeks for 1.4 or the 1.3.2 patch, both have quite a few bug fixes / general improvements.

    All the best,


  5. WOW! Look at the edit added to the main post. Keyhole has updated it's entire database so there are far more high definition images in most cities and the entire globe is at least available in medium definition. This is TEN times better.. maybe even a 100 times better than it was before.


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