Marble Portable is a free 3D globe and atlas program. It's similar to Google Earth, but much more compact, and it's also totally portable, which makes it a great choice for students, travelers, and anyone who needs a fast, lightweight atlas program.
Of course, Marble is far more than an atlas. Its virtual globe lets you zoom in from a planetary view to state level, but not street level. Clicking on any place name opens its Wikipedia article for more information. Marble has standard flat and Mercator maps and Earth, Moon, and celestial globes. You can apply various themes ranging from temperature and precipitation views to an old-fashioned globe look, and download many more online. Its tools even take into account cyclists and pedestrians.
Marble's interface is anchored by a left-side navigation panel with collapsible headings and drop-down lists for selecting Projection and Celestial Body. It opens with the standard global atlas displayed. A small window with a standard flat map and crosshairs let us zoom in on any region almost instantly. We could zoom in and out, drag and spin the globe, measure distances, set bookmarks, and do many of the things you can do with Google Earth and similar programs.
The historical globe from 1689 is great fun, and others are available. The lunar globe works much like the terrestrial one, with a map inset for quick navigation. The program also offers flat and Mercator lunar maps. Under the Settings, we could configure Marble and choose which interface elements to view, while the View menu included Sun and Time controls, atmospheric features, Info Boxes, and Online Services such as photos, satellite data, and educational resources.
Marble Portable has a very good Help file and many online resources, including educational materials. Its FAQ addresses an important question; namely, why use Marble when Google Earth is available? Because Marble isn't intended to compete with Google Earth but rather to complement it as a lightweight geographical educational tool that you can use quickly when you don't feel like taking the time to load Earth.