(Credit: Screenshot: Download.com/Tom McNamara)

On the heels of Google releasing an augmented reality ruler last week, the company has decided that it's not done with measuring things just yet. In fact, it's sizing up to the entire planet. Today, Google announced that it's adding as-the-crow-flies distance measuring to its Google Earth app, so now you can see exactly how many miles it is from Chicago to Los Angeles -- or how long the Golden Gate Bridge is, if you're about to brave the breezy trek across its world-famous span.

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For now, this new feature is limited to the Android version of the app and the Google Chrome web browser, but the company says that the iOS app will be soon be getting this yardstick for deities and orbiting astronauts.

With the web version, there's a new Measure Distance button at the bottom of the left-hand pane, and clicking it will switch you to measurement mode. With this mode enabled, clicking two different points on the map will display how far apart they are. The line is bright yellow for easier visibility, and the points are white with a yellow outline. (Let's hope that your job isn't to measure cornfields.)

You can keep clicking to extend the measurement distance with additional legs, which is handy if you're measuring a road that has bends in it. Then just click the Done button to get the final tally. Tap the plus and minus buttons to zoom in and out, or scroll in and out with mouse wheel. And to rotate, just hold this button down while moving your mouse left or right.

Using this tool, we were able to measure the walk from the parking lot on the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge to the lot on the south end, and we came up with about 2,900 meters, or roughly 9,500 feet. Google prioritizes the metric system here, which is interesting. It doesn't do that with the Measure app we checked out last week.

Either way, this method is arguably even faster than Google Maps or the Google Assistant, neither of which will necessarily identify parking lots as driving destinations. But Google Earth does take a lot more processing power on your device, because it's rendering a 3D map.

The takeaway

  1. The practical applications for Google Earth haven't always been clear, but this mega ruler may give it some street cred that even Google Maps can't claim ... yet.
  2. Like pretty much all Google apps, this one is free, and you don't even need to create or use a Google account to get something out of it. We like being able to dive into something interesting without having to do an email registration ritual.

See also

Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at Download.com.