Google has released a Macintosh Google Earth client. In short, a sub-par user experience sitting on top of a brilliant treasure trove of data.
The mapping features are amazing. The actual rendering is significantly higher resolution than the map data available through Google Maps and the app offers a slew of useful data overlays.
That is where the positive note ends. The user interface is poorly designed and only cosmetically resembles a Mac OS X application. There is a huge amount of screen real estate wasted on rarely used controls, thus reducing the Map area to a relatively tiny portion of the screen.
During operation, the application’s responsiveness is extremely choppy. Many things do not track the mouse as one expects after having used just about any other Macintosh application.
Update: click on through for the rest of the story with an update…..
Overall, it looks and feels like an X11 application. That, combined with a overly busy user interface that does not focus on the core display (which is quite fantastic in and of itself) leads to an application that is just terribly unpleasant to use.
If it weren’t for the unique presentation and incredible wealth of information available in the main view, Google Earth would have hit the trash can about 4 minutes after being downloaded.
Bottom line: Google should dump this client and start over on the Mac.
Update: As Frank of Google Earth Blog pointed out, the app is considerably more usable if you hide the nasty UI down the left side of the window. And it is. Still clunky, still doesn’t feel like a Mac app, but that definitely focuses one onto the rather beautiful maps and data overlays in the main window.