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Google Earth offers an excellent example of software design balancing enough power while retaining a simple and intuitive interface, and provides tremendous capabilities both for teaching and research interaction. It displays data with a well-documented, standard keyhole markup language (KML) format on generally high resolution base imagery, with roads, borders and other relevant layers which can be turned on and off, and allows easy combination of multiple data sets. Google Earth lacks the analysis capabilities of geographical information system (GIS) software, but is outstanding for visualization and dissemination of results. Users can zoom in and out and view animations or 3-D displays of the data. The freeware MICRODEM program allows easy export of GIS data to KML and linking of text and graphics to an icon on the map, and it facilitates registration of maps. Examples of this usage include student projects, animations used for teaching, sharing data among research groups, and interactive display of published maps. For the earth sciences, where almost all data has a geographic component, virtual globes provide an integrated way to interact with information.

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