NASA World Wind 1.3

  • Review
  • Specs
  • Images
  • User Reviews
  • Buy Now
NASA World Wind 1.3
  • NASA World Wind 1.3
  • NASA World Wind 1.3
  • NASA World Wind 1.3
  • Expert Rating

    2.50 / 5


  • Globe graphics, 3D terrain, in depth geographical information, good tutorial


  • Full features limited to U.S., interface needs work

Bottom Line

A meteorologist would love this, however don’t expect to get directions to your shops, especially if you live outside the U.S.A.

Would you buy this?

For those more interested in the geographical features of our lonely planet, then NASA World Wind 1.3 is your software - provided you have Windows. (sorry Mac users!) Unlike Google Earth, the complete package of Worldwind is free. So what's the difference? Google Earth's main focus is on the human elements of our world, such as directions to find places of interest; it lists shops, parks, and other famous locations in your world view. World Wind has some of that, but focuses more on the natural and political aspects of Earth; the weather patterns, tectonic plates, borders, topography and countries to name a few.

The software is older than Google Earth, yet the zoomed out world graphics are better and the image collection is dubbed the "Blue Marble." This series of images show the colour of the Earth's surface for each month of 2004 at very high resolution (500meters/pixel) on a global scale. Of course when you zoom right in, it does look a little cartoonish.

NASA boasts that World Wind is designed so all ages could enjoy it, with a simple user interface. However we found Google Earth's interface to be more intuitive. For example, in Google Earth if you want to zoom in on a city you just double click on the name, while with World Wind you will have to scroll the mouse wheel all the way in. Disappointingly, it took longer to load up the map when close to a city with World Wind compared to Google Earth.

One problem that must be fixed in future editions of this software is viewing cities close up on a 3D map. Having a 2D image of buildings pasted onto a 3D landscape looks bizarre with twists and unusual warps in the buildings when you angle the camera to a horizontal perspective. Furthermore, in-depth graphic viewing of cities on World Wind is only available for cities in the United States. The rest of the world will have to live with less detailed views of their cities. You can zoom into a US city up to 1km and still have sharp detail, while things start to get blurry once you go below 30km for Sydney.

A misleading element of NASA World Wind is the name 'place finder' tool; it is very limited in what it can do. You can find human settlements easily, but if you want to find geographical places of interest such as The Blue Mountains near Sydney, Ayers Rock (Uluru) in the middle of Australia or Mt. Everest in the Himalayas, you're out of luck.

There is a moon add on, which is a lot simpler than the Earth with this software. It has three different modes of viewing - one normal, one showing the elevation through colour coding and another showing the surface of the moon with a wash of grey but sharper detail. Names are listed of the various areas of the moon we have discovered as well as craters and moon landing locations, but that's about it.

This all being said, if you feel the desire to get educated on our lonely planet, see the world's weather at work, find out what Earth looked like in the different months of 2004 among other things, get World Wind; it's well worth checking out especially seeing it's free.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?