NASA World Wind plug-ins and links - Patrick Murris

NASA World Wind plug-ins and links

By Patrick Murris - last updated January 30, 2009 (updated Sky and Fog plugins for WW 1.4).

"NASA World Wind lets you zoom from satellite altitude into any place on Earth. Leveraging Landsat satellite imagery and Shuttle Radar Topography Mission data, World Wind lets you experience Earth terrain in visually rich 3D, just as if you were really there." Mac OS X and Linux users may want to look at WW2D Plus One.


One of the great features of WW is that you can create Add-ons and Plug-ins. Here are my contributions.

You will find zip files that contain the plugins directory. They should be unziped in your /Program Files/NASA/World Wind 1.3/Plugins directory with their directory structure preserved so that a new folder appears inside the Plugins folder. For more informations, notes, links and sometime a self installing package, visit the plugins pages at World Wind Central (WWC).

Note : most of those plug-ins have been written for WW 1.3.2 and 1.3.3 and will not work in WW 1.4 unless specified. Some of them have been included in WW 1.4 : Sky gradient and Globe icon. Others where previously included with version 1.3.4 : Stars 3D, Atmosphere, Global Clouds and Compass rose.

3D Cross Section - WW 1.4

Terrain extraction

This plugin allows you to select a square portion of terrain and view the 3D cut out in a separate 3D window, the 'terrain viewer'. The cross sections are saved and can be reloaded later.

The terrain viewer can also apply 'color scales', light and shadows to the extracted maps. See this page about the terrain viewer for more information and mouse/keyboard controls.

The 'terrain extraction' part of this plugin has been written by Erik Newman aka witak.

Version history (Show)

Lens Flare - WW 1.4

Sunset over the globe

This plugin displays a lens flare effect when the sun is visible.

The plugin settings allow to chose between several presets from 'simple soft' to 'outrageously bold'. Advanced options allow to customize the different graphic parts of each preset.

This plugin has been originaly written by Stephan Mantler. I added the presets and persistence of the settings and also extended the number of sprites and textures used.

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Big Screenshots - WW 1.4

2x and 3x screenshot magnifier

This plugin allows you to save the current screen image at 2x or 3x its size with a better overall resolution suitable for printing.

With the default WW window size, the 3x factor is the equivalent of taking pictures with a 5 mega pixels digital camera. A full 1024x768 screen would produce more than 7 mega pixels.

To produce a panoramic view, simply shrink your WW window vertically to get a wide rectangle. The horizontal field of view will automaticaly widen.

Note : for technical reasons, the 3x magnifier will only render the ground terrain - no stars, atmosphere, sky, borders or placenames...

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Planetary Rings

Saturn and rings with shadows

This plugin adds different rings around different worlds. Rings for Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus are included. More can be added. Ring textures assembled by Pangloss.

Settings allow to chose different 'rings textures' for each world - when available. You can also turn shadows on and off and change the sun orientation to see different phases or seasons.

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Heavenly bodies - WW 1.4

Jupiter and Io

This plugin adds the Sun and various moons according to the current world. It includes more than 15 moons and presets for Venus, Earth, the Moon, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

Settings allow to set relative positions of bodies and size exaggeration.

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Sky gradient (now in 1.4)

Sky gradient on Mars

This plugin adds a global atmospheric effect to the planet. From a thin halo at high altitude it fades into a full sky at ground level.

Since this process does not use texture bitmaps like the Sky and Atmosphere plugins below, it is a small footprint alternative saving on texture memory and possibly rendering time (maybe ?).

Settings allow for various presets for Earth, Mars and Venus.

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Shiny Marble

Shiny Marble

This plugin adds a 'shiny' surface to the Earth waters.

This is still a test and should evolve in future versions. For now the 'sun' follows the camera so you can see the highlight move across land and water. For a better usability, turn off the 'Images' layer in the Layer Manager - more responsive.

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Globe icon (now in 1.4)

Globe and top view

This plugin adds a mini globe showing the current location on Earth and an optional top view window. Version 0.7 can also show a global world map not available in WW 1.4.

Settings allow to choose various size and screen placements.

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Compass rose (now in 1.3.4)


This plugin adds a compass pointing north.

Settings allow for different compass versions, behavior and screen placement.

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Global Clouds - almost real time (now in 1.3.4)

Global cloud cover

This plugin adds a global cloud cover around the Earth based on actual satellite images. It updates every three hours and keeps a ten days history.

Settings allow to browse the cloud cover history.

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Atmosphere (now in 1.3.4)

Atmosphere 'thick'

This is Bjorn Reppen aka Mashiharu original Atmosphere plugin revisited with new bitmaps and settings. It adds an atmospheric halo around the globe.

Settings allow for different halo 'thickness'.

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Stars and Stars 3D (now in 1.3.4)

Stars 3D

This two plugins both add a starfield background to the world. Whereas Stars is bitmap based and renders a rather blurry sky, it includes options for the Moon or Earth. Stars 3D renders a much sharper sky based on a subset of the Hipparcos catalog of stars.

Settings allow for different sky textures or stars density.

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Sky and Fog - WW 1.4

Sky and fog

The Sky and Fog plugins add both a 'sky dome' and haze effect to World Wind scenery.

Settings allow for different sky textures and fog density.

Version history (Show)


Here are some of my contributions to WW core :

Light control

Sunlight control in WW 1.4.1

One of the really nice features of WW 1.4 is the light. Some think of it as a little gadget, but in fact it is a very usefull tool that can dramatically enhance existing layersets by bringing out more terrain details and also providing a more 'natural' rendering of the overall scenery. It is definitly something you want for a non shaded topo or geology map.

Chris Maxwell added the basic code into WW 1.4 but didnt have the time to finish up the integration before being assigned to the Java team. During 1.4 beta testing, i spent quite some time ironing out shading and atmospheric scattering issues and added the much needed 'manual control' to set the light orientation at will.

More light controls have been added into WW 1.4.1. The mouse middle button when clicked turns the light on and off - with a 'light switch' kind of noise. Dragging the mouse with the middle button down will change the sun heading (horizontal) and elevation (vertical). In addition, the ligth options dialog now let you change the light and shadows colors for special effects like sunsets or full moon.

Terrain tesselation

Terrain tesselation in WW 1.3.3

One of the first things i did with WW 1.3.1 was to port some terrain tesselation code i previously wrote for Macromedia Director and 3D Lingo. It replaces the original 40x40 terrain grid with a 32x32 or 64x64 or 128x128 optimized grid where 'flat' areas use less polygons. The level of detail is controled by a 'variance' parameter indicating how close to the elevation map the mesh should be.

This code has been included in WW 1.3.3 by Chris Maxwell (WW/NLT lead developer). So far the internal settings use a 32x32 grid and a 7 meters variance - see PluginSDK/BinaryTriangleTree.cs and QuadeTile.cs.


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