Making Data Visual using Google Earth

What is a Google Earth KML file?

KML/KMZ (Keyhole Markup Language) files allow students to see different visualizations of data on the new Google Earth. The instructions and videos below will walk you through how to enable KML/KMZ import, and then how to bring those files into Google Earth. If you view any of the videos, I recommend making them full screen so they're easier to follow.


Haven't seen the new Google Earth yet? Check it out here!

Before you can import KML files into the new Google Earth, you'll need to "Enable KML Import". To do this:

  • Click the three lines in the top left.
  • Click "Settings"
  • Scroll to the bottom of your "Settings" menu and click the "Enable KML Import" button.
  • You can now import KML files from your computer or a Google Drive folder under the "My Places" button.
  • The video to the right can walk you through the process.

Once you have some KML files in your Drive or on your computer (there's several of my favorites below), you can then display them in Google Earth:

  • Press the "My Places" button on the left.
  • Click "Import KML File"
  • You can either upload one from your computer OR import one from a Google Drive folder (recommended).
  • Once the file is located, click to view it in Google Earth.

You can even import KML files from Drive into the Android/iOS versions of the new Google Earth:

  • Open the Google Earth app on your mobile phone/tablet
  • Click "My Places"
  • Select "Import KML/KMZ File"
  • Find your Google Drive , locate the folder, and select the KML file you wish to view
  • That's it!

Open/Download this link (Historic Maps KML) and then open it up in Google Earth to see a sample KML file that you can use with your students.

The folder below has several dozen KML files that you can share to your students. Open the folder, add it to your Google Drive, and then you can import them into Earth.

Want to edit a KML/KMZ in Earth?

  • Bring your KML/KMZ file into the new Google Earth
  • Click the "Edit" button underneath "My Places"
  • Click the location or folder you want to rename and select the label up the top
  • Rename the location whatever you need to call it.
  • Press "Done" and you're set!