Google Earth is a powerful tool for exploring the world. The base of this software is a large collection of satellite images of the Earth's surface applied to a globe . Additional data are included in layers (text, images, videos, etc.). Google Earth also provides a means to add your own data. You can add photos or a video from a trip. Research a specific location on Earth and share the results with others. Use this guide to learn more about Google Earth and how you can add your own data.
If you don't have Google Earth installed on your computer, you can download it for free from this location:
The User Guide in Google Earth is invaluable for assistance in learning the software (select User Guide in the Help menu). This link opens the current User Guide if you don't want to open it in Google Earth. First, become familiar with the user interface of Google Earth. Your next task in learning Google Earth should probably be the development of navigation skills. The User Guide has a section on navigation. Learn how to use the Fly To tab under Search on the left side of the screen. The Fly To tab can be used to find a place on Earth quickly. It is particularly helpful if your geographical knowledge is not sufficient to find the place using manual navigation (or if you just need to get there fast). You will also want to know how to use the basic navigation controls (zoom in or out, move your location to the east, west, north or south, tilt your view, rotate your view, etc.).
After you are comfortable with navigation, you should become familiar with the additional content available under Layers on the left side of the screen. Google and content partners have added many enhancements to the base image of the Earth. The enhancements can be turned on or off by placing check marks in boxes in the Layers part of the left side panel. Below is a partial list of enhancements:
Under Geographic Web
1. Panoramio - this is an online photo application (photo storage) offered for free to individuals. Photos uploaded to Panoramio can be submitted for addition to Google Earth. The photos are reviewed by Google prior to addition, a process that takes several weeks. If approved, the photo is linked to the appropriate place on Earth and is available to all users of Google Earth. http://www.panoramio.com/
2. Wikipedia - various articles of this online encyclopedia are linked to appropriate locations in Google Earth - click on a Wikipedia icon found at a specific location and a text balloon will appear with information and a link to the full article in Wikipedia.
3. Places - photos and text applied to various locations by Google
Roads - lines mark roads and include name labels
3D buildings - three dimensional models of buildings - you will find these in various urban areas
Borders & Labels - turn this option on to display country borders, city names, etc.
Weather - turn this on to see current cloud cover and areas of rain detected by radar
Gallery - content from Discovery Networks, National Geographic Magazine, NASA, New York Times, YouTube, etc.
Global awareness - content from Greenpeace, World Wildlife Federation Conservation Projects, USHMM Crisis in Darfur, etc.
Terrain - turn this on if you are exploring mountainous terrain - very interesting
Customizing Google Earth with Your Own Placemarks
Google Earth demo link Quick tour of Paris, France
One of the important features of Google Earth is the provision for customization, which makes this software a more powerful tool for education. Customizations are produced by utilizing items in the Add menu. The most important item is probably the Placemark, which is used to mark a specific location on Earth. The tour of Paris linked above consists of five Placemarks (depicted as yellow push pins) that demonstrate the use of a customization. The five Placemarks were packaged together by placing them in a folder (Folder is also an item on the Add menu).
Try making your own quick tour of a favorite place on Earth.
1. Click on My Places located under Places on the left side panel of Google Earth.
2. In the Add menu, select Folder. In the dialog box that appears, name the folder (give it a name descriptive of your tour). Then click the OK button for the dialog box. Note that you now have a folder under My Places.
3. Click on the folder you just created, located under My Places. Now you will begin adding Placemarks to this folder.
4. Navigate to the location for your first Placemark. You may wish to tilt your view so that you are not looking directly down on top of the location. Adjust your view so it depicts the location the way you want visitors to view the Placemark.
5. Open the Add menu and select Placemark. In the dialog box that appears, apply a name for the Placemark. If you wish, add text to the description. This text will appear in a balloon when the Placemark is clicked. When you are finished, click the OK button in the dialog box. Note that you now have a Placemark listed under the folder you created.
6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 for additional Placemarks.
Sharing your tour with others.
If you want to share your tour with others, then you will need to save it by exporting a special file. Here is how you export your tour:
1. Click on your tour folder with the RIGHT mouse button.
2. Select Save Place As in the context menu that appears
3. In the Save File dialog box that appears, give the file a name and save it (make sure you note where you are saving the file so you can find it later).
4. Now test the file you just saved. First, close Google Earth. Then find the file using My Computer. When you find the file, double-click on it. If a dialog box appears, click on the Open button. Then Google Earth should start and zoom in to the general location of your tour. Double-click on a Placemark in your tour and Google Earth will move to that location (if you can't see the Placemarks, the folder may be closed - click the + on the left of the folder to open it).
Now you have confirmed that your file is functional. How do you share it with others? For presentation in the classroom, save the file to a memory stick or other storage device (make sure the computer you will use for the presentation has Google Earth installed and has a connection to the Internet). You could share the tour by sending the file as an attachment in an e-mail. Or upload the file to a course management system like Blackboard. If you have a personal web site or access to a web server, you could upload the file for public distribution. In this case you may need to check with the administrator of the server to ensure that the proper MIME-types for Goggle Earth files are set on the server (Google Earth reads KML and KMZ files. The MIME type for KML files is application/vnd.google-earth.kml+xml The MIME type for KMZ files is application/vnd.google-earth.kmz For Apache, add these two lines to the httpd.conf file: AddType application/vnd.google-earth.kml+xml .kml and AddType application/vnd.google-earth.kmz .kmz ).
Add a Link to a Web Page as Part of a Placemark
Google Earth demo link Mt. Darwin - description balloon
If you have already created your own quick tour as described above, then you are familiar with Placemarks. In this example we expand on the description that can be included with a Placemark. When you add a Placemark, a dialog box appears - on the description tab of the dialog box, enter the text you wish to be associated with the Placemark - if you have already created the Placemark, click on it in the left side panel with the RIGHT mouse button and select Properties in the context menu to open the dialog box for the Placemark. It is helpful if you know a little about the HTML language used to create web pages. Tags are used to format text on web pages. In the example here, the paragraph tag is used to space the lines of text for the description. A paragraph starts with this tag <p> and ends with this tag </p>. Below you will find the text applied to the description for the Mt. Darwin Placemark. Note in particular the last line, which is a link to a web page. When the Placemark is clicked, a description balloon opens, which contains the link to a web page. When the link is clicked, Google Earth loads the web page in a frame below the 3-D viewer or in an external browser window (behavior depends on setting: Tools/Options - General tab - check box Show Web results in external browser).
<p>Mt Darwin is the highest member of the Evolution group in the Sierra Nevada of California.</p>
<p>Jeff La Favre climbed Mt. Darwin on August 26, 1979 and again in 1985.</p>
<p>Click the link below to load a web page with a photo of the summit pinnacle of Mt. Darwin.</p>
Add a Photo to the Description Balloon for a Placemark
Google Earth demo link Mt. Darwin - balloon description with included photo
Here is another version of a description balloon that has a photo included rather than a link to a web page with photo. The photo is included by using another HTML tag, <img>, the image tag. Note how the image tag is coded below. The text within the double quotes is the url to the photo.
<p>Mt Darwin is the highest member of the Evolution group in the Sierra Nevada of California. The photo below is the summit pinnacle of Mt. Darwin. The exposure to a climber of the pinnacle is fairly high and some will elect not to climb to the absolute high point of the mountain if they are not equipped with a rope.</p>
Add a Photo to a Description Balloon - alternate method
Google Earth demo link Kearsarge Pass - photo in description balloon
Now we have seen two methods to include a photo via the description balloon for a Placemark. Both these methods require a photo available on the Internet. There may be instances when the photo you wish to use is not available on the internet. If you have photos stored on your computer (e.g., from your digital camera), there is another method you can use to include the photos in Google Earth. The link above demonstrates this method (the visual display will be the same as the method above but the methodology to deliver the photo is different). Here is how it was done:
1. Create a Placemark and enter the text below in the description (note that the <img> tag is used again, but this time pointed to a photo on the local hard drive, C, in a folder named images - make sure you use backslashes \\\):
<p>Kearsarge Pass, Sierra Nevada, California - 1981</p>
<p>From left to right:<br>
Mark, Gerald and Jeff La Favre</p>
<p>Mt. Brewer in background</p>
2. Click on the Placemark in the Places panel on the left with the RIGHT mouse button.
3. Select Save Place As in the context menu that appears
4. In the Save File dialog box that appears, give the file a name and save it (make sure you note where you are saving the file so you can find it later).
When you save the file using the procedure above, a copy of the photo is actually included in the exported Google Earth file. You can make the file available to others by methods described previously.
Adding a Photo to Google Earth that Serves Directly as a Placemark
Google Earth demo link High Sierra Peaks
Here is yet another way to add photos to Google Earth. In this case the photo actually takes the place of the Placemark icon. The link above demonstrates this method. Follow instructions below to use this method.
1. Navigate to the location on Earth where you wish to attach a photo.
2. Select Photo in the Add menu.
3. In the dialog box that appears, click the Browse button and find the photo. Then add a name for the photo. If you wish, also add a description. Then click the OK button for the dialog box. Note that the photo has been added in the Places panel on the left side of the Google Earth window.
A series of photos can be collected together in a folder using the same procedure described above for Placemarks. You can export and share the photos using procedures described for Placemarks as well.
Adding Audio Inside the Description Balloon of a Placemark
Google Earth demo link Adding a ClickCaster audio to Google Earth
Audio recordings can be included in the description balloon of a Placemark. In this demonstration, an MP3 recording was produced using Audacity software. The recording was uploaded to the service named ClickCaster, a podcasting service. Basic ClickCaster accounts are available for free. There are other options for linking to audio (e.g., upload audio to a server and link to it in the description balloon). After you have uploaded an audio file to ClickCaster and included it in your "channel", you can obtain the HTML embed code for the audio. You don't need to understand the code, just copy it from the embed slot on your ClickCaster web page. The text in red below is the embed code for this demonstration. Paste the embed code in the description area of the Placemark dialog box in Google Earth.
<div><embed id="oneplayer" name="oneplayer" src="http://www.clickcaster.com/players/player.swf?slug=jcu-llc&autostart=false&bgcolor=EEEEEE&playertype=video&file=http://www.clickcaster.com/channels/jcu-llc.xspf&item=0" quality="high" style="position:relative; width:332px; height:295px;" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" pluginspage="http://www.macromedia.com/go/getslashplayer"></embed></div>
Adding a Video Inside the Description Balloon of a Placemark
Google Earth demo link Adding a YouTube video to Google Earth
A YouTube video can be inserted into the description balloon of a Placemark as demonstrated by the link above. Find the video at YouTube you would like to use and copy the embed code (the example here utilizes the code in red text below). You don't need to know the code, just copy and paste. If you want to use your own videos, get a YouTube account and upload the videos.
<p>Site where President Abraham Lincoln delivered The Gettysburg Address</p>
<object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/V4bM9geY0do&hl=en&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/V4bM9geY0do&hl=en&fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>
Drawing a Path on the Surface of Earth
Google Earth demo link Cleveland tour
There are a few more items in the Add menu of Google Earth that we have not covered yet. Path is the next item. In the example linked above, a path is marked around the city of Cleveland. A Path is essentially a line applied to the surface of the Google Earth map. You could draw a line through the streets of a city to represent a tour route. There could be a number of other reasons you might think of for using the Path feature in Google Earth. An interesting feature of Path is the traveling function. You can "play" the path, which takes you to the start of the line and then moves along that line to the end (notice the play button at the bottom of the Places area). To play a path, click on it in the Places area and then click the Play button. In the example linked above, the line is set to 0% opacity (i.e., transparent) and is placed 70 meters above the Earth's surface. The purpose of this path is not to depict a route, but to mark a route to be played.
Here are directions for creating a path.
1. Navigate to a place where you want to create a path. You may wish to select a viewing position that allows you to see all of the area to be included in the Path. However, if the area to be included is relatively large, then an all-inclusive view may not yield the detail necessary to draw an accurate line.
2. Select Path in the Add menu. A dialog box will appear. The default style and color of the line to be drawn is one pixel wide and white. If you don't want the default, make your selections on the style/color tab. Add a name for the Path and a description if you wish.
3. With the dialog box still open, move the mouse cursor to the starting point of the Path. Click the LEFT mouse button to mark the starting point of the line. Move the mouse cursor to the end point of the line and click the mouse button again. A line segment will now appear between the two marked points. To add a second line segment to the Path, move the mouse to a third location and click again. A line segment will then connect the second and third points. Continue this procedure to make additional line segments. If you need to extend the Path beyond your screen view, you can't use the mouse to move the view position (mouse is in Path draw mode). Rather, to move your view, use the arrow keys on the keyboard. When you have completed your Path, click the OK button in the dialog box to save the Path.
You can group Paths in a folder and you can save and share Paths using procedures already described for Placemarks.
Adding an Image Overlay to Google Earth
Google Earth demo link Stony Creek 18th Century tract map
An image overlay can be applied to the surface of the Earth by utilizing the item Image Overlay in the Add menu. Consult the User Manual for details on applying an overlay. In the example above, an 18th Century tract map of properties on Stony Creek, Shenandoah County, Virginia was applied using Image Overlay. A Placemark was also added to provide a heading for the image overlay and to provide a web link for further information. If the image applied as an overlay is stored on the local computer, when you export the overlay (Save Place As), the image will be included in the exported file. You can share the file as described previously.
Creating 3-D models for placement in Google Earth
Google Earth demo link O'Malley Center - 3-D model
If you have used Google Earth to view urban areas with the 3-D buildings option turned on (under layers in the left side panel), you have probably noticed 3-D models of buildings. Google offers free software called Google Sketchup, which can be used to create 3-D models. The link above loads a model of the O'Malley Center at John Carroll University created by Jeff La Favre
The creation of a model takes some time, but may be of interest to those who would like to customize Google Earth with a 3-D model.