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Google Earth: How to Do It

Richard Allaway

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Google Earth was presented by both Russel Tarr and myself, in Toulouse. I focused on the 'What is Google Earth?' and 'How do I ... ?' questions, where as Russel focused upon the application of Google Earth in History Education.


What is Google Earth?

Google Earth is a GIS (Geographical Information System) in that it is a way of creating, storing, analyzing and managing spatial data and associated attributes.

It's a smart globe!

Placemarks - Basics

Placing Placemarks

Press Ctrl + N or click the icon that looks like a map-pin in the bottom right hand corner of the Google Earth screen.

Adding Descriptions to your Placemarks

You can change the Name of your placemark by typing in the Name box.

Text can be entered into the Description box during the creation of a Placemark or by right clicking over a Placemark and then choosing Edit.


The text you type will then appear in the Placemark window. These windows pop-up when you click on a Placemark. Images and other objects can be entered into these window using html - more on this later.

Saving and Sending Placemarks

If you Right Click over a Placemark you are given a number of options. It is from here that you can save or email a single placemark.


Placemarks - Advanced

Snapshot View

By default the view that Google Earth generates of a Placemark is from directly above. This kind of view can have it's limitations. You can alter the view of a Placemark using the controls at the bottom of the Google Earth screen.

Once you have the desired view, Right Click then click 'Snapshot View'. This action saves the view of that Placemark within the Placemarks properties.

Adding Images, Videos, Sound Files ...

To enter images etc into your Placemark Window you need to use some simple html code. Many of the necessary codes can be found on this web page.

If you are going to share your Placemarks and Tours through a website etc. the images used need to be web hosted.

Customising your Placemark Icons

You can change the icon used for your Placemark by going to the editing view and clicking on the icon. Using the 'Custom' choice you can define your own icon which would need to be a image or similar that is web hosted.


Images can be overlayed on top of the 'Google Earth'. The image could be an aerial photograph, a more detailed map or even a diagram, as long as they are an image file.


You need to use the Add menu on the top toolbar. One you have imported the image you will need to manipulate it into the correct position. The image will need to be web hosted if you are going to share this via a website.

The opaqueness of the overlay can be altered using the slider at the bottom of the Places window.

Google Earth Tours

A tour is when Google Earth flys from one Placemark to another in a set order.

To construct a tour you need all of your Placemarks to be in one folder. Google Earth will 'tour' all the Placemarks in that folder so it is worth producing a dedicated one.

You can drag Placemarks around within a folder to reorder them. To start a Tour click on the necessary folder and then press the 'Play' button at the bottom of the Places window.

To can alter the speed of the flight and the pause on each Placemark in Tools > Options.

Changing your Google Earth Settings to Improve the Experience.

Empty your 'My Places' folder of all the default examples.

Ensure you have both the Buildings and Terrain boxes ticked at the bottom left hand corner of the screen.

Increase the Elevation Exaggeration to 1.5 or 2. This is found in Tools > Options.

Ensure that the Overview Map is also turned on as it helps students to realise where in the world they are looking! This is done by View > Overview Map or pressing Ctrl + M.

The Google Earth Placemarks, Overlays and Tours that I used for the seminar can be found here.

An online webpage of this thread cna be found here.

I am more than happy to help anybody that gets stuck - just post any questions and I will see if I can help!



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Thank you for posting your seminar so quickly. I used your instructions to explore my local schools. However, it is currently so blurred that it will be of no use to local teachers. I am using a version that is about nine months old. Does Google automatically update its photographs or do I need to download the latest version myself?

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What you download is just an application that handles the data from the Google Earth servers. If you were to download the whole thing - data for the whole globe it would be a monster. That is why it only runs on a computer attached to the web.

You can check for updates to the application: Help > Check for Updates Online.

It is worth checking an area every couple of months as Google Earth is in the process of updating things.

Another option is to have a look at 'Local Live' - the Microsoft competition to Google Earth which has some excellent aerial photography. You can read more about it here:



Edited by Richard Allaway
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