If you attended one of my sessions with that title, thank you and I hope the time you spent was valuable. On this page you’ll find a tutorial for the project we completed during the session plus links to the examples and other resources to help you continue learning about working with Google MyMaps and Earth. If you have any comments or questions, please write.
Google Maps is a great for looking at your world and getting directions between locations. However, Google also offers two wonderful tools, My Maps and Google Earth for creating custom maps by taking the basics of Google Maps and adding layers of your own information.
You can find details of the differences between these two resources and how to use them elsewhere on this site. But on this page I will be leading you through a project that uses two parts of Google Drive, Sheets and My Maps, as an easy way to lay out a tour for Google Earth. Our particular tour will be a visit to some of the tallest buildings in the world, all of which look great with Google’s 3D imagery in Earth.
Here are links to the examples from My Maps and Google Earth we looked at in the session, plus a few others.
Google Lit Trips – This is a concept that uses a Google Earth file or My Maps map to illustrate the locations in a work of literature read in school. The owners of the original site have made it more difficult to download the Earth files (free membership is now required and the Trips are requested (and emailed) one at a time) but the format can be used by anyone.
The London of Sherlock Holmes – A My Maps project showing all 400 locations in London that were featured in the books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
North American Cities – This map by a student is an example of how icons can be grouped and displayed using different colors in My Maps.
Civil War – This map by teacher shows how the drawing tools in MyMaps can be used to define different regions.
Flat Stanley – The classic travel project illustrated in My Maps. I’ve done projects like this with kids as young as 1st graders, with some help from parent volunteers to speed up the typing.
Before Building the Tour
To complete this activity, you will need the most current version of Earth (7.1.5.something as of the date this was published/last updated) and a Google account that includes access to My Maps. If you want to see where we’re going with this project, here’s an example. Download this KMZ file and open it in Google Earth.
The Tallest Buildings Project folder will be in the Temporary Places folder of the left column. Double-click the item named Tallest Buildings Tour to run the recorded tour, or double-click on any placemark to fly to that location.
If you don’t want to take the step to Google Earth, you can stop after the step that takes the information into My Maps and still have a very good result that can be edited and added to.
Organizing the Tour
We start, as with any good project, by doing the necessary research and organizing our information. Our tool for organizing the data will be a spreadsheet from any program that export to the CSV format, or a spreadsheet in the same Google Drive account as you’ll be using for My Maps.
Your spreadsheet should be laid out similar to this one. You can have up to 15 columns with information but at least one must contain location information. In this case we have a column for Latitude and Longitude (Wikipedia is great for finding these numbers!) but you could also use a street address or the common name for many landmarks, Eiffel Tower, Paris, for example. Google is generally good about mixing location formats in the same spreadsheet column.
Another column will be designated as the title of the marker, in this case Name of Building. The rest will be added to the balloon in My Maps and Google Earth as text information. That could include URLs for websites, links to images, or the embed code for video. Your spreadsheet can have data on up to 100 locations (100 rows, not including the header row).
If you don’t have your own spreadsheet to follow along with these directions, you can use this Sheet with the information shown above. You will need to copy the sheet to your personal Drive account to use them with this tutorial. [Note: the information in this spreadsheet may be different from the screenshot above.]
In the example, the second column contains the data Google needs to find the building, in the form of latitude and longitude. However, Google can find locations using other kinds of information, like a street address or the common name for a well known location like the Eiffel Tower. You can usually mix this information in the same column of the same sheet.
The last column contains a URL for an image to go with the location. The idea here is that while doing the research, you or your students would collect addresses for appropriate images to be included in the markers. However, by including them in the spreadsheet, the images themselves will not automatically be embedded in the markers in My Maps or Earth after the import. But gathering those URLs in the spreadsheet will make it easier to use the images later. You can do the same thing with URLs for videos.
One small detail about images and videos: most spreadsheet software (including Drive Sheets) will automatically hot link a URL pasted into a cell. You must remove those hyperlinks from your URLs in the spreadsheet or the information will not transfer to My Maps.
Creating the Map
Once the spreadsheet is ready, create a new map in My Maps and import the data. You could also use Microsoft Excel or Apple Numbers for your spreadsheet and export it as a CSV file for import. The Excel file saved in the .xlsx format can be used without conversion to CSV.
Of course, the easiest way to do this is to use a spreadsheet in Google Drive. Then just point My Maps to that sheet (as long as they are in the same Google account).
Next, open My Maps, click New Map and then click Import in the information box in the upper left of the screen.
Find the spreadsheet you created in your Google Drive account or you can also select a spreadsheet saved in the .csv or .xlsx file format (or drag it from the desktop). Click Select.
Next, tell My Maps which column contains your location information.
Then choose the column that contains your title information and click Finish. The data in all other columns will be placed as text in the marker’s balloon and can be edited or deleted later.
You now have the markers set in My Maps, based on the location information from your spreadsheet. But before continuing, you should check to make sure everything is in the right place. If not, you can fit things by editing the incorrect markers in My Maps.
Creating the Google Earth Layer
Now it’s time to bring the layer into Google Earth and polish it up.
In the information section of the map, click on the top set of three dots and choose Export to KML. The next box will ask if you want to export the entire map or just a specific layer. Either choice is fine since we only have one layer but in a complex map, you may want to use more than one. You’ll also see an option to Keep data up to date with network link. This means that the resulting KMZ file will update whenever you make changes to the map. However, this option is only available if you have made the map public.
Click Download and a file with the same title as your map (or layer) will be downloaded to the default download location on your computer. Double-click on the file to open it in Google Earth.
That’s it. The work of placing the markers in your Google Earth layer is done.
The final step is the clean up. Open each place marker and edit the contents as needed. You probably need to also adjust the camera position (the tilt, orientation, and altitude) for each marker to give your visitors a better view of each location than the default assigned by My Maps. You can find tutorials for working with markers in Earth elsewhere on this site.