Google Earth

Basic Features


Try this tour of features.


Try this page to see some examples provided by Google. These can also be found in Google Earth itself under Places.

Look in the Places folder on the left of the screen. Double click any of the existing places to 'fly' to that location. Drag the places with the mouse into the order that you would like to visit them.


To save a location add a place marker from the bottom panel and choose 'Placemark'. Move the icon to the exact place required. In the dialogue box enter a name and a description. To add a web link inside the description type the URL directly into the box (or copy and paste from the URL bar) - enter as many web sites as you want.

To save a place as a KMZ file right-click the marker, choose 'Save As' and add the name and description in the dialogue box. The file can be saved for later use or passed to other people so they can easily find your place too.

When you create a new placemark the item will be added automatically to 'My Places' or 'My Temporary Places' inside the Places list. Choose the part of the Places folders required. Each place has its own tick box to set the display to on or off. Note that the more places you save the longer it will take for Google Earth to load.

You can also create your own folders, which is especially useful if you are going to create a number of related placemarks. To create a folder right click the 'My Places' item at the top of the Places list and chose New/Folder. Give the folder a name in the dialogue box and a description if you need one. With the new folder selected a new placemark will be added to it. When you have finished adding places to the folder right click the top item to save everything inside it. In this way you can load a number of stored place markers in one go (some of the files on the Google Earth Community have thousands of places).

You can use multiple place marks to create an information system of locations with features in common such as coastal sites, battlefields, scenes from books or films (e.g. The DaVinci Code - not great literature or cinema but an interesting  selection of places; or places linked with Shakespeare, and so on).

Click once on a place marker to open its information box (which includes the web links). To fly to a place double-click the place marker or double-click its name in the list of places.

Use the tick boxes to turn places on and off. To create a tour of your places put them in the order required, set the tick boxes and then click the 'Play' button at the bottom of the Places box. Pause the tour as required. Google Earth Plus and Pro allow you to export a tour as a WMV file.

To turn off a place marker or a group of markers un-tick the display box. To remove a marker or group folder right click it and choose 'Delete'.


To create a flight between two places with directions along the way save two places in the way described above. Select one of the places, click on the icon and choose 'From Here'. Click on the other place, click on its icon and choose 'To Here'. Google Earth will create a sequence of route instructions. The instructions will appear in the top left box with the Directions button highlighted. To trace the route click the Play button at the bottom of the box. You may not approve of the route Google chooses! To fly along the route without the directions turn off the tick boxes in the Directions box.

3D Models

Google provides a list of 3D models produced in 'Sketchup', a 3D modelling tool.


The Layers panel is the place where Google Earth stores a number of layers that can be turned on to display features around the world whose locations have been taken from various sources. Here are some of the main layers:



Scroll down the Layers list and make sure Volcanoes is switched on. Volcanoes are shown with a orange fire symbol. Volcanoes in Google's database are shown with a globe. To zoom in on a Google object double click it.

Vesuvius, Mount St. Helens, Krakatau, Kilimanjaro, Mauna Loa

For each volcano:

National Parks of England and Wales

Locate the 14 national parks in England, Wales and Scotland. Take a 3D snapshot of the landscape to illustrate the nature of the terrain in these areas. Save the image and use it to illustrate a guide to the National Parks of England and Wales, either on a web page or a DTP document. Include some basic information on: date park founded, area in sq. km., number of visitors per annum, main features for visitors.

Create a master page for the separate park pages. Use a satellite image of Great Britain and a hotspot for each park with a link to the relevant page (see the notes on FrontPage for hotspot techniques). There is an example of this technique on the page referred to above.

Rio de Janeiro

Find the Pico do Corcovado (ridge behind the sea front). Find an area of poor housing and take a snapshot. Describe the pattern of housing in this area. Contrast this with an area of high quality housing. What helps you to distinguish higher quality housing?

New Orleans

What lies to the north of New Orleans? What lies to the south? Identify the canals that run through the city and the levées that protect the city from flooding. Which areas were flooded in 2005?


What is the main feature in the location of Sydney?

Manhattan, New York

Locate: Ground Zero, Liberty Island, Ellis Island (what is there?), Long Island, Staten Island, the Empire State Building, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum, Broadway, Harlem, Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn, the East River, Roosevelt Island.


Locate: the overall position of Venice, the Grand Canal, St. Mark's Square (with Campanile), Ponte di Realto. Which English football club takes its name from a feature of Venice? Which country is named after Venice? Which artists have famously painted Venice? Which many of Shakespeare's plays are set in Venice? Where was the first European ghetto? Why is Venice sinking?

The UK Coastline

Find and comment on the following places and features (find at least one interesting piece of information about each one). Create a presentation in a suitable format called 'A Tour of Britain's Coastline'. Illustrate the presentation with screenshots and other images.

Lands End, St. Ives, Newquay, Tintagel, Lundy Island, Bristol, Cardiff, Swansea, Gower, Milford Haven, Anglesey, Dee Estuary, Liverpool, Southport, Blackpool, Morecambe, Barrow in Furness, Solway Firth, Stranraer, Arran, Faslane, Mull of Kintyre, Jura, Islay, Skye, Lewis, Harris, Gruinard Island, John o'Groats, Skara Brae, Twatt, Herma Ness, Muckle Flugga, Fetlar, Mousa, Nairn (murder), Aberdeen, Dundee, Firth of Forth, Lindisfarne, Tynemouth, Flamborough Head, Spurn Point, The Wash, River Orwell, Orford Ness, Lowestoft, Tilbury, Isle of Sheppey, Dover, Beachy Head, Brighton, Portsmouth, Solent, Southampton, Poole Harbour, Weymouth, Portland Island, Chesil Beach, Burgh Island, Plymouth, Falmouth, Lizard Point.

English Premiership Grounds

Locate all the English premiership grounds. Try to find them manually by zooming in on the city and looking for the stadium. Create a separate web page for each one and a master page for all 20 with a link to each sub-page. Take a snapshot of each one showing the ground and its immediate surroundings. Describe briefly the location of the ground and its position in the local community. Who used to watch football? Has the audience changed? Where are the new grounds located?  Add a link to the main web site of the football club. Add Wembley, Ashburton Grove and The Millennium Stadium (Cardiff). Use other resources such as post codes and multimap to help if you cannot find a ground.

(The new Arsenal ground is especially hard to find as the images on Google Earth are up to 5 years old - it's just a few hundred metres to the west, in the angle formed by converging railway lines. As for Wembley, that looks decidely out of date! You will need to pay for the premium service to see the new stadium.)

Grand Canyon
Deltas of the Nile, Mekong, Amazon, Ganges
Jordan Valley
Aral Sea

What evidence can you find for the drying up (dessication) of the Aral Sea? Take a snapshot and explain what you see.

Lake Chad

What has happened to Lake Chad? Can you even find it in Google Earth? It used to be big but now you can scarcely find it on a satellite image. Explain.

Niagara Falls

Which way does the river flow? What caused the falls to form?

Amazon Rainforest

What evidence can you find for changes in the rainforest? What form do these changes take? Take snapshots to illustrate your case.

Suez Canal
Panama Canal

Locate the start of the Panama Canal on the Pacific side of the isthmus. Trace the route through the canal into Lago Gatin and out to the Atlantic. Take suitable snapshots to illustrate the route. (Note that only a small part of this area is in high resolution.)

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

What purpose does this serve? How wide is the bay at this point? How do vehicles get from one side of the bay to the other?



Create a map of the major castles of the UK. Add a place marker for each castle with a brief summary and a web link. Create a new folder in Places called 'Castles'. Make sure place markers are stored inside this folder. To save a collection of place markers right click the Castles folder tab in Places and choose 'Save As'. The results are stored as a 'kmz' file so you can load them later or pass them to someone else. You may need to use resources such as multimap to locate a castle precisely.

Historic Buildings in the UK

Almost the same as the Castles project in outline. You could limit the buildings chosen to a particular group e.g. cathedrals, stately homes, buildings with particular associations.

English Civil War Battlefields

Add place markers to Google Earth to mark the location of the 15 battles of the English Civil War. Use web resources to identify the battles and their locations and then add them to Google Earth. Add at least one web site link to each place marker so that you can use Google Earth as an information system on the battles. When you have finished save images of the sites at various scales and use them to create your own web pages giving a summary of the battles.

Alexander The Great

Julius Caesar

American Civil War Battlefields

First World War Battlefields


Find a place mark in Google Earth and left-click it. It should open up, revealing information about the place referred to. E.g. Croxley Green Station.

Name the place mark that you clicked and describe what was shown when you left-clicked it.

Right-click the same place mark, choose Copy and then do a Paste into a text editor. Describe what you see in the text editor.

Add a place mark to Google Earth (e.g. your house). Add a name appropriate to the location; change the colour of the label, if you wish. Add something in the description area to make a balloon open when the place marker is clicked. Change the icon by clicking on the icon to the right of the name box. Save the code in a suitable location e.g. IT/GoogleEarth (right-click the marker and choose Save Place As). You can also save by right-clicking the place marker and choosing Save to My Places.

Open the saved file in a text editor. Do this by right-clicking the marker and using Copy/Paste. Edit the code:

Change the description text between the tags as you wish. Save the file and then open it in GoogleEarth. You now have a place mark that opens a balloon in GoogleEarth, where you can place any HTML object.

To allow entry of HTML tags you need to expand the <description> </description> block as follows:

<description><![CDATA[    ]]></description>

You can now insert any valid HTML code inside the square brackets. You can generate HTML in DreamWeaver and then paste it into a KML file.

To include an image in the window: save an image into the same folder as the kml file and write a tag like this:  <img src=”name”>

To add a hyperlink add something like this:  <a href=””>BBC</a>
To change the appearance of the balloon, add something like this between </Description> and <Point>:


This is a piece of CSS. Copy and paste it into other kml files to give them the same appearance. This technique is widely used to make balloons distinctive.

You can change the colour of the text and the background by changing the 8 characters between the tags. Leave the first two tags as ff. The other 6 characters are numbers in the range 0-f; a pair of numbers represents the colours B, G, R, which together make up a colour of text or background.

e.g. ff00ffff; ffed9564; ff8b0000.

Having created a place mark you can share it with all Google Earth users by right-clicking the marker and choosing Share/Post.


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