6.5.9. Layer to KML and import to Google Earth

A KML (Keyhole Markup Language) file is a geographic data layer which was developed for use with Google Earth. Using these steps, any layer (shapefile or raster) from GIS can be imported to Google Earth (conversely, the KML to Layer tool can be used to bring data from Google Earth into ArcGIS). This conversion is useful for sharing geographic information with people who do not use GIS. In previous ArcGIS versions, a shapefile needs to be saved first as a “layer” file before converting it to KML. To do that, the Save to Layer File tool can be used. A layer file is basically a pointer to the shapefile which stores specific symbolization properties. In version 10.1, the user is no longer required to save as a layer file before converting to a KML.

To export a layer from ArcMap for import into Google Earth (Fig. 37):

  1. Type “kml” in the Search window.
  2. Select the Layer to KML (Conversion) tool.
  3. Input layer: commune_wgs84.
  4. Output: GE_commune_wgs84.kmz.
  5. Leave the other options with their default values.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Open Google Earth (if not already installed, it can be downloaded from: http://www.google.com/earth/index.html.)
  8. In Google Earth go to File.
  9. Click Open.
  10.  Select the GE_commune_wgs84.kmz layer.
  11.  Click OK.

The layer created in ArcMap should now be displayed and correctly georeferenced in Google Earth (Fig. 38).

Fig. 37. The Layer to KML dialog box.


Fig. 38. The results of Layer to KML tool imported into Google Earth. Reproduced with permission of Swisstopo (BA13016).