Monday, January 21, 2008

Customizing the Google Earth Interface

Ever since people became aware that it was possible to allow external software applications to interact with Google Earth using their API (which seems to be in perpetual beta stage), they have been trying to figure out how best to integrate their custom applications into Google Earth.

While almost all of the initial efforts dealt with taking existing applications and simply loading their data into GE in a KML format, later efforts involved trying to make all functionality directly accessible form the Google Earth application itself.

The basic problem, however, is that Google Earth does not provide a framework to extend its user interface. You cannot simply add a new button to their toolbar that fires off your own application, as you can in many GIS and Office software packages.

A couple of tricks have been developed to make Google Earth application extensions appear to work seamlessly with Google Earth. They generally fall into five categories.

  1. Use built-in network links and server side scripting to serve custom data dynamically.
  2. Embed the Google Earth render window into your own application.
  3. Build customized applications that always hover over Google Earth.
  4. Use JavaScript in the built in web browser.
  5. Use a Flash application in a pop-up balloon.

Has anyone come up with their own way get their application to work with Google Earth?


  1. Sebastian6:22 AM

    Can you elaborate on the "Use JavaScript in the built-in web browser" option?

    As I have understood from the KML 2.2 beta documentation, the description tag that defines the contents of info bubbles does not support scripting languages in the subset of HTML it features.

    Or did you mean something else with "built in web browser"?

  2. This does need clarification. As pointed out, you cannot embed javascript in the KML to be accessed via the pop-up balloon. There is a method to access the Goolge Earth API via javascript that you can access through a web page that you can have open in the web browser that is built into Google Earth.

    I'll need to get a link up to demonstrate.

  3. Anonymous8:08 AM

    I'm trying to create a virtual aircraft flight using GE's Play Tour feature. Is there any way that I can programatically specify the Tilt & Speed parameters (normally user-defined in Options)? I'm happy with KML, but don't want to get heavily into programming of any other sort! Can I even get GE to display a dialog box?


  4. Anonymous5:47 AM


    Has this situation improved in the last 3+ years?


  5. can use google earth to create my own software ?