Using Google Document Files in Google Earth

Tom Taylor


Google Docs is a word processing system similar to Microsoft Word or other programs with which students may be familiar.  Documents can be created in Microsoft Word, uploaded to Google Docs, then embedded as Google Earth placemarks.  This allows users to format text and images as they would like in Google Earth placemarks without having to use HTML codes.


First create a document.  In my demonstration document I am using the dummy Latin “Lorem Ipsum” text and an image of an Egyptian pyramid.

In the document you wish to embed, click on the File menu item and select “Publish to Web.”

A dialog box will appear.  Leave “Automatically republish when changes are made” checked, then press the Start Publishing button.

After clicking the button you will see an embed code.  Highlight the code and press CTRL-C to copy it.

Open Google Earth and navigate to the location where you would like your placemark.  In this example I have selected the pyramids of Egypt.  Create a new placemark on your location.  Give the placemark and appropriate name, then paste the embed code into the Description box with CTRL-V.

Click on OK to complete the placemark.  Now, when you click on the placemark either on the map or on My Places, the pop-up box will show your document file.  The text will be formatted to the width of the box, and a horizontal scroll bar will let you scroll down to view all of the document, including any images in the document.

The default settings for the dialog box may not be large enough for the text and images to display properly.  You can resize the box by adding Height and Width settings.  The embed code will looks something like this...

<iframe src=";embedded=true"></iframe>

Right click on the placemark and select Properties to edit the code.  After the embedded=true” statement and before the first >, add Height=500 Widith=500.  The code should now look like this:

<iframe src=";embedded=true" Height=500 Width=500></iframe>

This will create a 500X500 box, which is a bit larger.  The placemark should now look like this when you click on it.

You can experiment with the height and width settings to see what works best for your document.  500X500 or 640X480 are good starting places.  It’s not a good idea to make the document too large or too small.


Since word processing programs are easier to use and format that raw HTML code, students can write about an assigned location.  Those locations can then be uploaded (or created in) Google Docs, then embedded into placemarks.  If the documents are edited, changes will automatically be update in the Google Earth placemark.

You will need one document for each placemark.


There is a way to share text so that it can be edited simply by following a link from the placemark.  This is useful for collaborative projects.  A student can select a placemark, click on the link, and immediately add content to the document that appears in the placemark.  Here’s how to do it...

Open the Google Document you want to share as editable.  Click on the Share button, but this time select the first option, “Share Settings.”

When you click, a dialog box will open.

This should show your name, and that the document is private.  In order to change the privacy settings, click on the Change link.  The following dialog box will open:

Select the “Anyone with the link” option.  This allows anyone to whom you provide the link the ability to edit the Google document regardless of whether or not they actually have a Google Docs account.  Under “Edit access:” you will also need to make sure that the box for “Allow anyone to edit (no sign-in required)” is checked.  Click on Save to continue, and one last dialog box will appear.

You will now see that the permissions have changed, and that the document is no longer private.  There is also now a link that can be copied and shared for editors.  Highlight the link, if it isn’t already highlighted, and press CTRL-C to copy it.

Now go back to Google Earth and find the placemark with this document embedded.  Right-click and select Properties to edit the placemark.  Below the embed code type the phrase “Click this link to edit” or something similar, then press CTRL-V to paste the editing link.  It should look something like this:

Click OK to complete the placemark.  Now when you click on the placemark on the map or in My Places it will look something like this:

The embedded document will appear as it did before with a scroll bar, but below the scrolling area there will be your new text with the editing link.

Depending on the version of the Google Earth you are using, and how your default browser is configured, clicking on the link may cause different behaviors.  Most likely your default browser will open with the document that can be edited.  If you are using the latest version of Google Earth and have the Chrome browser installed, then the document will open within Google Earth itself, like this:

Your users will be able to edit the document.  When it is saved, the updates will appear in the Google Earth document, although not quite immediately.


You will need one document for each placemark, and you will need to set up sharing for each document and placemark you plan to use.  You could provide a template document with leading questions for students, then let them write their thoughts about specific places.