What Is a KML File and How Does It Aid Interactive Mapping?

Have you ever wondered how captivating maps and satellite imagery come to life on platforms like Google Maps or Google Earth? Undeniably, they are possible, thanks to KML files. Indeed, you are inclined to ask what is a KML file and what role does it play in mapping?

To provide a credible answer, imagine yourself on a virtual journey across the globe. You can explore fascinating hotspots, the weirdest locations, and various geographic landmarks, all from the comfort of your screen. These files make this possible by actualizing data in a visually captivating and interactive way.

Indeed, you want to know more about the question “What is a KML file?” and check how you can open one and use it in mapping applications. Interestingly, this guide provides all the answers to understanding KML files.

A guy using mapping software on three PCs and a book to visualize his geographic data.

What Is a KML File?

When you journey across the earth on a mapping application or GIS software, you are in awe of locations with their geographic coordinates. Perhaps you are fascinated by exotic places or regions that spur you to drop a pin on them for future reference. You can achieve this and more with the help of KML files. So, what is a KML file?

KML (Keyhole Markup Language) is an XML-based file format that displays geographic data in mapping apps. Initially developed by Keyhole, Inc., Google acquired it in 2004, and it has become an integral part of the company’s mapping software.

These files allow users to define and describe spatial data, including lines, polygons, images, and points, while visualizing them in a three-dimensional world map. They provide a way to store and share geographical data in a structured format which many mapping and GIS software employ.

Interestingly, it has become more than a static file format, as it embraces the dynamic nature of our ever-changing world. You can keep track of the latest weather patterns, track wildlife migration, or monitor live traffic updates on the go, thanks to KML files. Definitely, you now have a clear answer to what is a KML file and the role they play in shaping our modern world. Let’s now consider some examples.  

A team collaborating on how to visualize geographic data better.

What Is a KML File? Four Standard KML File Examples

Still, on the subject of “what is a KML file,” there is a need to better understand this geographic file by relating it to some examples. Let’s check out four common KML file examples.

  1. Placemarks

This KML file represents a geographic location with its associated geographic information, such as longitude and latitude. Based on your preference, you can define placemarks for each location, such as cities, parks, museums, and restaurants.

  1. Polygons

Polygons are KML files that cover a specific area. This file type help represents city boundaries, political and administrative regions, general areas of interest, and even buildings. You can define a polygon using a series of connected coordinates enclosing the desired areas. You can also employ customization options to create visually appealing representations of geographic boundaries.

  1. Overlays

Another example is Image overlays, which allow you to superimpose images onto the map. This feature is handy for displaying satellite imagery, historical maps, or real-time imagery. Using Overlays to map out a city helps integrate a satellite image. They can specify the image’s position, dimension, and rotation to align it accurately with the map. Thus, it gives users a more immersive and detailed view of the area.

  1. Paths

Paths are another typical KML file example for visualizing map routes and paths. For instance, you can create a KML file representing a road network or a hiking trail. You can then employ a LineString element which defines a sequence of GPS coordinates tracing the road’s path. You can customize the LineString element, making fellow commuters or hikers view and follow the trail via mapping applications.

These common examples further add to our understanding of what is a KML file. Now, let’s consider how to make one. 

A user gathering data from the world map.

8 Straightforward Steps on How To Make a KML File

As we better understand “what is a KML file” and some common examples, the next action is to make one. You can learn how to make a KML file with a few coding skills and simple steps.

  1. Plan and Gather Data: Gather the necessary geographic data before making a KML file. This includes geographic coordinates of places, points of interest, routes, and boundaries you want to represent.
  2. Choose a Text Editor or KML Editor: You can use simple text editors like Notepad on your PC or a dedicated editor like Google Earth Pro or Esri ArcGIS.
  3. Start with KML Root Element: Start your file by adding the root element <kml>. Also, remember to specify the KML version by including; xmlns =“http://www.opengis.net/kml/2.2
  4. Create a Document: Within the <kml> element, create a <Document> element to contain all the data and settings for your map.
  5. Add Placemarks: Within the <Document> element, create individual <Placemark> element for each location. Each <placemark> should contain a <name> element to specify the location’s name.
  6. Define Geometry: Decide the geometry type for your placemark. If it’s a single point, use the <Point> element. For a path, use the <LineString> element. If it’s an enclosed area, use the <Polygon> element.
  7. Specify Your Coordinate: Under the <geometry> element, include a <coordinates> element to define the geographical coordinates of your placemark. For a point, specify the latitude and longitude. For other geometries, provide the sequence of coordinates that define the shape.
  8. Save and Validate: After inputting your data into the editor, save it with the .kml extension. Also, before sharing the file, run it through an XML validator to ensure it adheres to the KML standard.
A lady using a mapping software on different PCs for business needs.

How To Open KML File in 5 Easy Steps

Gradually, we now have an in-depth understanding of what is a KML file and how to create one easily. Let’s learn how to open the KML file we just created. Here are five steps on how to do so effectively.

  1. Choose a Compatible Application: To open a KML file, you’ll need a compatible application that supports this file type. One of the most popular and widely used applications is Google Earth, available for free on all mobile platforms.
  2. Install The Application: If you don’t have the application on your device, visit the official website or app store for your operating system to download it. Follow the installation instructions to complete the setup process. After completing the installation, launch the app.
  3. Open The KML File: In the application’s user interface, locate and select the option to open a file. This option is typically in the “File” or “Open” menu. A file browser dialog box will appear. Navigate to the directory where your KML file is. Select the file and allow the application to load it.
  4. Explore The KML Data: After loading the file, the application will display the geographical data on the map interface. You can navigate the map using the application’s zoom, pan, and rotate features.
  5. Customize and Save: You can make further customizations to suit your preferences. You may have options to change the map style and adjust the visibility or transparency of elements. For any modifications to the data, you can save the changes directly within the application. You can also export the modified file for future use.

By following these steps, you have a practical meaning to what is a KML file. Also, you can share with other users for further collaborations.

Understanding Google Earth KML Files

Google Earth is a revolutionary mapping software that provides excellent 3D visualizations of geographic data on earth. As we have explained the concept of “what is a KML file” earlier, Google Earth KML files are simply files representing geographic data on Google Earth.

These files contain information such as placements, paths, polygons, overlays, and customizable styles. These features allow users to create and share interactive maps and visualizations on Google Earth.

Furthermore, you can use Google Earth’s KML editor to create this file type for your custom maps. Creating your custom maps is also a straightforward process, where you can map and pin multiple locations based on your preference. If you have created and validated your file, Google Earth allows you to open it. You can also explore the contents on its interface.

Indeed, you now have a perfect understanding of “what is a KML file,”  its examples, and how to make and open with Google Earth in this guide. Is there more you can achieve?

Mapize Provides Revolutionary Mapping Solutions for Individuals and Businesses

So far, so good; our understanding of “what is a KML file” has improved. It allows us to represent and share geographic data in applications like Google Earth. Also, these files provide a structured and versatile way to define placemarks, paths, polygons, overlays, and interactivity within a map environment.

Thus, with these files, users can create interactive maps and visualize spatial information while improving their experience. One platform that excels in utilizing a KML file is Mapize. As an online mapping platform, Mapize allows you to create and share customized maps without hassle. Users can import or export files on Mapize in KML or other supported formats and visualize the data on an interactive map. Mapize offers excellent customizations and functionalities, providing a dynamic and engaging mapping experience. Therefore, join Mapize today and create your first custom map for free.

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Drag and drop your file (xls, xlsx or csv) Use our sample data, by clicking here. Or

AddressCityStateZipcodeNamePhone NumberGroupURLEmail
12032 SE Sunnyside rdClackamasOR97015Safeway Clackamas(503) 698-1121Group Bhttps://local.safeway.com/safeway/or/clackamas/12032-se-sunnyside-rd.html[email protected]
4715 SE Cesar Estrada Chavez BlvdPortlandOR97202Trader Joe's Portland SE(503) 777-1601Group Chttps://locations.traderjoes.com/or/portland/143/[email protected]
3380 Lancaster Dr NESalemOR 97305Safeway Salem(503) 399-1502Group Bhttps://local.safeway.com/safeway/or/salem/3380-lancaster-dr-ne.html[email protected]
12220 SW Scholls Ferry RdTigardOR97223Whole Foods Market Greenway(971) 371-7000Group Ahttps://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/greenway[email protected]
8145 SW Barbur BlvdPortlandOR97219Safeway Barbur(503) 452-6068Group Bhttps://local.safeway.com/safeway/or/portland/8145-sw-barbur-blvd.html[email protected]
1550 NW 9th St Ste 100CorvallisOR97330Trader Joe's Corvallis(541) 753-0048Group Chttps://locations.traderjoes.com/or/corvallis/154/[email protected]
1210 NW Couch StPortlandOR97209Whole Foods Market Pearl(503) 525-4343Group Ahttps://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/pearl[email protected]
353 E Broadway EugeneOR97401Whole Foods Market Eugene(541) 434-8820Group Ahttps://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/eugene[email protected]
3527 SE 122nd AvePortlandOR97236Safeway 122nd(503) 760-5448Group Bhttps://local.safeway.com/safeway/or/portland/3527-se-122nd-ave.html[email protected]
9940 NE Cornell RdHillsboro OR97124Whole Foods Market Tanasbourne(503) 645-9200Group Ahttps://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/tanasbourne[email protected]
15391 Bangy RdLake OswegoOR97035Trader Joe's Oswego(503) 639-3238Group Chttps://locations.traderjoes.com/or/lake-oswego/142/[email protected]
2490 OR-99WMcMinnivilleOR97128Safeway McMinniville(503) 435-3120Group Bhttps://local.safeway.com/safeway/or/mcminnville/2490-n-hwy-99-w.html[email protected]
4121 NE Halsey StPortlandOR97232Trader Joe's Portland Hollywood(503) 284-4232Group Chttps://locations.traderjoes.com/or/portland/144/[email protected]
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Copy + paste your data include column files

AddressCityStateZipcodeNamePhone NumberGroupURLEmail
12032 SE Sunnyside rdClackamasOR97015Safeway Clackamas(503) 698-1121Group Bhttps://local.safeway.com/safeway/or/clackamas/12032-se-sunnyside-rd.html[email protected]
4715 SE Cesar Estrada Chavez BlvdPortlandOR97202Trader Joe's Portland SE(503) 777-1601Group Chttps://locations.traderjoes.com/or/portland/143/[email protected]
3380 Lancaster Dr NESalemOR 97305Safeway Salem(503) 399-1502Group Bhttps://local.safeway.com/safeway/or/salem/3380-lancaster-dr-ne.html[email protected]
12220 SW Scholls Ferry RdTigardOR97223Whole Foods Market Greenway(971) 371-7000Group Ahttps://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/greenway[email protected]
8145 SW Barbur BlvdPortlandOR97219Safeway Barbur(503) 452-6068Group Bhttps://local.safeway.com/safeway/or/portland/8145-sw-barbur-blvd.html[email protected]
1550 NW 9th St Ste 100CorvallisOR97330Trader Joe's Corvallis(541) 753-0048Group Chttps://locations.traderjoes.com/or/corvallis/154/[email protected]
1210 NW Couch StPortlandOR97209Whole Foods Market Pearl(503) 525-4343Group Ahttps://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/pearl[email protected]
353 E Broadway EugeneOR97401Whole Foods Market Eugene(541) 434-8820Group Ahttps://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/eugene[email protected]
3527 SE 122nd AvePortlandOR97236Safeway 122nd(503) 760-5448Group Bhttps://local.safeway.com/safeway/or/portland/3527-se-122nd-ave.html[email protected]
9940 NE Cornell RdHillsboro OR97124Whole Foods Market Tanasbourne(503) 645-9200Group Ahttps://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/tanasbourne[email protected]
15391 Bangy RdLake OswegoOR97035Trader Joe's Oswego(503) 639-3238Group Chttps://locations.traderjoes.com/or/lake-oswego/142/[email protected]
2490 OR-99WMcMinnivilleOR97128Safeway McMinniville(503) 435-3120Group Bhttps://local.safeway.com/safeway/or/mcminnville/2490-n-hwy-99-w.html[email protected]
4121 NE Halsey StPortlandOR97232Trader Joe's Portland Hollywood(503) 284-4232Group Chttps://locations.traderjoes.com/or/portland/144/[email protected]
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