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User Guide

Using GPS Devices with Google Earth

If you have a GPS (Global Position System) device, you can connect it to your computer and import your waypoint and track data into Google Earth. Note that this set of features is available to users of Google Earth Plus, Google Earth Pro and Google Earth EC, but not the free version (see Google Earth Products). Topics in this section include:

Supported Devices

Google Earth currently supports most GPS devices from the following manufacturers:

The GPSBabel web site lists the devices officially supported by the Google Earth GPS import feature. You can try other devices, but they might not work correctly. If you're using a device that is not supported, you can try importing GPS data from the device to your computer as a .gpx or .loc file and then opening it in Google Earth (File > Open).

Required Connectors

You need either a serial or USB cable to connect the GPS device to your computer. Typically, your device is sold with one type of cable. If your GPS device did not come with a cable, you can visit the manufacturer's web site to purchase the correct one for your model.

About GPS Points

When your GPS data is imported into Google Earth, it is categorized into three possible folders, depending upon the type of point. These folders are:

Importing GPS Data

Tip - If you have a .GPX file on your computer, you can import it by dragging and dropping the file into Google Earth.

Importing the data from your GPS to Google Earth is simple:

  1. If you are using a Garmin USB device and a Windows computer, please install the Garmin USB driver from the CD that came with your GPS device or download this driver from the Garmin website.
  2. Connect your device to the computer running Google Earth.

    You can use either a serial cable or USB cable, depending upon which one came with your device.
  3. Turn on the GPS device. Once your device is on and activated, it is not necessary to wait until it connects to satellites.
  4. From the Tools menu, select GPS. The GPS window appears.

    The GPS Device window
  5. Select the correct manufacturer type for your device.
  6. Under Import, Select the types of data you want to import.
  7. Under Options, choose your drawing preferences. Check Draw icons at track and route points if you want an icon to be displayed in the 3D viewer for every track/route point recorded by your GPS device. Check Draw lines for tracks and routes to draw each GPS track and route as a solid line.
  8. Check the Adjust altitude to ground height check box to adjust all recorded point to ground level, such as when importing a track taken on foot, car, or bike. However, if your GPS track was recorded while hang gliding or flying, make sure this option is not selected so that your points will appear as above-ground points.
  9. Click OK. When your GPS data is finished loading into Google Earth, a confirmation dialog box appears.

Your data appears in the Places panel with the label Garmin GPS Device or Magellan GPS Device, depending upon the device used (see Supported Devices). If you expand that folder, you can see the data sorted into the appropriate folders depending upon the type of data, as illustrated in the example below.

The Places pane

You can expand those folders and explore the information within as you would any other type of places data. This includes organizing, editing, sharing, saving, and more.

Note - If you receive a connection error, turn off the GPS device, turn it on again, and start again from Step 4 above.

Viewing Realtime GPS Information

If you have connected your portable computer to a GPS device, you can view GPS information in realtime. For example, you can view a live GPS track of your progress in a car on a laptop in Google Earth as you travel. To do this:

  1. Connect your GPS device and portable computer as described in steps 1-4 of Importing GPS Data.
  2. In the GPS dialog box, click the Realtime tab.
  3. Choose the appropriate options:
  1. Click Start to begin realtime GPS tracking.

Viewing a Timeline

If you have downloaded data that contains time information (for example, GPS tracks), you can view this information sequentially in Google Earth. For example, you can view GPS tracks that occurred within a specific time period and visually follow these tracks. To do this:

  1. If necessary, import the GPS data or other time-related data.
  2. In the Places panel, select this data. The time slider appears at the top of the 3D viewer with a time range that corresponds to the data you selected.
  3. Do any of the following:

Time Slider

Features of the Time slider include:

  1. Click these arrows to move the time range earlier or later.
  2. Drag these range markers to the right or left to re-define the time range of data displayed.
  3. Click this to play an animation of the sequence. This works best if you move the range markers to define a time range smaller than the whole set.
  4. Click this to set options for the time slider.
  5. Drag this to move the time range earlier or later.

Note: The time slider is not available when you record movies.

Setting Timeline Options

You can set options for the timeline display feature. To do this:

  1. In the time slider, click the clock icon (see above). The Time dialog box appears. Options include:
  1. When you are finished, click OK.

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