Google Earth Unplugged

Posted on August 17th, 2011 in General,Google Geo Tool Blog Series,Google Geo Tools,Workshops by Alta

Using Google Earth offline in presentations and publications

Three weeks ago, we promised you a series of blog posts to follow-up some of the most common questions and topics of interest we received feedback on after our workshops. Whilst we’re usually trying to encourage people to use online tools to visualise their information, we appreciate that you might not always have the luxury of an internet connection or even Google Earth when presenting to your audience. So, in today’s post we cover a few tips, tricks and tutorials for using Google Earth when you’re disconnected.


The simplest way to share an image from Google Earth (or Maps) is to use screenshots and paste that into your publication or presentation. The picture below, for example, is a screenshot of a SANBI PowerPoint presentation, in which the presenter was communicating a specific area of concern to managers and researchers. For great example of how to use Google Earth and Maps images in a publication, have a look at these (open-access) Plos One publications by  Holland et al. (2010) (fig. 2) or  Aanensen et al.(2009).

Whereas, in most cases, using Google Earth Imagery in this manner is perfectly acceptable, we strongly suggest that you use the Google Earth Permissions tool for guidance on the proper use and citation of Google Earth & Maps imagery.

Using Google Earth Offline

Using a screenshot of a Google Earth Image certainly tells a story, but sometimes you’ll lose impact and context by working statically. The good news is that you can actually present in Google Earth without an internet connection, provided that you’ve stored the imagery you need in you cache at some point before your presentation.

“Caching” happens automatically when you’re connected –  when you fly into places in Google Earth, the imagery that you see is stored in your machine’s cache so that it will load faster. You can adjust the size of your cache, and thus the amount of imagery that you can show, by going into Tools>>Options>>Cache on the top toolbar in Google Earth.

For tips & tricks on presenting in Google Earth offline, and more information on what your cache is and how to you it, check out this tutorial on the Google Earth blog, or this Google Earth Help forum thread.

If you plan on showing custom icons, popping balloons or showing image overlays on Google Earth whilst you’re offline, remember that images referenced off the internet won’t show. Instead you’ll have to create your material in Google Earth with images from or saved to your computer, and then save this as a kmz file (if you’re going to present off someone else’s computer). To learn more about how to create self-contained kmz-files, and the pros and cons of doing that, see this Google Earth Outreach tutorial.

Whereas good practices of presenting in Google Earth is not really within the scope of this post, we’d thought we’d include a good example of how you might go about it. The video below shows highlights of  Google Earth Outreach‘s Rebecca Moore and two other nonprofits present to an audience using Google Earth (view the full video here).

No internet, no Google Earth

In some cases you may simply not have the option of using Google Earth or the internet, or you may not be too sure of how available and reliable these resources will be to you or your audience. In these situations, you may want to create an offline movie, which you can then present to your audience as a standalone, or as part of a PowerPoint Presentation. Whilst there are probably many roads to Rome, here is one way your could go about it:

Step 1: Create your material in Google Earth – use snapshot view to bookmark your imagery and make sure you set your placemarkers so you can easily navigate your way around your presentation.

Step 2: Create a Google Earth tour of the material you plan to present. Play it a few times to cache the imagery properly.

Step 3: If you have Google Earth Pro (download a free trial, or apply for a free licence if you’re a nonprofit or an educational institution), you can use the movie maker option to create an offline movie (see this tutorial in the Google Earth user guide to learn how)


You can use screen-capture software like CamStudio (free), Camtasia (30 day free trial) or SnagIt (30 day free trial) to record your screen whilst playing your tour. Although there is great help material available to help you get started (CamStudioCamtasia and SnagIt), these software packages are all pretty intuitive.  Just make sure you check out the Google Earth Permissions page before you record your movie – there are some cases where the use of screen-capture videos won’t be appropriate.

Step 4: Edit you movie if you like.  Camtasia, for example has really nice editing features, but you could also use something like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie to do this.  Remember that QuickTime videos won’t play in PowerPoint (click here for compatible formats), but you can always play your video as a standalone during your presentation, or convert it into a compatible format.

Step 5: Insert your video into your PowerPoint presentation (if you choose not to do a standalone presentation).

Once you’ve created your movie, you could always upload it to YouTube (like we did in the example below), and then send the link to interested parties, or submit it as supplementary material to your paper when publishing.  Remember that you can also upload your Google Earth material, or if you prefer, your YouTube video, to your MAPA Project bubble.  But that’s getting away from offline use of material…

Google Earth (truly) unplugged

A final option to consider is Google Earth Enterprise Portable.  This solution allows  you to customize your Google Earth globe with your organisation’s spatial data, and carry it around with you when you’re not connected to the internet.  It’s not, however, a free solution, and at the moment there is no grant program for it.  Still, if you work in an area where you need a lot of freedom from the internet, but could use Google Earth’s functionality in your work, this may be the best option for you.

We’d love to hear about how you use Google Earth offline, whether you found this post useful, or of some points we didn’t cover in this post. We’ll pick up on this series in two weeks time when we write about GPS collar data and GPS tracks.

Update: Due to our quarterly newsletter being published in the week of the next slot in the series, the “GPS tracks and collar data” post will be published week of 12 September.


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