Placemarks and Overlays (Basic Training)

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Placemarks and Overlays (Basic Training) Lrae 4/11/13 11:17 AM
Welcome to Placemarks and Overlays (Basic Training). This is the first of a two part series on placemarks and overlays. In the first part we will look at the ways to create a placemark, save it, and post it to the Community. In the second part Placemarks and Overlays (Advanced Training), we will look inside placemarks and learn to use some advanced techniques.

If you have any questions or suggestions, drop me a line by left clicking on my name and then selecting "Send a PM" (short for Private Message)

And now to the next reply.
1. Making a Placemark Lrae 3/12/12 11:08 AM
Learning to use the Viewer is a little like learning to fly. There are many varied tasks that pilots must learn while earning their "Wings". Learning can be accomplished in a variety of ways; the two most popular are self-taught and instructor-taught.

You could teach yourself. This is how the Wright Brothers learned. You might be surprised at the number of times they visited doctors and hospitals. But once they had the basics mastered, they started to teach others. Their students learned much faster and didn't hurt themselves as often.


Your instructors, who know something about flying, create these tutorials and we will be teaching you the right stuff. So, let's get started and learn a few things about flying from one place to the another and landing at a destination.

Before reading any further, you should have read, Advice For New Members, and you should be comfortable using the Google Earth program. You should have found your house and/or where you work. If you don't live in or near a 'Higher Resolution Area', I hope you have at least looked around some of the major cities of the world.


My first flight instructor gave me a little black book, (No not that kind of black book!) for keeping track of my flights. It is called a Logbook. With this book, I can create pointers to each and every flight I take. I can use this book to revisit any previous flight. The Viewer allows us to do the same. It lets us make pointers to the world. The Viewer's logbook is called "My Places" and we will examine it in just a bit. But, first we must create some pointers.

A Placemark is a place we make a mark. And it is not just a simple pointer, but also a snapshot of how we viewed that point. The next time we go back, the Viewer will remember the direction we faced, the height above the ground of our eyes, the angle we were looking, what we named the place, and even the style of pushpin we stuck into the earth. So, take your Viewer and fly to some point, zoom in, rotate some, and when you have the spot you like, click the Placemark (pushpin) icon on the navigation panel. It's just above the view screen. You could also right click on the 'My Places' icon in the 'Places' window and click on 'Add'. Now select Placemark from the pop-up menu, and two distinct things will happen. A new window will appear on the screen and a Pushpin icon will appear in the center of the view with a flashing box around it..

Are we having fun yet? Lets move our mouse around the view; notice it is a hand with outstretched fingers. When you move it over the pushpin, it becomes a pointing finger. This means you can drag the pushpin, use the Left mouse button to drag the pushpin around, you don't want it to hide your new find. If you want to move the entire view around some, you can do that when the hand has outstretched fingers and Left mouse dragging. The Right mouse drag will zoom in and out. Also the navigation keys work as well. When the placemark and view are where you want them, head over to that other window, it's called 'New Placemark'.

At a later time you can edit the placemark and the window will be called... what else 'Edit Placemark'. Give it a name; please don't let it remain 'New Placemark'. Next we need to pick an icon, click on the pushpin icon and find one that matches the type of place you are marking. At the very bottom is one called 'None', in case you don't like making a lot of holes in the earth. Our next choice is where to put it, for now just single click on the 'My Places' folder. One more step to go, and we are done. Just click on 'OK'. The window will close, the new name will appear next to your new marker and the 'My Places' folder will contain your new placemark. Just to prove to yourself that this really worked, move your view a few miles. Now double left click on the name of your new placemark in the 'My Places' window. Zoooom... you are flying.

In the next reply, we will look at organizing these treasures.
2. Organizing Placemarks Lrae 3/12/12 11:09 AM
In our last lesson we looked at creating placemarks. In this lesson, we will be organizing them.

Enough talk let's get started.

Organization of the places you are saving doesn't seem too important when you only have a few, but just wait. I have over 1,500 placemarks currently saved on one of my computers. Keeping track of these could be a monumental task without help. And help is as easy as the names you choose and the order you keep them within 'My Places'. A good name is very important. Here are some examples of my placemark names.

These may vary slightly on a Mac, PC, or Linux machine

Some bad names: Small USA, Mine, Moth Balls 1, Moth Balls 2 (not very descriptive)
Some better names: Phantom Plane, JailBall, SLAC (they only mean something to me)
Some Great names: MaineWestTSHS, Area 51, Low Flying SR-71 (names with meaning)

The nice part about the placemarks, you can rename them at will. Either Right Click on the placemark icon in the Viewer or the placemark name in 'My Places', then select 'Properties' (PC) or 'Get Info' (Mac). The 'Edit Placemark' window will pop up. Here you can change the name, the icon, and the description. Then click either OK to save the changes or cancel to forget the changes.

Another great way to keep your placemarks organized is with photo albums, that we call 'Folders'. To make a folder, simply Right Click on the 'My Places' icon. Mouse over the pop-up item, 'New'. Then click on 'Folder' and a new window, 'New Folder', pops up.

Suppose we wanted to make placemarks of all the places we have lived, we could name this folder 'Homes' or 'My Domiciles', and place it in the "My Places" folder. Then whenever we created a placemark of a previous residence, we would put it in this folder. Folders have other cool features; you can click on the box in front of the folder's name and this will toggle all of the icons for all of the placemarks, within, on and off; you can double click on the folder's name and the Viewer will zoom out to include all of the placemarks in the view; you can click on the + or - (triangle on the Mac) in front of the box to show or hide the contents of the folder. And one last item before we take a break, you can drag placemarks up and down in the 'Places' window. You can also drag folders, and folders can live inside of other folders! In my left example, you can see some of the closed folders; (Large Sample, Landing SFO) and an open folder (Circles).

Take some time and play with these features. Then come back to the next reply, where we will look at sharing placemarks with others.
3. Saving Placemarks Lrae 3/12/12 11:10 AM
Welcome back. A quick review shows that we have covered marking and organizing Placemarks, and using Folders.

Our next task will be to "Save" Placemarks and Folders. I know, you're thinking, "Doesn't the Viewer already do that automatically?"

And the answer is Yes and No. When you create a Placemark or Folder, the Viewer will save it internally and when you start the Viewer again, your Placemarks and Folders will still be available for viewing, provided you put them into the "My Places" folder. Any items left outside "My Places" or inside "Temporary Places" will be discarded when you exit the program. All gone, Bye Bye, Sayonara, Hasta La Vista Baby. So, remember to put those cherished memories into the "My Places" folder before signing off. You should be asked, if you want to do just that, as you exit Google Earth.

The "My Places" folder is exactly that, Your Places. You cannot "easily" share those places with others. I know, you could E-Mail them to one friend ooh ,
or print them and hand them out to a few of your friends laugh smile grin otongue ,
but, wouldn't it be wonderful, if you could just put them someplace and attach text about their nature and importance, and...

everyone on the planet could view them?

Well, my friends, you can do just that by using the Google Earth Community BBS (which we will talk about in a future post). But, one small operation must be carried out beforehand. You must save the Placemark or Folder to your hard drive. Saving the Placemark or Folder from the Viewer is as easy as any other "Save" operation on your computer. Right click on the Placemark or Folder and select "Save As...". Follow the prompts and be sure to remember the path and name you use for the file.

In this case, I'm saving a Placemark in the "Google Earth Plus" directory and the name will be "Testing.kmz". We will need this information later when posting to the BBS. (Write it down!)

That is all you need to do to save a Placemark or Folder for later posting on the BBS. Now would be a great time to switch to the Viewer and save a placemark or two. When you return, we will show you how to post your work on the BBS, in the next reply.
4. Before Posting Placemarks Lrae 4/11/13 11:17 AM
Communication: a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.

Our "common system" is the BBS and the Forums within. The "symbols and signs" are the Placemarks, Overlays and Words we use when we post. The "behavior" is our respect for the other users and the conventions of the BBS. The following is a short bit of advice on the "exchange" of your information, with the rest of us.

Before continuing, you should have read a few dozen posts in the BBS and clicked on as many “Attachments”. These Attachments are also called “Placemarks”, and we keep most of them in the forums under the heading labeled "Earth" Some of the Old Timers call them ETA’s or KML’s or KMZ's, that's just because of the file extensions. And I think it makes us feel special. And I think it makes us feel special. See Making a Placemark for information on creating Placemarks.

Within these forums, we can show off our favorite views of the earth. If YOU thought it was interesting, so might we. Don't worry if no one seems to notice your post at first. I have seen posts sit dormant for a year before someone replies. As a matter of fact, I posted one in the spring of 2003, and still no replies. Hey, they might just be reading it and enjoying the view. If you like ships, architecture, geography, racetracks, or my high school, it has a place. We do try to keep this room organized, and we do it with self-control. Remember that "Behavior" part? First, try to find another post with the same placemark, and then see if you are improving on what's already there. If you are, then post your view and/or information as a reply. If you are not improving, then don't post. If you are off on an entirely new subject, then start a new post.

Simple? Yes and no, finding other posts can be a challenge in itself, since there are 100's of thousands of posts. Two features can help you find these other posts:

The first is within the Viewer. It is found under 'Layers' and is called 'Google Earth Community' (currently in the 'Gallery' Layer). Just click on the plus(+) or triangle () next to one and the item will expand showing many of the new options. Checking the box will enable previous placemarks posted to the BBS and a left click on one of those "i"s in the view will pop up a description and a link back to a post in the BBS.

See Stand on the shoulders of giants.

By the way, the BBS layers are updated about twice a month, so posts do not show up immediately. Another item of interest, since the Google Earth software is continually being improved, the location of the community within the Layers may change from time to time.

The second is a search feature within the BBS, it lets you find posts with specified words or phrases. Look at the top menu bar from any page within the BBS, and give Search a try. Just click on 'Search' and then on 'Advanced'. Remember, when searching, to set ALL 5 of the criterion before submitting the search. The three most important criterion are the Forum (I use ALL Forums), Words, and Date Range (I use 6 Year(s)).

Let's try a search right now with these parameters: All Forums; relgeiz1

Did it work? If it did, you are back here. What are those different options in the Search Window all about? Each one lets you narrow or expand your search.

Decision Time:
  1. Do we have something great to post? oconfused
  2. Yes, go to step 4.
  3. No, find something else to post and go to step 1.
  4. Have we searched to see if someone else might have already posted the same or similar information. oconfused
  5. No, go to step 4.
  6. Previous posts? oconfused
  7. No, we are the first, go to Posting Placemarks.
  8. Can we add to or improve the discussion? oconfused
  9. Yes, go to Posting Placemarks. (almost the same as starting a post).
  10. Remember, "If you are not improving, then don't post.", find something else and go to step 1.
5. Posting Placemarks Lrae 3/16/12 5:34 PM
Please read Let your voice be heard, before continuing. Some material will be repeated and there will be a test at the end.

All right, you've read all the posts, you've done all the searching, you've decided to post your Placemark. Good for you and good for us.

One more small item; Where are you going to post this gem? For now, let's post the placemark in the "Earth Browsing" forum. If you are posting a Reply to an already existing post, Press the "Reply" button while viewing the post and then you can skip to item 6 below.
  1. Start by finding the Forum of your choice.
  2. Click on "Forum List" at the top of any page in the BBS.
  3. Click on the "Earth" Category. (Be sure you don't click 'Earth Moderated')
  4. Click on "Earth Browsing" Forum.

           This window or something very similar should pop up.

  5.  From the top down, fill in the blanks. Start with your subject... Make it meaningful. Remember to make the name descriptive, as it will be seen by millions of users around the world. It may be appearing in the "Google Earth Community Layers". These layers are updated about twice per month for any post or reply with a Placemark. "My Place Mark" is a bad name; "RMS Queen Mary", is a good name. (Assuming you are posting about the Queen Mary)
  6. Next are the post icons... for now just leave the default.

    Lrae steps up on 

    This is where you display your creative talents. Here is where you make or break your reputation as a Google Earth Explorer. No matter how good the subject of your post, if you can not "Communicate" with the other users on the BBS, your posts will be ignored. Take some time when placing your thoughts upon the electronic parchment that millions of people around the globe will be reading. Before striking the first key, ask yourself, "Why am I posting this information?". As you type, continue that thought process. Take your time as well, you are not in a speed typing contest. If you know you have a spelling problem, get a spell checker and use it. Compose your post within an editing program or here, check spelling and grammar, then copy the text and paste it into the GEC. And don't forget the "Google Toolbar" or Chrome, which contain  Spell Checkers. If you think something is worth posting, isn't it worth a little extra effort. We have thousands of posters on this BBS who use English as a second language, and their posts have better spelling and grammar than many of our posters who claim English as their primary language. If they can take enough pride in their posts to get it right, why can't we?

    Lrae steps down from his soap box.

  7. We are almost done, just a couple more steps... Now, if you have checked your spelling, checked your grammar, and thought about the possibility of hurting someone's feelings, then you are ready to press the 'Preview Post' button. This is where I discover half of my errors.Read your post one more time before sending it out to the rest of us. Please! If it has any errors, just scroll up and edit it. When you are sure it's really ready, it is now time to add your Placemark. Click on 'Attach File'.
  8. Remember where you put that Placemark? We did it back in the lesson on Saving Placemarks. We need to find it again, use the "Choose files to upload" button. Once you find the file, click on it and the link appears in the little window, then follow the directions. I would preview it one more time.
  9. Ok, now click "POST"

After a small wait (a longer wait if you are using a modem) you will be returned to the Forum and will be looking at your new post in all its glory. Let's proof it one last time and test the Attachment. Does it take you where you wanted within the Viewer? You can still fix any problems you find, even after you post, even tomorrow, or next week, with the "Edit" button, at the right of 'Post reply' in the drop down. But, don't wait too long, remember First Impressions do count. Editing a post is just like creating one, except you start in the middle of the operation.

The Community BBS layers "i" are only updated about twice per month. Which means, your placemark will not appear for up to 2 weeks or more in the Community Layers.

This concludes the basics for posting a Placemark to the BBS. Your score on the final test: "A+" grin
In the next lesson, we will look at creating Overlays.
6. Making Overlays Lrae 12/30/04 11:32 AM
Overlays, what exactly are they?

First, you have to understand a little about the Earth in the Google Earth Viewer. It is a big round ball, a blank, big round ball.

Google Earth programmers have stuck pictures and other information on the surface of that blank ball. Somewhat like the refrigerator door in your kitchen. There are photos, business cards, things your children made in school, and a lot more. These "things" are in layers, some of which, we can turn on and off. See the "Stand on the shoulders of giants" post for more on these layers.

We users also have the ability to place things on that door. Placemarks are one item, but they are more like little magnets that draw our attention to things already there. The really exciting feature is an Overlay. These are actually items that can be placed on top of the programmers stuff. Yes, that's right, we can cover up, or paint over some part, or even all, of the Earth. A very powerful feature and therefore somewhat more challenging than a simple Placemark. With a little patience and the right check list, even I can create an Overlay. If you supply the patience, I will supply the Check List.

Overlay Creation Check List
  • Find an interesting item to act as the Overlay.
    1. Some interesting ideas: Maps, historical, informational, topographical; Higher resolution overhead photos, before or after.
    2. Remember the file type must be one of these: .JPG .BMP .TIFF. PNG .TGA. and .GIF
    3. It helps, but is not necessary, if the image is north oriented with simple cylindrical projection.
    4. Keep the size down. Less than 2000x2000 pixels Please.

  • Save it on a WEB Accessible site that you control. <You may save locally, if posting to the BBS using a KMZ file>
    1. Do not use the original site unless it is a public, free, informational site. See the Do's and Don'ts post.

  • Open Viewer, zoom and orient view as desired.
    1. You want the view to be about the same size as the intended area of the overlay.
    2. When the picture is loaded in the next step, it will just about fill the viewer's window.

  • Place Overlay
    1. Click on the Image Overlay icon on the Navigation bar,

    or Right Click on 'My Places' and select 'Add', or select 'Add' from the menu bar, then select 'Image Overlay'

    2. This window will pop up.

    3. Name it. Remember to give it a name that has meaning.
    4. Browse to the file you saved locally, or copy the URL into the 'Link' window.
    5. Orient the image relative to the earth (See detail below.)
    6. If you have an Overlay that updates (Real Time Weather, WEB Cams, Etc...), set the "Refresh Period".
    7. Always give it a description.
    8. Set the starting transparency.
    9. Press "OK".

Detail for step 5 above:

There are 10 "handles" or "anchors" used in positioning and sizing the overlay:

Corners:..... Sizes from corner, anchors at opposite corner or with SHIFT anchors the center and sizes all corners together.
Edges:....... Sizes from edge, anchors at opposite edge or with SHIFT anchors the center and sizes all edges together.
Center:...... Moves entire overlay.
Diamond:.... Rotates entire overlay around center. (When first placed, the image is oriented with North up.)

Hints that can make positioning faster and easier:
1. Turn off Terrain.
2. Turn on Roads.
3. Adjust Transparency as needed while positioning.
4. Place the center and adjust around it.
5. Start with a good image that is viewed from above and is a simple cylindrical projection.

Ok, that's it for Image overlays, unless you want to share them with the rest of us. If you do want to share one, then turn the page.
7. Posting Overlays Lrae 3/21/12 2:52 PM
Ok, so let's assume you know how to Make Placemarks and Overlays, and you know how to Post Placemarks. Then posting an overlay to the BBS will be a piece of cake. There are still a couple of decisions to make; Which Forum to post to, and what to name the Post.

Remember to make the name descriptive, as it will be seen by millions of users around the world.
It will be appearing in the "Google Earth Community Layers".

Three simple rules you MUST obey: (or no one else will see your work)
  1. Save the Overlay Placemark to your local hard drive... Right click on the name in My Places and "Save As..."
  2. Make sure the image you are using resides on the WEB or you are saving the file as a KMZ.
  3. For images to appear in the description balloon in the Community Layer, they MUST reside on the WEB, not locally.

From here on out, posting an overlay is exactly like posting any other Placemark. ocool

Remember, the Community BBS layers "i" are only updated about twice per month.