Google Earth Lessons

An Educational Resource for Teachers

Well, File This!

File Browsing & FTP with Google Earth

Here is a cool little trick for anyone running Windows 2000 or XP (although it might work on Macs, I don’t know. You can try it)!

Drag n’ Drop file management in Google Earth?!?! Yes!!

One of the main issues with doing digital work with students is dealing with the files that are created. Yes, you could have them print out the file, but with programs like Google Earth it is hard to assess student work that should rightly be displayed on a screen.

As I pondered one day how to deal with all sorts of student placemark files, how and where to save them, how to ‘hand them out’, etc. it occurred to me that the answer was already available! You can have Google Earth work as a file manager! Not only can you have it handle local files, like on the computer’s hard drive, but it can be used to manage remote files out on a network file server or even on the internet!

Not only can you have it handle student placemark files, but you can use the file browsing capabilities to deliver any kind of content to students such as movies, sounds, program shortcuts, anything (depending on how clever you are :-)!

The secret is that when you launch the internal web browser in Google Earth it is actually Microsoft’s Internet Explorer dressed up in a saucy Google Earth shell.

So, the first thing you need to do is set the Google Earth Preferences to NOT launch an external browser. Just go to Tools:Preferences: and uncheck ‘Show web results in external browser’.

Setting the browser to open in Google Earth

You are then free to create placemarks that will open a folder on the computer, a folder on your school’s network server or even a folder on an FTP site! For those of you new to this type of stuff, FTP stands for ‘File Transfer Protocol’ and is a way to copy, paste, move, add or delete files over the internet. It used to be cutting edge stuff, but now is a universally accepted and supported way to deal with files. The files can be pretty much anything, from documents to pictures to programs to folders full of junk.

A link can lead to a folder!
The link opens a folder on a hard drive!!

different kinds of files
You are not limited to just placemark files in your folders!

Part 1 - File Browsing and Navigation on a Local Drive

Here is the trick:

1. Create a folder on a local drive. This can be on your hard drive or on a network server that has been mapped to mount as a drive letter. If you use network folders already in your school chances are that you are familiar with the drive letters in use and your 'permissions' of being able to read, write, etc.. If you are unsure, contact your tech support person and hopefully they can tell you how to 'map' drives from the school's file server to your student's computers.

When you create the folder that will be accessed by the placemark link there are some very important rules. The biggest rule to have the links work is that there must be no spaces at all in the 'path' to the folder. The 'path' is made up of some parts. The first is the drive letter where the folder resides followed by a colon and a slash (EX: c:/). The other part is what folder is inside of what folder inside of what folder. For instance, you can create a folder called 'Lessons' right on the hard drive or on the mapped network drive and put the files needed there (EX: c:/Lessons/) but let's say you plan on presenting several lessons this way and have all sorts of things the kids have to do or open. Then you might put a folder called 'Activity1' inside the lesson folder and inside the 'Activity1' folder you might have a folder called 'Worksheets' and inside that you might have a folder just for ExtraCredit (notice that you have to leave out the space in the folder name!) in which case your link 'path' would be 'c:/Lessons/Activity1/Worksheets/ExtraCredit/' Also note that you must end with a slash otherwise Internet Explorer thinks that the folder name is a type of file and will whine at you and act stupid. Unfortunately, your computer's desktop will not work as a 'linkable' folder location since there are spaces in the path to your desktop.

You might have noticed that in the path example above I put c:/ instead of the standard Windows c:\. From what I have found, for whatever reason, Internet Explorer doesn't really care what direction the slashes are, as long as you are consistent. If you run into problems, that is one thing you can try, switching them all from / to \ or \ to /, but it should work either way.

Not only shouldn't the folders have any spaces in the names, but stay away from anything but letters and numbers for folder names with the exception of maybe an underscore. The same goes for any files in the folders usually too. So, you can't have a file called 'Open First.kmz', but you could have 'Open_First.kmz'.

2. Create a placemark in Google Earth. This can be fancy or simple, depending on the lesson.

3. In the description box you will create a link to the folder you need the students to get to (or that you want to open if you are doing a presentation) by using the html <A HREF> link code. This is the part you need to be super careful with because a single character out of place and the whole thing will mess up. Use the code below as an example, replacing the stuff in red with your customized paths, drive letter, file names and linked words.

<a href="file://c:/PATH/TO/FOLDER/">Linked works</a>

IMPORTANT THINGS: The quotation marks that surround the file path, correct spelling and of course, a correct path.

In the picture below you can see how the link took the student to the network drive 'n' and into a folder called 'samplefolder'. Also notice that inside there are folders which you can click on to open, so you can use the link to lead to a 'master folder' and navigate at will to other files and folders.

Browsing on a drive
You can open local or network folders inside Google Earth by creating links in placemarks!

The things to watch out for
!!! Make certain the folder actually exists for the student on their computer as well as for you when you are creating and testing the links !!!

Other Niftyness with Drive Links - Link to a file on a CD, DVD, USB drive or external hard drive! - If you have a worksheet or other file that the kids need to share out of a network folder but you don't want them overwriting it,make it 'Read Only' by right clicking on it and getting the properties! That will force them to save it with a different name and allow many students to open the same file at once.

read only
For shared files, it is a good idea to make them 'Read Only'

- You or the students can 'Drag and Drop' files directly onto the Google Earth window to copy them from one place to another!

drag files

-You have full Windows 'right click' power to manipulate the files that you see in Google Earth's Browser window!

right click

Pretty neat, eh? Well, there's more!!

To learn all about FTP Client capabilities from within Google Earth, just follow this link..Part 2 FTP with Google Earth.


  Last Modified: May 13, 2006