Opening and viewing overlays

In addition to the overlays you create, you can also open and view overlays emailed to you by other Google Earth users, or you can view overlays posted to a web server.

Opening Overlays Emailed to You

Opening overlays emailed can be done in two ways:

  • Double-click the attachment in the email message. You'll receive a confirmation dialog box to open the attachment in Google Earth. Click the appropriate button to open the attachment. If Google Earth is not running, it will first start up before loading the emailed overlay. Otherwise, it appears in the 'Temporary Places' folder in the 'Places' panel and the image overlay displays in the viewer. You can save the overlay as you would any other place data. See Saving Places Data.
  • Save the attachment to your computer. You can save the overlay file to your computer and open it at your convenience as you would any other type of places data. See Opening Saved Placemarks for details.

Opening Overlays on a Web Server

You can open overlays posted to a web server simply by clicking on the link that references the overlay image. When you do this, a dialog box prompts you to select the correct application to open the attachment. By default, Google Earth should be selected. Click the appropriate button to confirm the selection. The image overlay appears in the 3D viewer and the item is displayed in the 'Temporary Places' folder in the 'Places' panel. You can save the overlay as described above.

Posting Image Overlays to a Web Server

You can share overlay data with other Google Earth users by posting the overlay file to a web server that other users also have access to. For example, Google Earth users can post overlays and placemark information to the Google Earth Community BBS ( The rest of this section covers the details of posting overlay data to the Google Earth BBS.

Note - You can post overlays to the Google Earth Community BBS regardless of whether they reference local or web-based imagery data. Overlays that you post to the BBS will automatically include images referenced from a local file system. This is an upgrade from Keyhole 2.2.
  1. Right-click your overlay and select Save As... from the pop-up menu.
  2. Navigate to a location on your computer's hard drive using the Save dialog box, name the file, and save it.
  3. Use a web browser to connect to You must be a registered user of the Google Earth Community to post overlay files. If you are a first-time user of the Google Earth software, you must first register with the Google Earth community before you can log in and post placemark files. This registration is a separate process from your Google Earth subscription and is free of charge:
    • Once on the Google Earth BBS, click the registration link in the Login area.
    • Follow the on-screen instructions to register on the site.
    • You need to provide your email address in order to activate your account. After registering, an email will be sent to that address containing your registration information and an activation link.
    • Click on the link provided in your account activation email. Your bulletin board account is activated, and you have full access to all of the features of the Google Earth BBS.
  4. Log on to the Google Earth Community web site.
  5. Choose a forum (threaded discussion) that is relevant to your image overlay posting.
  6. Click the Post link in the forum subheader.
  7. Enter information in the 'Subject' and 'Post' fields, select the check box next to "I want to preview my post and/or attach a file" and click the Continue button.
  8. Preview your posting and attach an overlay file by clicking on the Browser button and navigating to the file.
  9. Click the Continue button to post your message and file.

Placing WMS Image Overlays

You can place Web Mapping Service (WMS) image overlays in Google Earth. These are mapping images that are provided through a WMS over the Internet. They can show you interesting information, such as weather formations and conditions, topographical maps, alternate high resolution satellite imagery and more.

To place an WMS image overlay:

  1. Follow Steps 1 and 2 of Creating an Image Overlay.
  2. In the New dialog box, click the 'Refresh' tab.
  3. Click WMS Parameters. The Web Mapping Service Parameters dialog box appears.
  4. Beside WMS Service, choose an appropriate service or click Add to use a URL (website address) for a WMS. After a brief period of time, Google Earth populates the Opaque and/or Transparent Layers fields with available layers from the WMS you choose.
  5. Choose the appropriate layer(s) and click Add -> to add the layer(s) to the 'Selected Layers' field. This places this information in the WMS image overlay you will see in Google Earth. To remove a layer from the Selected Layers field, select it and click <-Remove.
  6. To set the order of selected layers as they appear in the 3D viewer, select the appropriate layers in the 'Selected Layers' field and click Move Up or Move Down.
  7. When you are finished, click OK and continue from Step 3 of Creating an Image Overlay.