Georeferenced PhotosI finally figured out (with help) how to georeference photos so that they show up as placemarks along your tracks, it is really cool. Check it out.
Mount Whitney in the Sierra Nevada Mountains (with photos)
Mount Russel in the Sierra Nevada Mountains (with photos)
Mount Langley in the Sierra Nevada Mountains (with photos)
Bear Creek Spire in the Sierra Nevada Mountains (with photos)
First, I want to state that I am an amateur with the use of Google Earth and working with GPS files in general. This article is summarizing what I have learnt over the last couple months while trying to find a better way to manage and share my GPS file. I am hoping to get feedback on this article, which I will incorporate in this article in an attempt to become all encompassing on the topic.
Google Earth KML Files
Until recently there was not a standard format for sharing and saving GPS waypoint and track files (the best was .gpx files). Also, there was not a standard program used to manage these files. Along came Google Earth with their KML and KMZ files.
KML is a file format used to display geographic data in an Earth browser, such as Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google Maps for mobile. KML uses a tag-based structure with nested elements and attributes and is based on the XML standard.
You can create KML files with the Google Earth user interface, or you can use an XML or simple text editor to enter "raw" KML from scratch. KML files and their related images (if any) can be compressed using the ZIP format into KMZ archives. To share your KML and KMZ files, you can e-mail them, host them locally for sharing within a private internet, or host them publicly on a web server. Just as web browsers display HTML files, Earth browsers such as Google Earth display KML files. Once you've properly configured your server and shared the URL (address) of your KML files, anyone who's installed Google Earth can view the KML files hosted on your public web server.
I am still amazed at everything Google Earth does and all for FREE. I am still expecting Google to take it back and start charging for the use of this excellent program. Now, Google Earth is becoming the standard program to manage and share waypoint and track files and the KML (KMZ) files are becoming the standard file format. Note, unless you subscribe to Google Earth Plus you will not be able to upload your data directly from your GPS to Google Earth. You will need to upload through the program that came with your unit (or other available programs such as EasyGPS) and either convert to KMX using online converter such as http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/map?form=googleearth or if using the latest version of Garmin Mapsource (6.12.2 upgrade your current version for free at http://www.garmin.com/support/download_details.jsp?id=209) you can view directly in Google Earth and save as KMZ directly in Google Earth. I am sure that soon all mapping software will have the ability to save as KMZ or view in Google Earth as MapSource does.
Google earth saves both waypoint and track files as KMZ. Typically, WPT files are used to save waypoints and TRK files to save tracks (tracklogs). Tracks are continuous paths of joined waypoints. A list of the most common file types is shown below.
suffix --file type
.bin --Emtac Trine (CRUX_LOG) binary log file
.crs --Garmin Training Centre "course" file
.csv --Comma-separated text (including Timex Trainer et al.)
.gpx --GPX (GPS eXchange format)
.hst --Garmin Forerunner XML
.igc --IGC log file (from sailplanes)
.kml --Google Earth KML
.loc --Geocaching.com XML waypoints (not Terrabyte/TopoGrafix!)
.mps --Garmin Mapsource TEXT file (not binary)
.nmea --Raw NMEA sentences
.ns1 --NetStumbler binary log file
.pdb --Cetus GPS, Pathaway, or cotoGPS tracks or waypoints (Palm OS)
.pcx --PCX5 tracklog
.pgl --TomTom text log file (modified NMEA)
.plt --OziExplorer tracks
.rdn --Fichiers de IGN Rando (français)
.sdf --Suunto SDF file
.trk --Tracklog: PCX, CompeGPS, GPS Tuner, or Magellan NMEA
.txt --Tab-delimited text
.wpt --Waypoints: OziExplorer, PCX, CompeGPS, or Magellan NMEA
.xml --GPX or Garmin Forerunner Logbook XML
Using Google Earth
Assuming you did not fork out the $20 for Google Earth Plus, you will need to download your GPS files as usual and save in one of the formats in the table above. Or, if you program allows you, save or view the file directly in Google Earth as KMZ.
If you can not view or save directly in KMZ format, use an online converters or download GPSBabel, both are Free.
Once you have your KML or KMZ file, simply double click it and it will open up Google Earth (of course, you need to first install Google Earth) and zoom into the track or waypoints (fitting all the data points saved in the KMZ file in the screen). Waypoints will have a placemark and are shown as a triangle or square. Tracks are shown as continuous lines. Both can be edited to change name, description, color, width, opacity or altitude. If there is a website address or other information stored in the file (as with Geocahce loc files) this data and website hyperlink will be shown when you click on the waypoints. You can organize your tracks and waypoint via the left reading pane (Places) into separate folders, expanding folders by hitting the + sign, dragging and dropping into folders, etc. just as if they were in windows explorer. By saving to My Places (Save) you can have all your tracks and waypoints accessible in one program, flying into the specific track or waypoint you want to view. And of course, the Google Earth ability to pan, tilt, rotate and zoom provide a great ability to get a good feel for the terrain before setting a foot outside of your house.
Click on some of these and check it out yourself. Tilt, zoom and rotate to find the best view.
Google Earth is great for managing and sharing waypoints, such as loc files used for geocaching. The example below shows a list of Geocache waypoints. One of my favorite features is to “play a tour” of your selected waypoints. Simply click the waypoints you want to tour and hit the play button (small triangle) or Tool – 'Play Tour' from the menu bar. Google Earth will fly to each waypoint, zoom into it, pause and then fly to the next. This is a great way to explore a set of waypoints virtually before hitting the trail. You can even get direction to or from the waypoint and click on hyperlinks to take you to websites or to view photos. You also have the ability to change the placemark icons indicating the location of the waypoint or even set it above the ground with a tether connecting it to the point.
The data form at GPS Visualizer (http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/map?form=data&format=googleearth) also provides the ability to colorize that waypoints based on elevation as well as many other parameters.
When opening (or viewing) you KMZ file of your track, Google earth will zoom it to fit the screen. From there, I like to rotate, tilt and zoom to get the best visual of the terrain and route. Here is the track of the Rattlesnake Peak hike after my adjustments. It is so simple to get a great representative of your route, and then you can save the image for sharing.
You can even add Topo Map overlays, as also seen here. You can download on open USGS maps yourself, or I find it easiest to get them from gpsvisualier and when you convert a track it will give you an USGS Topo Map overlay file that you can double click to open in Google Earth or use www.gpsvisualizer.com (but you need to enter a lot more data using this form, I find it easier to convert the GPS track and use the overlay file it gives you). When using the topo map overlay, you will want to experiment with opacity to allow some of the original terrain to show through. You can also download the file here for a KML Overlay Network link that works like a plugin with Google Earth to provide various options for different overlays.
There are many other things you can do with waypoints and tracks, and I welcome input on other options available. You can create interactive Google Maps of your tracks and/or waypoints that can be inserted on your own websites (example), you can color code the tracks based on elevation with a legend and much more that I am only starting to figure out. KMZ and KML files offer huge flexibility and more and more development will continue.
Sharing GPS DataGPSVisualizer also provides the ability to convert GPS files to text, which can be inserted as plain text in websites (trip reports, etc)and allow others to cut and paste into the converter in order to convert to a GPX or KML file for view or downloading to GPS directly. This eliminates the need to download a file. Below is the text for a GPS track to Brents Mountain. Simply cut and past into the text area at http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/convert and click convert.
T,11/25/2006 0:01,34.08585,-118.7226667,518,Brents Staircase,
Or, the text can be displayed in a form, which allows for a single click to get the data copied into the form at GPSVisualizer (I can not take credit for this HTML, thanks Adam). This is also handy for very long routes with hundreds/thousands of points such at the Rattlesnake Peak hike below.