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Exporting Data From Google Earth To A GPS Unit

The info page for Google Earth Plus says, quite explicitly:

“Does not support export of tracks or waypoints to a GPS”

So if you wanted to use the GPS interface capabilities of Google Earth Plus to plan a trip by entering point markers and paths that you can export into your GPS unit as waypoints and tracks, you’re out of luck ….. not! If your GPS unit supports the importation and display of waypoints and tracks, and most do, there’s a fairly simple way to convert data created in any version of Google Earth (including the free one) to a GPS-compatible format, and then send it to your GPS unit.

Up at the top of the Google Earth screen is the toolbar; here’s the relevant section for adding points and paths:

From left to right, the icons are:

Thumbtack – Add a point marker to the map; such a point can be transferred to your GPS.
Squashed hexagon – Draw an area on the map. You can’t transfer area data directly to a GPS, so we won’t cover this.
Three diamonds – Draw a path on the map; this path can be exported to a GPS as a track.
Two layers – Adds an image overlay, like a map, to Google Earth. You can’t export images to most GPS units, and definitely not from Google Earth.

Click on the thumbtack, and you can add a point marker anywhere on the screen:

Drag the point marker to whatever position you like, and label it with your desired name in the properties window. You can also change the marker size, shape and color, add description info, etc. in the properties window, but the only information associated with this marker are the position and the name. Read the Google Earth Help file for more info on marking positions.

To draw a path, click on the Path marker, and start drawing a path:

draw a path in Google Earth

See the Google Earth Help section for instructions on how to draw and edit a path. One thing to watch out for is that in creating a closed-loop path, Google Earth will assume that you want to create an area instead of a path, and close the loop automatically. You can specify anything you want in the properties window, but none of that path information, including the name, will be passed on to the GPS unit (I’ll show you how to add a name to the path that can be passed on to your GPS).

You can create as many position markers and paths/tracks as your GPS unit has the capacity to store (check your unit’s manual). Once you’re done, you should save the data as a KML file. You can do this individually for each point and path by right-clicking on the name of the point or track in the Places window on the left of your Google Earth screen, selecting “Save As …”, and the choosing KML as the file type. However, you can also group all the points and paths together, and save them in a single file. Right-click the Places window, choose Add=>Folder to create a new folder, name it whatever you want, and then drag and drop the points and paths you’ve created into this new folder. Then save the folder as a KML file.

Once you’ve created your KML file, you’ll need to convert it to a GPX file. Open up GPSBabel, set “Google Earth (Keyhole) Markup Language” as the Input filetype, and select the KML file you created as the input file. For the Output filetype, select GPX, and specify the filename and where you want to save it. Click on “let’s go”, and GPSBabel should create a GPX file for you.

There’s another tool called kmltogpx (online, Windows and Mac; donationware) that supposedly will convert KML files to GPX, and comes in both on-line and downloadable forms. However, I can’t get the downloadable Java application to work in Windows, and the online application wasn’t able to produce a good GPX file, but your mileage may vary.

Now open the GPX file you’ve just created in the software you use to upload data to your GPS unit. For EasyGPS, you’ll see something like this:

Notice that the waypoint is named with the name assigned it in Google Earth, but the track isn’t. To assign it a name in EasyGPS, click on the “Select” icon on the toolbar, click on the track to select it, then right-click on the selected track and choose “Edit Track”:

Enter what you want to call the track in the “Label” box (if you enter it in the “Name” box, it won’t get passed to the GPS unit). You can also change the name of a waypoint using a similar process, as well as deleting any undesired points or tracks as well. If you want to keep these changes permanent, save the file when you’re done. If you use other software for your GPS uploads, it should allow you to assign a name to the track in a comparable way.

Finally, hook up your GPS unit, click on the Send button at top, and all the data on the EasyGPS screen will be sent to your GPS. Here’s a screen capture of the example point and track created in Google Earth and exported to my Garmin 60Cx GPS unit:

This process *should* work with most GPS units, but I’ve only tested it on two makes of Garmin units. Read your owner’s manual for more info on how to handle, label, and delete saved tracks.

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2 Responses to “Exporting Data From Google Earth To A GPS Unit”

  1. 1 rossnixon

    You are using some of the programs that I use.

    Just yesterday I had to convert some points from MapInfo to a GPX file. I had to convert my file to WGS84 projection, add northing and easting columns and update them. Then export as CSV file. Then remove the quotes around the point labels. Then open with GPSBabel. Then convert to GPX XML. (It was destined for the exact same model of Garmin as yours).

    But I know I can convert straight from MapInfo to KML; so I will try that Java? program that you mentioned, to see if I can get a GPX file in a few less steps.

  2. 2 Leszek Pawlowicz

    I’ll be covering how to get data from GIS into a GPS in some upcoming posts …

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