Taking Tour Builder to new heights with Google Earth

Google Earth
Nov 18, 2020 · 4 min read

By Emily Henderson, Program Manager, Learning & Education

When Tour Builder launched as a beta project in 2013, we wanted to make it easier for people to tell place-based stories by adding photos and videos to a sequence of locations on Earth. A highlight of the tool was the ability to turn Google Earth’s 3D globe into your own storytelling canvas, where you could create maps and stories about the places that matter most to you.

You can take your Tour Builder tours to the next level by migrating them to Google Earth. You can enjoy your tours in one of the world’s most comprehensive 3D maps available, an experience lost some time ago but now restored, and benefit from added features for collaboration with integration of Google Drive storage. With the original intent of Tour Builder met and even more robust storytelling features available with Google Earth’s content creation tools, we will sunset Tour Builder on July 15, 2021. We encourage all Tour Builder users to download and migrate maps data into Google Earth, and see how your tours transform with truly immersive and detailed imagery.

We also invite all Tour Builder users to an online training about the Tour Builder migration on December 9, 2020. We’ll share how you can easily migrate your tours and answer your questions over a livestream. The video will also be recorded and shared for future viewing.

A fantastic example of how a Tour Builder tour is enriched with Google Earth is a tour authored by Google Earth’s very own Rebecca Moore and members of a Brown University Himalayan Expedition team. This tour tells the story of 33 students and faculty who, in 1978, navigated the harrowing gorge of the Ganges River in northern India to climb the 22,000 foot Himalayan peak, Devistan.

Launched as a beta service in 2013, Tour Builder was able to support 3D tours and maps [left] | The BUHE team collected photos and video, collaborating on how best to capture the story in Tour Builder [center] I The less compelling 2D tour motivated the Google Earth team to find a migration path back to 3D [right].

The drama and complexity of the terrain, and tour, are now best captured with Google Earth’s unique 3D perspectives and rich media.

The team opted to export the Tour Builder tour into Google Earth and can now virtually explore the adventure again in 3D in Google Earth.

Migrating your tours: Export or Download?

If you select the option to “Export to Earth”, your Tour Builder tour will be exported as an Earth project, which will be stored in Google Drive and can be viewed and edited in Google Earth Web. If you select the option to “Download,” you will be able to download your tour as a KML file or a CSV file to open in other software.

You’ll likely want to choose the “Export to Earth” option if you’d like to be able to easily share your projects with others via a URL which — when clicked — will open your tour in Google Earth Web. If you choose “Download”, you’ll get a KML file which will work great for you to view and edit in Google Earth Pro but can not be easily shared with others. To share your KML, you will have to download the file and share it via email, Google Drive, locally for sharing within a private internet, or by other means.

But, don’t worry; you can export and download your original tours as many times as you like to figure out which option works best for you. It’s important to note that when you export or download your Tour Builder tour you are creating a copy. The original Tour Builder tour and the copy are not linked and changes in one will not update the other.

For questions related to import issues, you can always turn to the Google Earth Help Community.

You’ll discover some subtle differences

You may notice a few differences when you export or download your tours to Google Earth. For example, your camera angles may not be exactly where they were before. If you originally created your tour in 3D, your 3D location will reappear, but may require some adjustment to return the camera view to the desired angle. Another example would be if you incorporated Street View into your tour; the view that you captured may center on a new focal point or away from your original placemark. You can easily fine tune these adjustments to your tour in Google Earth.

Inspiration for Earth Projects

Here are a few examples of what people are creating with Google Earth’s creation tools today to inspire you for your own work and how to transform your existing tours in Tour Builder with Google Earth:

Where to learn more

You can learn more information on the Tour Builder website. If you don’t find an answer on the About Page related to your issue, please create a thread in the Google Earth Community Forum so our Product Experts can help you.

Thank you so much for your support with Tour Builder and Google Earth — we are excited to enter our next phase of map-based storytelling.