Shape2Earth – GIS Data to Google Earth

Shape2Earth screenshot in Google EarthOne of the more basic outputs of GIS applications is a file type called a shapefile. A shapefile is a geospatial vector data format developed and popularized by GIS software maker ESRI, but used by other GIS software makers as well. For example, it’s possible to use free GIS applications like MapWindow to produce shapefiles. There’s an inexpensive ($29.99) application called Shape2Earth (Windows only) available which will let you convert shapefiles into KML so you can view your GIS data in Google Earth.
For more sophisticated GIS to Google Earth conversions, there are two other tools to consider. Arc2Earth ($99 – $299) is probably the most sophisticated (mentioned at GEB last year) which provides many tools for converting data and visualizations from ESRI’s ArcGIS software. Arc2Earth has been updated substantially since it was first released. Also available is an application called KMLer ($20 – $50) which also has support for ArcGIS (see last year’s GEB write-up).

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. Maptitude and TransCad users should check out the
    free Google Earth conversion add-ins developed by Marcelo Luna:

  2. Thanks for the review, but it would be really much more helpful if you would note what operating system the programs support in the review (i.e. Microsoft XP, Vista, etc; Mac OSX, Linux). As a Mac user I spend a lot of time going to the programs reviewed only to find out they are not available.
    Thanks, Eric

  3. Hi. Thanks Frank for mentioning Shape2Earth. I wanted to just make a couple of comments here. One, I want to thank the developer of Shape2Earth for making this plug-in. Also, its not clear in the quick news piece, but Shape2Earth is a plug-in for MapWindow, which is a free open source GIS that only runs on Windows. However, it does run very well with Parallels on an Inel Mac and it is this environment which I mostly use it. So for basically $30 you get plug-in that otherwise would require spending over a grand for ESRI’s ArcGIS plus another $99 at least for Arc2Earth. While Arc2Earth has more features, Shape2Earth is very good and the developer seems very committed to making it even better. So, even if you are a Mac user, this tool has its place if you use Boot Camp or Parallels on an Intel Mac. qGIS is a nice open source GIS on the Mac, but I have yet to see any developers making a similar module as Shape2Earth for KML creation from shapefiles.

  4. Thanks Keene, I’ll check out qGIS for Mac. I as yet do not have a newer Intel based Mac, and the older Microsoft Virtual PC is painfully slow running any graphic intensive programs. I may have to write my own program to simulate Shape2Earth.
    Thanks – Eric

  5. Hi all,
    I thought I should add to this thread that there is another option for producing KML from arbitrary GIS data — the FME spatial data translator. There’s a free evaluation at While FME does cost more than the other products mentioned here, it can also translate GIS and CAD data from a wide variety of formats into KML, and as well it has a number of enterprise-friendly capabilities such as powerful configurability and can be deployed both in batch as well as on the server. And hey, it works *quite well* under WINE/Crossover office on Intel Macs…
    Dale Lutz
    Safe Software Inc. (Makers of FME)

  6. Hi Frank,
    I enjoy your posts very much and make it part of my daily RSS Reader reviews.
    Many large GIS installations will have licenses for Safe Software’s ( ) Feature Manipulation Engine (FME). One of its many (over 150) input/output formats is KML. While the license fee is significantly greater than the products you have reviewed, if an organization already has FME licensed for other purposes, they could use it to create KML files.
    There is an article at that describes how FME was used to create a KML “report” from the Smallworld GIS.

  7. C Dreiser says:

    for Mac users there is TNTmips from where you can export any combination of georeferenced data layers displayed in a View into kml.

  8. Eric Moeller says:

    Wow, thanks Chris. TNTLite (free) looks like a great place for me to start (the license fees for TNTmips are quite high!). It appears that support for Kml is only available in the newest release (2007). I’ll play around with it a little and see what I can do with it.

  9. For those readers with access to ESRI’s ArcGIS Desktop 9.1 (ArcMap & ArcCatalog), there is a free extension to convert shapefiles to KML files. It’s available on the ESRI’s ArcScripts website. Here’s the link:
    I’m not sure how it stacks up to the paid apps. suggested above, but it has done wonders for me!

  10. Try XTOOLS, this is a simple add on for ArcGIS, has lots of tools including a KML export tool.
    Just google XTOOLS.

  11. There is free alternative which allows you to import shapefile data to KML (Google Earth). It’s called GSpatial, and you can download it here:

  12. Is there any way or program that will convert the labels as well? I recently converted a map of rivers and streams in IN from ArcGIS to GE using the Conversions>To KML in ArcGIS but cannot figure out how to get labels to show up in GE.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.