Google Maps Click and Drag Directions – Google Earth Tip

Google has just announced on the Google Lat-Long blog that Google Maps has a really cool new ability to create and modify driving directions. You can now simply click the map with your right mouse button to pick your starting and ending points for driving directions. Then, you can simply click on a point on the route to re-route to a different path (say you want to take the coastal route, or want to avoid going over a traffic jam). It’s all very simple, point and click. And, read below for a tip on how to use the results in Google Earth. Check out this video by the Google Maps team about the new feature:

Check out this example of a route with current live traffic in New York:

Simply click on the blue route between the two end points and drag it to a new route. This is really slick!
I can hardly wait to see this done in Google Earth. Given all the new features and integration of KML with Google Maps, I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before we see a Google Earth plug-in for our browsers so we can see these features working in both 3D as well as the 2D implementation in Google Maps. Or, maybe the new click and drag functionality will be in the next beta of GE 4.1 (or maybe they will call it 4.2). Until then Google Maps’ new driving directions will be more convenient. But, you can output the resulting driving directions straight into Google Earth. Want to know how?

Taking your directions from Google Maps to Google Earth:
[UPDATE: there appears to be a bug – sometimes this trick will not show the entire route in Google Earth, Google is looking into it.]

  1. Get your driving directions the way you want in Google Maps
  2. Click on the “Link to this page” in the upper right of Google Maps. You should get a little window with a long URL.
  3. Click the URL with the mouse and move the cursor to the right end (you should see something like “&z=11” at the end – which is the zoom level).
  4. Simply append “&output=kml” to the end of the URL
  5. Select the entire URL and copy it to your paste buffer (CTRL-C for example)
  6. Then paste it into your browser’s location URL pane at the top (or you can click and drag the selected link to the location pane). Then hit ENTER. This should load up the directions in Google Earth! You won’t be able to click and drag to change the directions, but you can view them in 3D.
  7. Once its loaded in Google Earth, hit the “Play” button below the Places pane – or select the “Tools->Play Tour” menu option. This will give you a cool flying 3D tour of the driving directions.

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. Great timing, considering all the negativity surrounding what certain others perceive as being negative about the iPhone.
    Perhaps that’ll make them see a little more ‘clearly’. Who knows.
    Extremely cool feature though. May I be so bold as to suggest — awesome.

  2. Not totally sure the trick to open GM directions in GE works well with these ‘draggable’ routes. It seems the ‘&output=kml’ trick only gives you the first ‘leg’ of the journey, I guess the KML output hasnt caught up (as GE’s UI cant support it?)
    But otherwise a really nifty feature! Definitely use GM for directions now!

  3. Vadim Berezniker says

    Oh.. my.. god..
    Google delivers again. This is such a useful feature and I just love how it’s implemented. Live redraw of the route is way cool.

  4. Barry, you’re right. The tip I’ve given doesn’t always work. Especially for directions that have more route elements I think. I’ve asked one of the Google Maps Project Managers why it’s not working…

  5. This has got to be the coolest driving directions feature ever. No more complaining about bad directions, the user now has control.
    Nice job Google.

  6. Yep, there is a bug. Google Earth only read the directions to the first ‘pause button’–the first change I made by dragging the route. But what an incredible feature.

  7. Thank you Google Earth Blog for the notice !
    ‘I can hardly wait to see this done in Google Earth.’
    Watch for the addon in Google Earth’s Open Forum.
    I am going to do this little addon. I’ll provide it as a 1st Beta within the GE Integrated Browser, then if it’s exceptable, I’ll provide the addon for external browser Google Maps versioning.

  8. Thanks for this super hack. Yah, it only works up to the first pause or first leg, but it’s still a benefit. It almost helps with my two biggest wishes:
    1. That you weren’t stuck with the route that GE determines is best.
    2. That the new My Maps feature in Google Maps would allow you save driving directions.

  9. If you’re trying to get a multiple leg trip into Google earth, here’s a usable but clumsy work around:
    1) Open a “duplicate” browser of your trip (to avoid destroying your original)
    2) Use the import trick to bring the first leg into Google earth
    3) Delete the origin of the trip, eliminating the first leg. The second leg becomes the new first.
    4) Repeat the import procedure

  10. Is there a fix for this problem? I have ‘drawn’ my holiday route in Google Maps and downloaded the KML. GE as well as GM show only the first leg of the route. Any ideas? Tnx!

  11. The problem appears to be with Google Maps’ export feature, not with Google Earth. The KML file that results from the hack mentioned above is not complete – it only extends through the first leg of the route. If the KML file would be complete, then Google Earth would properly import it. The only way I have done this (though admittedly painful) is to create separate routes in Google Earth for each leg of the journey, export each as a KML file, then “stitch” the KML files together by manually editing them in a text editor. They’re just standard XML files, so copying all the tags into the same KML file, in order of the route, then merging all the coordinates between the tags into the same file as well has done the trick. The only somewhat tricky part is making sure all the coordinates are in the correct order. Sure would be nice if the Google Maps KML export hack would be fixed, then implemented as an actual feature, or if Google Earth would implement the drag-able route feature! I’d even pay to upgrade to the Plus version if it included that!

  12. This is a nice feature. I really hope Google soon will fix the Google Earth export hack. You cannot get any help, even if you have a Google Earth Pro subscription.

  13. I just tried this and had no problems, but the URL for my trip was only 718 bytes long. URLs have a 2 kB limit, so if your trip is longer than that, it would never work. Google need to add a kml export feature to the page.

  14. reidkaufmann says

    With current versions it seems to get the start and end points right, but ignores the waypoints between and recharts the route.

  15. Any progress on this feature being implemented into google earth?

  16. It dosn’t work with GE 4.3 :/

  17. senthilRisk says

    useful in road risk assessment studies. Thanks Google 🙂

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.