I have been asked to investigate methods for obtaining KML files.

All I know so far is that it is a format based on XML that Google uses to format their maps (or the metadata).

However, are there places or methods that I may avail myself of to download KML data without going through Google Earth?

For example, is it possible to get the KML for the vector data of a state in the US (roads, boundaries, etc.) ?

To restate it simply: I want Google's vector data so I can display it in ArcMap. Are there repositories for such things?


2 Answers 2


KML is an OGC standard so there should be a lot more applications now a days which will allow you to "export to KML".

OpenLayers makes it very easy to READ and WRITE KML files using Javascript Code.

GDAL will also allow you to READ and WRITE KML files in command line. For example: create a KML file from a Spatial Database Query.

EDIT: You can also export to KML from ArcGIS 10

EDIT #2 Google does not give you the ability to download KML from it's map data. It does provide some map web services but they are not what you are thinking.

ESRI and many others do host map services for free though. For example: http://services.arcgisonline.com/ArcGIS/rest/services/Reference/World_Boundaries_and_Places/MapServer

Notice at the bottom of the above page you can "Generate KML". But what's better, this is a REST service you can query straight from code.

  • But can this be used so I can get vector data from Google?
    – Nathanus
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 18:18
  • Ohhh, so you want to be able to download KML files based on Data on Google Maps?
    – CaptDragon
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 18:19
  • Indeed I do. I'm not sure it can even be done, but I'd like to know if their vector data can be retrieved (not the rasters).
    – Nathanus
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 18:21

In case it isn't clear: Not only is there no way to get Google Maps data as KML, for the majority of their data, there is no way to get vector representations of Google's data, period. (This is less true for areas entirely covered by Google Map Maker, but those are very much the exception, not the rule.)

  • It was relatively clear, but thank you for the clarification. This confirms my suspicions perfectly.
    – Nathanus
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 22:53

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