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I have a point shapefile where I set up a hyperlink to a .pdf file. In Arc the hyperlink works fine, and the desired .pdf file is opened when I click on the specific feature.
If that layer is then converted to a .kmz file, the hyperlink no longer works when the new .kmz file is opened in Google Earth. Does the hyperlink feature only work in Arc with a shapefile, or should it translate over to Google Earth?

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Shapefiles (and more specifically the DBF format they are built on) do no support a "hyperlink" field. The best alternative to this is a simple text field, which is what I expect you are using.

In order for hyperlinks to work, whatever your software of choice is must support an either assigned function or automatic interpretation of text fields (beginning with an appropriate syntax like "http://") in order to launch a browser and open the URL.

I don't use Google Earth so I don't know it's sytax, but you might try looking here for some pointers.

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<a href="file:///C:\YourDirectory\YourFile.pdf">YourFile.pdf</a>

Use the formatting above to add hyperlinks into kmls. These hyperlinks should work in Google Earth straight away. You just need to make sure you've set Google Earth to be able to access your filesystem.

For Google Earth to access local files you need to allow this in the Tools > Options > General.

Check 'Allow access to local files and personal data'

Useful info:

embedding pdfs - https://stackoverflow.com/questions/10553450/google-earth-link-pdf-or-image-file-on-company-server-to-placemark/12940332#12940332

hyperlink to url - https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/earth/yiVOJjhX3aQ

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