I like the way Google Earth displays KML as a "scene graph", that is, a tree structure in the left panel.

This allows you to rearrange features in folders, change layer order, etc. via drag-and-drop.

However, this (rather useful) functionality is a bit too basic in Google Earth. For example, google "imports" the KML in its own structure, and if you want to "save back" the changes, you have to manually point to the original file in order to overwrite it.

Also, upon save, Google Earth just overwrites the styles contained in the original file (pretty much what Inkscape does with SVG). That's pretty rude :o(

So, my question is: are there other alternatives, specifically using the Tree View representation with drag-and-drop rearrangement? I don't even need map display (although that would be very useful)

  • 1
    So now that Kml Builder is retired, is there another one that will work? ...OR is there a way to just use it stand alone and load in KML/KMZ files to be viewed in Google Earth once edited? Really all I am interested in is a visual editor for the description popup so we can edit the table easily. Because not everyone is a web developer and knows HTML code.
    – Hardcoal
    Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 15:06
  • @DanC That wouldn't be a new question, it would be an update to this question
    – endolith
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 17:29
  • @Hardcoal In your case I would search for a WYSIWYG HTML editor, so that you can paste the generated html inside the kml file. At least this would be way easier to find than a KML editor (already a rare thing) that has that specific feature. Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 20:22

3 Answers 3


KML (Keyhole Markup Language) uses a tag-based structure based on the XML standard. The developer page on google has some really good info on the structure of how the KML files are set up.

Here is a link to the Developer page: https://developers.google.com/kml/documentation/kml_tut

You can edit KML files in a notepad editor, such as Notepad++ or Sublime Text. This can allow you to rearrange folders, and change layer order.

The folders use the XML tag "Folder", and items inside the folder can be "Placemarks", "Document", "GroundOverlay" and others.

By editing the file in a text editor, you can change the properties for each individual feature.

Here is an example KML layout:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<kml xmlns="http://www.opengis.net/kml/2.2">
    <description>Examples of paths. Note that the tessellate tag is by default
      set to 0. If you want to create tessellated lines, they must be authored
      (or edited) directly in KML.</description>
    <Style id="yellowLineGreenPoly">
        <name>Absolute Extruded</name>
        <description>Transparent green wall with yellow outlines</description>
          <coordinates> -112.2550785337791,36.07954952145647,2357
  • 2
    Thanks for your answer! I am already using SublimeText to manually edit KML structure, but it's a pain in the ***! For example, how can you know WHICH ONE is the unnamed-road-which-passes-close-to-the-creek-you-want-to-move just by looking at its raw, plain-text coordinates? That's the problem I plan to solve eventually. This would be very much like XAML interface editors (or Eclipse, etc) work: you have a designer window and a code window, and changes made in one of the "views" reflect in the other. Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 20:22

Check out an iOS app called Map Plus

I used it to create a bunch of polylines from road directions. I'm actually researching what I can do with my data (specifically visualization) after exporting to KML


You may have a look at here. In fact NorthGate's Kml Builder WAS a good alternative to GE!

From Northgate's website: Google Earth Plugin has been deprecated to oblivion. Kml Builder is officially retired (does not work) but for historical purposes the download will remain available for a little while longer. http://www.northgates.ca/kmlbuilder/Download/

Kml Builder makes it easy to create and edit KML External link. files to be viewed in Google Earth.

Places you create with Kml Builder can be emailed to your friends or co-workers and can even be published on the Internet or on Intranets for a broader audience.

Anyone who has Google Earth Desktop installed on their computer can open your created KML files with just a mouse click.

The Kml Builder 3-D Earth Viewer displays houses, the color of cars, and even the shadows of people and street signs. The degree of resolution available is based somewhat on the points of interest, but most land (except for some islands) is covered in at least 15 meters of resolution. Las Vegas, Nevada and Cambridge, Massachusetts include examples of the highest resolution, at 15 cm (6 inches). Kml Builder allows users to search for addresses (for some countries only), enter coordinates, or simply use the mouse to browse to a location.

You can create Placemark and Shared Style balloons by adding images, pictures, YouTube videos, Flash Macromedia files and Internet links.

Kml Builder is perfect if you plan to capture a trip somewhere on the earth by easily adding geospatial points of interest complete with formatted text and styled pop-up balloons.

Key features of Kml Builder include:

  1. Docked windows in which most windows can be closed.
  2. Drag/drop KML features within the My Places Tree.
  3. Expand/collapse KML feature containers when dragging by dragging over the minus sign to collapse and a container feature text to expand. Just wait a few seconds and voila!
  4. Opening KML and KMZ files by using the File » Open Locally, File » Open From Web submenus or by dragging a file from practically anywhere!
  5. Preview your changes directly in Kml Builder or in Google Earth.
  6. Use in-line or Shared Styles and Style Maps.
  7. Add local and remote images, photos, flash animation, movies, interactive games and YouTube videos to your balloons.
  8. Turn Layers on/off, Sun, Atmosphere and Controls visibility Built-in XML Editor for editing failing KML files
  • I'll accept this one because it is, so far, the best thing I could found. Although, I feel it could be greatly improved regarding splitting and merging of polylines, editing in source, and semi-automatic route tracing via Directions API. Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 11:32
  • The Google Earth API has been deprecated and so KML Builder is officially retired.
    – Paul
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 15:12

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