I currently have a python script that will take in data and output it as a KMZ file, which I then open in Google Earth on my desktop.

The data has two views; a 3D polygon tower (clustered data) and in individual semi transparent circles for a heatmap like view. Additionally, the data can be played over time so that the 3D towers grow/shrink and circles appear/disappear.

The powers that be have told me that the visualization does not "pop" enough for them, and they would like me to look into some free alternatives.

I am afraid that there are no tools besides ArcGIS (which they do not want to buy) that will do what they want, but I figured I would ask anyways. Are there any free tools that meet these requirements?

Ordered by importance:

  1. Can display data over time.
  2. Can read kmz or kml.
  3. Can display 3D polygons and overlay pictures on the map.
  4. Free (or at least cheaper than ArcGIS).

Here are some notes I took while looking at a few free tools:

  1. QGIS (could not get a map to load, could import kml as points)
  2. Open Jump (I think we need our own map data, did not install)
  3. NASA World Wind (Cool, but couldn't get kml to import. Not sure if it has time controls.)
  4. Marble (My favorite, but no time control. Couldn't get kml to input. http://marble.kde.org/kml-guide.php)
  5. MinervaGIS (Have to build from source. Did not install.)
  6. Viking (Worked, no time controls, would not open kmz)
  • Are you looking for something that has all your requirements off the shelf? Or can you have an option that requires some development? Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 23:40
  • FWIW, I've loaded a collection of PolyLines in QGIS from a KML file before. So, it's not limited to just points. Also, I'm not sure what base map you're trying to use but there's a good QGIS plugin which gives you all of the popular web maps as base maps (i.e. Google Maps, Yahoo, Bing, etc.)
    – James
    Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 0:24
  • Some development is fine, but I am limited since I am the sole developer (I am a programmer, not a GIS expert, unfortunately). I'll take a look again at QGIS for that plugin again, James. Thanks.
    – kevin948
    Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 0:34
  • 1
    Did you try ArcGIS Explorer, which is free? Commented Apr 11, 2013 at 18:12
  • ArcGIS Explorer takes just about anything my script outputs. Thanks!
    – kevin948
    Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 13:30

2 Answers 2


As Kirk Kuykendall suggested, ArcGIS explorer hits all of these requirements. It took in my Google Earth kmz files with no issues except that the .dae 3D model view I had did not work.


Maybe you can stay with your current configuration and merely exaggerate the growing and expanding of the polygons.

(Or maybe explain 'the visualization does not "pop" enough' more fully.)

  • Yeah. I personally still want to move forward with Google Earth. I think I am going to use regions to show different layers as the user zooms in so that the data becomes higher resolution. They may be wowed when they can look at the data in an individual city and see points showing up in neighborhoods. The issue is the boss doesn't know what they want and offers little in the way of direction.
    – kevin948
    Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 13:19

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