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Google Maps GeoXml crash course

Posted: September 10th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Journalism, Web Services | 6 Comments »

Over the weekend I added KML/GeoRSS data loading via GGeoXml to some mapping software for work. I ran in to a couple of gotchas and a couple of things that I thought were really interesting, so I thought I’d share.

Getting started

GGeoXml and particularly clickable polylines are relatively new features, so we need to specify that we want to use beta features when we grab our google maps code:

<script src="http://maps.google.com/maps?file=api&v=2.x&key=your_key_here" type="text/javascript"></script>

The key here is v=2.x which specifies that we want some 2.x or somewhat bleeding edge features. Now that we’ve got that loaded up, we’ll want to define a couple of variables:

var map;
var geoXml;

This set up two global variables that we’ll be using. While I’m not a big fan of polluting global namespaces, this will allow me to play with these variables via Firebug once the page has loaded. For non-sample production code you’ll want to properly namespace all of your work. Next we’ll grab some data using GGeoXml:

geoXml = new GGeoXml("http://example.com/path/to/data.kml");

This will grab data from the XML file. In my case it’s a list of things to do in and around Kansas City. Now that we have data in hand, let’s create a map and add this data as an overlay:

if (GBrowserIsCompatible()) {
  map = new GMap2(document.getElementById("map_canvas")); 
  map.setCenter(new GLatLng(38.960543, -95.254383), 9);
  map.addControl(new GLargeMapControl());
  map.addControl(new GLargeMapControl());

This should be pretty familiar if you’ve ever worked with the Google Maps API. We’re creating a new map using the div map_canvas in the document. Then we set the center of the map and add a few controls. Once we’re done with that, we’re going to add the geoXml that we loaded via KML to the map. Here’s the complete basic example:

KC Basics

Let Google do the hard stuff

You’ll notice that the basic map is centered manually and doesn’t really fill the whole viewport. GGeoXml has finished running, we can query it for useful information. For example, I can ask what its default center is from Firebug:

>>> geoXml.getDefaultCenter();
(39.076937, -94.601867) Uk=39.076937 La=-94.601867 x=-94.601867 y=39.076937

Knowing that I could then set the center of the map as follows:


While this handles setting the center correctly, it doesn’t help me figure out what zoom level to set. Luckily there is another method on GGeoXml objects: gotoDefaultViewport(map). I can then call the following and have Google do all the hard work of figuring out what center and zoom to use to make sure all of the KML/GeoRSS content fits within the viewport:


This allows us to let Google create bounding boxes, find centers and zoom levels, which while interesting exercises aren’t fun to do on a daily basis. There’s one gotcha here though: you can’t get information about a GGeoXml instance until it’s done loading.

Are we there yet?

When we call GGeoXml, we can optionally provide a callback function that will be called as soon as GGeoXml is done doing its thing and we can access it. First let’s create a function that centers and zooms so that the data is contained nicely within the viewport:

var geoCallback = function()

Next we have to modify our call to GGeoXml to include the callback:

geoXml = new GGeoXml("http://example.com/path/to/data.kml", geoCallback);

Here’s the final code that includes the callback:

KC Final

I hope that illustrates how much can be done with very little code. Definitely take advantage of the rich map annotating capabilities that Google’s My Maps offers and don’t be shy about including them in maps on your own site.

6 Comments on “Google Maps GeoXml crash course”

  1. 1 Ryan Pitts said at 2:09 pm on September 18th, 2007:

    Awesome tip. I’ve already used this twice to let editors whip up quick annotated maps to go along with features on our site. Pretty easy for them to create an online map on their own when all they have to do is type in addresses and descriptions to add points in a My Maps collection, then forward me the KML file.

  2. 2 Laurent said at 3:25 am on October 17th, 2007:

    Very nice and very easy to use. Thank you for the course!

    One question I have is: is it possible to load a kml file which is local, and not available freely on the web?

    Thank you,


  3. 3 Clay said at 12:59 pm on December 12th, 2007:

    Hey, you can load local KML files on Google Earth, not maps if I’m not mistaken. Failing that there are many free sites for hosting

    I’m trying to figure out how to load sections of very large datasets into G.E. based on the zoom level and bounding box of the current view. Any insights into a simple procedure?

  4. 4 Milan said at 5:07 am on December 19th, 2007:

    Cool, but kc.html does strange things in Opera…

  5. 5 Bala said at 2:14 am on January 8th, 2008:

    Can u pls expalin me how to load from the local server which is not a public ip

  6. 6 Glenn said at 8:15 pm on July 29th, 2008:

    Cheers Matt for the pointer on the zoomlevel, I was going nuts over trying to accomplish this and I didn’t think I’d find a site with exactly what I was looking for. In case you wondered, 1st page in google with keywords “google maps kml data GGeoXml” did it.

    Saved me some time I so need :)