How to use maps on your desktop

How to use maps on your desktop

Each of the maps below is a file that can be opened using Google's free Google Earth application available on Windows and Mac computers.

Install Google Earth

Go to the Google Earth installation page to download the application.

Download and open map files

The Collaboratory maps page lists links to all of our map files, with descriptions. Click on the links below the descriptions to download the files, which you can then open using Google Earth.

When you open the downloaded files (which will have either the .KML or .KMZ suffix) they will appear in the "Temporary Places" folder on the left sidebar of Google Earth.

To navigate these maps, use the checklist on the left-hand sidebar to call up one (or many) different maps at a time. A Google Earth map file comprises many layers that are contained inside nested folders. You can expand by clicking on the arrows to the left. You can choose to display the contents of any folder by clicking on its checkbox (this will also display every "child" folder inside, useful for turning on many layers of the map at once.)

Using the time slider

Many of our maps have been timestamped, so that you can scroll through a timeline to see geographic changes over time. When you load a timestamped map into Google Earth, you will see a time slider appear in the upper-left corner of the screen. When you double-click on a map element in the sidebar, the timeslider will automatically change to fit the timespan of that element, hiding and displaying other parts of the map accordingly. You can also manually set the starting and ending time of the slider. You can read more about using the time function on Google's support website.

Below you can see the expanding borders of the Carloingian empire betwen 486 and 518 CE.

The timeslider applies to every map you have loaded into Google Earth, so you can download multiple maps (for example, the Chinese Dynasties and the Roman Empire) and simultaneously watch the development of both civilizations over time.

More on using Google Earth

For more help on using Google Earth, and to learn how to add to these maps, see Google's documentation.