What is a KML?

Sep 24, 2021

To understand what a KML is, you first need to understand what XML is. XML is a language that is readable by machines or humans and explains a set of rules for a document. A KML does exactly this, but for mapping programs.

For example, uploading a KML into Google Earth will let the program know what needs to be marked up on the map. These markups include place markers, pictures layered on the map, polygons, text or 3D images. Take a look at the KML documentation.

The image below shows a TravelTime isochrone KML uploaded onto Google Earth. Make a travel time area here and request an export via ‘Contact Us’.


Example ways to view a KML

Free Tool

Google My Maps: Users canimport KML files and create their own maps. As well as importing the file users can add points of interest, lines and draw other polygons on the map.

The image below shows a TravelTime isochrone KML uploaded onto a Leaflet map. Make a travel time area here and request an export via ‘Contact Us’.


Google Earth: satellite imagery program that allows users to view GIS data on a 3D earth. Users can import KMLs and also see 3D model imagery and view street-level data.

Paid tools

ArcGIS: Esri’s GIS system used for creating maps and analysing geographic data.

MapInfo: Pitney Bowes’ GIS system used for maps and location analysis.

Converting your KML

It’s possible to view a KML file in various formats including (but not limited to):

  • ESRI shapefile (SHP)
  • GPS exchange format (GPX)
  • Comma-separated values (CSV)
  • GeoJSON

To do this you can use an online tool such as MyGeoData Converter. Many tutorials are available from GIS platform providers to do this too. For example this ArcGIS tutorial or MapInfo.

Do you need travel time polygons?

We can create a travel time polygon such as ‘All locations reachable within 30 minutes drive from my location, departing at 9am’. This data is exported as a KML and can be imported into any GIS or mapping program.

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