Google Maps is one of the widely used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the world for navigating around. From desktop computers to modern Android and iOS based mobile phones and tablets, Google Maps is the choice of use for navigating around the town and exploring the places on earth virtually. But have you ever given a thought to what type of GIS file formats can be used with Google Maps? If not, let’s go through the top 5 GIS File Formats that can be imported into Google Maps for display.

ESRI Shape File

ESRI is one of the popular GIS mapping software that is used for developing GIS applications. ESRI Shape (SHP) file is a popular vector file format that is based on open specifications for facilitating interoperability between ESRI and other GIS applications. These (.shp) files can be imported into Google Earth software using the import menu option and selecting ESRI Shape file from the file type menu.

Keyhole Markup Language File (KML)

Keyhole Markup Language (KML) is an XML-based GIS file that contains geospatial information. It uses a tab-based structure with nested elements and attributes and has been adopted as a standard. KML files can be imported in Google Earth by creating a new Project and selecting the KML file from disc.

MapInfo Tab File

The MapInfo TAB format is a vector data format for geographic information systems software, developed by MapInfo Corporation. You can import MapInfo Tab files in Google Earth using the import menu option and selecting MapInfo Tab file from the file type menu.

Comma Separate Value (CSV) File

Comma Separated Value (CSV) files are text files that arrange records in text format separated by a comma. Majoring of GIS applications can export feature map data in CSV format to be imported and used by other GIS applications. In order to import geospatial data from a CSV file in Google Earth, the data should be comma-delimited and each column surrounded by quotes to prevent issues with commas in names. In addition, it is a must to have a header row.


Geo-TIFF (.tiff) files are Tagged Image File Format files that contain geospatial imagery along with spatial information about the location of the imagery. GeoTIFF files can be imported in Google Earth using the import menu option and selecting GeoTiff from the File Type menu. Google Earth reads the geospatial information from these files to identify the top-left and bottom-right coordinates of the imagery for display purposes.


In addition to these top 5 GIS formats, there are several other popular file formats that can be imported in Google Earth for visualization. The choice of GIS file type depends on the availability of data in the exported data format, and can be imported in Google Earth accordingly.