If you would like to create some maps to present to your class or add to a project, Google Maps and Google Earth are two easy-to-use and feature-rich applications that are worth checking out. But which one is the best fit for your particular needs? With Google adding so much of Earth’s functionality to Maps, we thought now would be a good time to compare the two.

Google Maps will let you add pushpins that can contain text, images, and video. You can also draw lines and polygons, just like you can with Earth:

pushpins, lines, polygons

It can even import GPS data:

gps upload

It also has a few advantages over Earth. In Maps, you can choose from a variety of base maps:

base maps

Most importantly, Maps is very stable and is still being developed by Google. Whereas, Google Earth has not been updated since 2013, a very long time in the world of software, and unfortunately, it shows. The software is very resource intensive and tends to crash occasionally.

There are also strange glitches that have appeared over time and have never been patched. For example, it is not possible to embed a video into a pushpin using the Mac version of the software, even though this can be done with the PC version.

Despite all of this, there are still some very compelling reasons to use Google Earth. As a presentation tool, it is far more dynamic than Maps. To navigate through a series of locations in Maps, you can only click through them in the sidebar (or actually click and drag the map around):

navigating maps

But when locations are added to Earth, they automatically generate an automated tour which can be launched by clicking the play icon:

play tour

You can control the positioning and zoom levels for each location by positioning it the way you want and setting that view as a “snapshot:”

snapshot view

You can even add an audio commentary by clicking the “Record a Tour” icon*:

record audio

Here is a sample tour that was created by Dickinson Classical Commentaries:

Another useful feature that is now unique to Earth is the ability to overlay maps and images onto the base map (Maps recently disabled this):


This feature is also important, since unlike Maps, you cannot change the base map in Earth. But Earth does contain a wealth of data you can add to your presentations, including 3D models of buildings, and you can toggle off all of these layers if you do not wish to use them, which is something Maps does not permit:


It even contains several years’ worth of satellite maps and aerial photography:

older maps

You can save your presentations as KMZ files (an archived XML file) to be used later or uploaded to Maps (but, as mentioned earlier, overlays will not appear). In fact, given the technical issues mentioned above, you will want to save your work in Earth pretty frequently.

*Google Earth Pro comes with Movie-Maker, which can export presentations to Windows Media and QuickTime HD movies, up to 1,920×1,080-pixel resolution. Pro is now free (it was $400/yr.). You can download it here and sign in using your email address as your username and the license code, GEPFREE.