Work with KML layers

KML data is used to visualize geographic content by identifying and labeling specific locations.

Display KML layers

A KML layer references a KML file. All of the supported elements of the source KML file are contained in the one KML layer. The display of the KML features in the layer is dictated by the KML file, but you can turn features on or off in the Contents pane. Use the check boxes at each node to control the visibility of each node (and its children, if it's a container node), in the same way as other layers and group layers. In KML layers, however, the visibility settings are not persisted in the layer. When you reopen the map or scene, the visibility state is reset to how it is defined in the KML layer.

In some cases, some parts of the KML structure may be defined in the source KML file as hidden. When this occurs, you cannot expand or otherwise see this part of the hierarchy in the Contents pane; however, the associated KML features still draw on the map or scene canvas.

You cannot select KML features, but you can search for them by keyword in the Contents pane. Enter a term in the Search box to limit the KML structure in the pane to only the nodes that contain the search term. Using a search term limits the features listed in the KML structure in the Contents pane to make them easier to explore.

Altitude modes

The altitude modes available in a KML file differ from the elevation types available in ArcGIS Pro. For example, you cannot reference the seafloor in ArcGIS Pro. When KML data references the seafloor, the elevation of the KML layer references the ground instead. The following chart shows how the altitude modes are translated:

KML altitude modeArcGIS Pro elevation type


On the ground


Relative to the ground


At an absolute height


On the ground


Relative to the ground

Navigate KML layers

As with other layers, you navigate a KML layer using the Explore tool. Click a KML feature to open its pop-up. Alternatively right-click a node in the Contents pane and click Show Pop-up.


Even if the BalloonStyle <displayMode> is set to hide in the KML file, you can still show the pop-up.

To view a particular node in the display, right-click the node in the Contents pane and click Zoom to node. This centers the geometry in the view and zooms in a fixed amount. To continue to zoom in a fixed amount, click Zoom to node repeatedly. You can also zoom to a node by pressing Alt while you click the symbol of the node in the Contents pane. When you zoom to a container node, the display zooms to the full extent of all the contained child nodes.

To center the geometry in the display but keep the current display scale constant, click Pan to node instead.

A KML node may have an associated snapshot view defined. A snapshot view is similar to a bookmark with a defined extent (in 2D) or camera position (in 3D). Right-click a node in the Contents pane and click Go to camera position to reposition the point of view to the node's snapshot.

Work with time-aware KML data

KML data can be time aware. A feature can have a time stamp, which limits its display to a single point in time, or a time span, which limits its display to a set period of time. These properties are defined in the KML file and cannot be modified in ArcGIS Pro. When a time stamp or time span is present, the time slider is available, and the Time contextual tab appears on the ribbon. Use the time slider to explore the data temporally according to the defined time stamps and time spans.

Convert KML to geodatabase features and layers

KML layers are essentially read-only. Their display and behavior are dictated by the settings in their source KML file. You cannot select KML features, use them in analysis, or display them in a legend. If you want to work with the KML features in the same way as other GIS data, use the KML To Layer tool to convert a KML (or KMZ) file to feature classes in a file geodatabase. The tool also creates a corresponding layer file that reflects the symbology established in the KML file. You can optionally convert ground overlays in the KML file to rasters in the geodatabase with this tool.

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