What's the Difference?

KML (Keyhole Markup Language) and KMZ (Keyhole Markup Zip) are both file formats used for displaying geographic data in applications like Google Earth. KML is a plain text file that uses XML syntax to define points, lines, polygons, and other spatial features. It is lightweight and easy to read and edit. On the other hand, KMZ is a compressed version of KML that includes all the necessary files and resources, such as images and overlays, in a single zipped package. This makes KMZ files more convenient for sharing and distributing complex geospatial data. While KML is suitable for simple data sets, KMZ is preferred for larger and more intricate projects.


File Format.kml.kmz
CompressionNoneCompressed (ZIP)
SizeText-based, larger file sizeSmaller file size due to compression
Supports External ResourcesYesYes
Supports 3D ModelsYesYes
Supports ImagesYesYes
Supports AudioYesYes
Supports VideoYesYes
Supports StylingYesYes
Supports Time-Based DataYesYes
Supports Network LinksYesYes
Supports Extended DataYesYes
Supports Ground OverlaysYesYes
Supports Screen OverlaysYesYes
Supports FoldersYesYes
Supports PlacemarksYesYes
Supports PolygonsYesYes
Supports PolylinesYesYes
Supports PointsYesYes

Further Detail


KML (Keyhole Markup Language) and KMZ (Keyhole Markup Zip) are file formats used for displaying geographic data in various mapping applications. Developed by Keyhole Inc., which was later acquired by Google, these formats have become widely used for sharing and visualizing spatial information. While both KML and KMZ serve similar purposes, they have distinct characteristics and features that make them suitable for different scenarios. In this article, we will explore the attributes of KML and KMZ, highlighting their similarities and differences.

KML: Keyhole Markup Language

KML is an XML-based file format used for expressing geographic annotation and visualization within mapping applications. It provides a standard way to represent and store geographic features such as points, lines, polygons, images, and text. KML files can be created and edited using various software tools, including Google Earth, Google Maps, and other GIS (Geographic Information System) applications.

One of the key advantages of KML is its simplicity and human-readable structure. Being an XML format, KML files can be easily opened and edited using any text editor. This makes it accessible to users who prefer manual editing or customization of their geographic data. Additionally, KML supports a wide range of styling options, allowing users to define colors, line widths, icons, and other visual properties for their geographic features.

KML files can also include additional information such as descriptions, timestamps, and extended data attributes. This makes it possible to attach rich metadata to geographic features, enhancing their contextual information. Furthermore, KML supports the embedding of images and multimedia content, enabling the creation of interactive and engaging visualizations.

However, one limitation of KML is its file size. As KML files store data in plain text, they can become quite large when dealing with complex or extensive datasets. This can lead to performance issues when loading or sharing KML files over the internet. To address this concern, KMZ was introduced as a compressed alternative to KML.

KMZ: Keyhole Markup Zip

KMZ is a compressed file format that contains one or more KML files along with their associated resources, such as images, icons, and overlays. By compressing the KML files and their dependencies into a single archive, KMZ offers several advantages over traditional KML files.

One of the primary benefits of KMZ is its reduced file size. The compression of KML files into a single ZIP archive significantly reduces the overall size of the data. This makes it easier to share and distribute KMZ files, especially over the internet. Smaller file sizes also result in faster loading times, improving the overall user experience when working with KMZ files.

Another advantage of KMZ is its ability to package multiple KML files together. This allows for the organization and structuring of complex geographic data into separate layers or categories. By including multiple KML files within a KMZ archive, users can easily toggle the visibility of different datasets, making it more convenient to explore and analyze specific aspects of the data.

KMZ files can be opened and viewed using various software applications, including Google Earth, Google Maps, and other KML-compatible tools. When a KMZ file is opened, the associated KML files and resources are automatically extracted and displayed, providing a seamless experience for the end user.

It is worth noting that KMZ files can also be password-protected, allowing for secure distribution of sensitive or proprietary geographic data. This feature adds an extra layer of privacy and control over the shared information, making KMZ a preferred choice in certain scenarios.

Comparison and Use Cases

While both KML and KMZ serve similar purposes, they have distinct attributes that make them suitable for different use cases. KML, with its human-readable structure and flexibility, is often preferred for manual editing and customization of geographic data. It is commonly used by individuals or small teams who require fine-grained control over the styling and content of their visualizations.

On the other hand, KMZ is more suitable for scenarios where file size and distribution efficiency are crucial. Its compression capabilities and ability to package multiple KML files make it ideal for sharing large or complex datasets over the internet. KMZ is often used by organizations or projects that need to distribute geographic data to a wider audience or collaborate with multiple stakeholders.

Both KML and KMZ are widely supported by mapping applications and GIS software. They can be seamlessly integrated into various platforms and tools, making it easy to incorporate geographic data into existing workflows. Whether it's for creating interactive maps, visualizing spatial data, or sharing location-based information, KML and KMZ provide versatile options for working with geographic data.


In conclusion, KML and KMZ are file formats used for expressing and visualizing geographic data. While KML offers simplicity, human-readability, and extensive styling options, KMZ provides the advantages of reduced file size, packaging multiple KML files, and password protection. The choice between KML and KMZ depends on the specific requirements of the project or use case. Whether it's the need for customization and fine-grained control or efficient distribution and collaboration, both formats offer valuable attributes for working with spatial information. By understanding the characteristics and features of KML and KMZ, users can make informed decisions when it comes to sharing, visualizing, and analyzing geographic data.

Comparisons may contain inaccurate information about people, places, or facts. Please report any issues.