Google Earth: 3D trees added to Boulder, Denver and Los Angeles

The addition of trees to Google Earth 6 was an awesome enhancement that made some big cities in Google Earth look remarkably more realistic. While they’re rolling out at a fairly slow pace, it’s nice to see Google continue to push it out to a few more cities.

The newest cities to get the trees are Boulder and Denver, Colorado and Los Angeles, California.

The new trees in Denver are of particular interest to me. I wrote a post on Digital Earth Blog more than three years ago comparing Denver in Google Earth and Microsoft’s (then-titled) Virtual Earth. At the time, Virtual Earth looked far better than Google Earth thanks to the trees. However, Google Earth has blown way past the look of Virtual Earth thanks to the improvements in satellite imagery and 3D buildings in the past few years.

First, here’s a look at the Colorado State Captiol building in Google Earth circa 2007. There are a few modeled buildings, a handful of gray buildings, and certainly no 3D trees:


Next, here’s a shot from Virtual Earth, also in 2007. There are quite a few more 3D rendered buildings, but the textures on them aren’t very sharp. The trees are a nice touch, though:


Finally, here’s a look at the same view in Google Earth, as seen today. The buildings are amazingly sharp, and the trees look far more realistic than what we saw in Virtual Earth in the past:


This comparison helps to show why Google is taking so long between cities with the addition of 3D trees — they’re doing it right. Rather than clumps of virtually identical trees like you saw in Virtual Earth, they’re taking the time to get the right species and height of each tree. The results speak for themselves.

To see these new trees, simply search for Boulder, Denver or Los Angeles in your Google Earth search window and make sure you have [Trees] enabled in the [3D Buildings] layer.

Google Lat Long Blog

How To Customize Mailing Labels

Adding a Custom Field to a Mailing Label

The first task was to modify the default fields displayed on the mailing label (name, address, postcode etc.) to include a custom field. This organisation delivers a lot of its local mail by hand rather than through the royal mail, so the custom field was used to assign addresses into a delivery walk, and this was to be printed on the label so it could be given to the appropriate deliverer.

Fortunately, CiviCRM uses a token replacement system, and every user-created custom field is assigned a unique token. The only problem in including the deliverer custom field on the mailing label  was finding out what the token corresponding to the appropriate field was.

I’m sure there must be a better way, but the quick solution that worked for me was to bring up the “Print PDF Letter for Contacts” action from a search result

On the next screen, click the “Insert Tokens” link at the top right to be presented with a modal dialog box listing all the names of all the available tokens in your system. Clicking on the name of a token will insert it into the PDF letter, allowing you to see the token behind it. In the screenshot below, for example, the Geo Code 1 field associated with each individual contact can be inserted into any mailing (or mailing label) using the {contact.geo_code_1} token.

Having identified the appropriate token for a custom field (in my case, it was{contact.custom_4} ), you can then add this to the mailing label template by going toAdminister >> Configure >> Global Settings >> Address Settings and editing the Mailing Label Format to include the relevant token, as below:

{}{, }{contact.state_province}{ }{contact.postal_code}

Sorting the Mailing List

Having ensured that the custom field was printed onto each label, the next step was to sort the list of labels based on the value of that field. As explained before, the mailings were to be hand-delivered, and it would save a lot of time sorting through the envelopes if they could be printed ready-sorted into batches for the appropriate deliverer, as specified by the custom field. A quick search of the internet reveals that sorted mailings are also required in other circumstances as well, such as sorting by ZIP code when submitting batch mailings to the U.S. Postal Service. However, although reported as a major bug in CiviCRM, the ability to sort mailing lists in anything other than alphabetical surname order of addressee is currently not possible. So I had to hack something together.

A snoop around revealed that the bulk of the work in preparing the mailing labels occurred in the script located at \sites\all\modules\civicrm\CRM\Contact\Form\Task\Label.php. Within the CRM_Contact_Form_Task_Label class in this file, I created a new comparison function which would sort an array of the items to be included in the mailing list based on the custom_4 field, as follows:

function cmpCustomField($a, $b) {
if ($a[‘custom_4’] == $b[‘custom_4’]) {
return 0;
return ($a[‘custom_4’] < $b[‘custom_4’]) ? -1 : 1;


Through a bit of experimentation, I determined the best place to sort the records was after they had been run through the “Merge same address”/“Merge same household” scripts, but before being formatted for display. So I inserted a call to the PHP uasort function (sorts an associative array while keeping indexes) that used my comparison function at around line 330, as follows:


if ( isset( $fv[‘merge_same_household’] ) ) {
$rows = $this->mergeSameHousehold( $rows );
$individualFormat = true;

uasort ( $rows , array($this, ‘cmpCustomField’));

// format the addresses according to CIVICRM_ADDRESS_FORMAT (CRM-1327)
require_once ‘CRM/Utils/Address.php’;
foreach ($rows as $id => $row) {


The mailing list labels were now produced in nicely ascending order based on the custom field.

Changing the Mailing Label Paper Template

CiviCRM supports a handful of common avery label formats out-of-the-box, but this organisation had recently purchased a bulk load of non-standard labels (A4, 24 labels per page, 8×3) which did not fit any of the supplied templates. They therefore couldn’t be used.

To create a new paper template, changes to two files must be made (both called “Label.php”, but in different directories).

Firstly, in the \sites\all\modules\civicrm\CRM\Utils\PDF\Label.php look for the $averyLabels array and add a new element to the array with the margins and other dimensions of your label sheet. Here’s the settings I used for my new paper (NX and NY are the number of columns and rows of labels on the sheet, width and height determined by dividing the overall dimensions of the page by the number of labels, and the margins determined mostly by guesswork):


$averyLabels = array (

‘Custom_3x8’ => array(
‘name’ => ‘NGP_3x8’,
‘paper-size’ => ‘A4’,
‘metric’ => ‘mm’,
‘lMargin’ => 5,
‘tMargin’ => 10,
‘NX’ => 3,
‘NY’ => 8,
‘SpaceX’ => 0,
‘SpaceY’ => 0,
‘width’ => 70,
‘height’ => 37.125,
‘font-size’ => 9


Having defined the settings for the Custom paper template, to actually get these settings to be selectable when producing mailing labels, you also need to edit the file at\sites\all\modules\civicrm\CRM\Contact\Form\Task\Label.php

Near the top is a buildQuickForm() function that contains an array of templates to populate a select list. Add the name of your new paper template to the end of the array, exactly as you defined it in the $averyLabels array above:

$label = array(
"5160" => "5160",
"5161" => "5161",
"5162" => "5162",
"Custom_3x8" => "Custom_3x8"


Save the file, and your new template will magically become available for use:

A few tweaks…

Finally, there were just a few tweaks to be made. The new paper template should be always be selected by default for mailing labels (they’d bought reams of the stuff, so it was going to be used for all labels for quite a while yet), and also the “merge contacts with the same address” should always be selected. Adding these defaults was a simple matter of amending the $defaults array declared in the setDefaultValues() function near the top of the \sites\all\modules\civicrm\CRM\Contact\Form\Task\Label.php file.

function setDefaultValues()
$defaults = array();
$defaults[‘do_not_mail’] = 1;

// Modified by AA
$defaults[‘merge_same_address’] = 1;
$defaults[‘label_id’] = "Custom_3x8";

return $defaults;


I’m no CiviCRM expert, and I’ve certainly no idea if the approach I took to solving any of these problems represents “best practice” in any way, but it seems to have got the job done and met the immediate needs of my client, so hopefully it might be helpful to somebody else too!

Google Places Quality Guideline Minor Update

With the ending of Google’s real estate listing service in Maps, it was necessary for Google to update the Google Places Quality Guidelines to reflect the fact that the service was no longer available as a listing option:
Previous Guidelines New Quality Guidelines
Ineligible Business Models: Only businesses that make in-person contact with customers qualify for a Google Places listing. Ineligible Business Models: Only businesses that make in-person contact with customers qualify for a Google Places listing.
Rental properties, such as vacation homes or vacant apartments, are not eligible for a listing on Google Places. Create a listing for the central office that processes the rentals, rather than the individual rental properties. If you’d like, you can then add your real estate properties to Google Maps so that they are available on our Real Estate layer. Rental or for sale properties, such as vacation homes or vacant apartments, are not eligible for a listing on Google Places. Create a listing for the central office that processes the sales or leasing offices, rather than the individual rental properties.

Related posts:

  1. Google Places Updates Quality Guidelines
  2. Google Places Quality Guidelines Comparison
  3. Google Places Quality Guideline Update