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The following is concerning basic browsing of OpenStreetMap on www.openstreetmap.org
Browsing the Map
To browse OpenStreetMap, open the www.openstreetmap.org homepage. This viewer allows you to Find Places by name (see next section) and/or to zoom in and scroll around our world map.
You will see a general coastal layout of countries at high zoom levels, but as you zoom in, you can find roads and all sorts of other details which we have in our data.
In the search box appearing beside the map (10), enter the name of a town/city/road, a shop's name, or combined searches like "bakery tour Eiffel", "fast food Piraeus" etc. – see Nominatim for more information. Some places are also described on this wiki under Mapping projects.
You can switch between different "layers" offering different views of the same mapping data. Do this by clicking the layers icon (4)
The layer called "Standard" is the default. "Cycle Map", "Transport Map", and "MapQuest Open" are alternatives. The styles look quite different. Which is better, is often a matter of personal preference. These views are rendered in different ways (being turned from raw data into a map image), although all of these use Mapnik software. Because the layers are running on different server infrastructure with different set-ups, one layer may be more out-of-date compared to another (recently mapped roads not showing up).
For the "Standard" layer there is a basic key available showing how different types of primitives (mainly roads) on the map are rendered. Click the "i" icon (5) to bring it up. For a more complete list of how OSM renders different features in the Standard layer see Standard tile layer.
Newcomers should also note that it is in the nature of OpenStreetMap that there are many many other designs of maps available elsewhere if the small selection on www.openstreetmap.org don't appeal. They are all based on the same OSM data. A good point to start discovering may be List of OSM-based services.
In the 'layers' sidebar (4), you can also tick 'notes' to view any notes which people may have placed on the map here. If there are any, you will see markers appear. Click the markers to read the notes.
To add a new note to the map, use the notes button (7)
There is also an easier data interface: use the query features tool by clicking the ? (11). Then click a spot in the map to see which data elements are at this spot.
If you do not know OpenStreetMap already, open this link in a new tab and have a look at the beginning of this page.
You can show something on the OSM map to somebody (share it) by …
Optional highlights are shown …
Technically, the URL is dynamically modified as you pan around and is constructed like described in the section Other URL tricks below.
Adding a Marker
Another option on the 'share' panel is to share a map URL which will cause it to show a marker.
See also Question: How do I add a marker to a map? which lists some other options.
OpenStreetMap supports highly compact short URLs which can be generated from the 'share' panel (6). Short links are great for emailing, tweeting, and otherwise sharing map links in situations where a long URL can cause problems. They redirect to the longer type of the URL described above. Note that these short links are case sensitive and contain I, l and 1. In some fonts these characters can be difficult to distinguish. For more about how the feature works see Shortlink.
Other URL tricks
The URL is constructed like this:
http[s]://www.openstreetmap.org [/node|way|relation/<number>[/history[#<version>]]] /? [&mlat=<latitude>&mlon=<longitude>] [#map=<zoom level>/<latitude>/<longitude>] [&bbox=<min longitude>,<min latitude>,<max longitude>,<max latitude>] [&layers=<layer code>]
The URL forms shown above will produce a map centred on the specified latitude and longitude. It is also possible to get a map that displays everything within a given bounding box.
You can also combine the bounding box and marker. Example: http://www.openstreetmap.org/?minlon=22.3418234&minlat=57.5129102&maxlon=22.5739625&maxlat=57.6287332&mlat=57.5529102&mlon=22.5148625
It is also possible to directly ask openstreetmap.org to show a particular node, way or relation. Examples:
It is also possible to directly ask openstreetmap.org to browse details of a particular node, way or relation. Examples:
To get the full history add /history:
If you need a special version add /history#<version-number>
The "api/0.6" variants return the raw data (suitable for osm editors and software) instead of an html page (suitable for web browsers). This might suite your needs better, and usually works much faster than the html version.
Once you've looked around our maps it's time to zoom in on your neighbourhood and try out that edit button (9). See Editing for more instructions, and also check out http://learnosm.org a nice documentation site for beginning editing.
Alternative map browsing options
If you need an alternative interface for basic map browsing...
Technical details about this map 'browsing' interface, are found on the "Slippy Map" page