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Help About Browsing Editing Upload

The following is Help Documentation concerning basic browsing of OpenStreetMap on


Browsing the Map

Browse OpenStreetMap on the homepage. This viewer allows you to zoom in and scroll around our world map.

  • To zoom in click the plus icon (1) in the top-right. This will zoom towards the center of the currently displayed map.
    • Holding down shift while clicking zooms by three levels.
    • You can also zoom in with your mouse's scroll wheel, by double-clicking on the map or by holding down the shift key and dragging a box over the area you want to zoom in on.
  • To zoom out click the minus icon (2) in the top-right or use your mouse's scroll wheel. Shift-click also works here.
  • To pan and scroll around simply drag the map with your mouse.
  • To centre the map on the geolocation supplied by your browser click the arrow icon (3).

You will see a general coastal layout of countries at high zoom levels, but as you zoom in, you can find roads and all manner of other details which we have mapped out.

Finding Places

Enter the name of a town/city/road in the search box appearing beside the map (10) - see Nominatim for more information. Some places are also described on this wiki under Mapping projects

Change layers on the homepage by clicking the layers icon (4)


You can switch between different "layers" offering different views of the same mapping data. Do this by clicking the layers icon (4)

The "Standard" layer 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 Because the layers are running on different server infrastructure with different set-ups, one layer may be more out-of-date compared to another (recently mapped roads not showing up).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 legend 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 see Map Features, or Key:highway for just roads.

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 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.


See Notes

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)

Data access

See Data layer

In the 'layers' sidebar (4), you can also tick 'data' to activate the data browser. This gives you a view of the underlying data, allowing you to select the elements and view their tag data, and editing history. Similar features are also available within the editors (See Editing). This view is read-only. It is a JavaScript interface which requires a powerful up-to-date web browser, but does not require flash support.

There is also an easier data interface: use the “what’s that?” feature by clicking the [?] (at the bottom of the button row – not pictured in our screenshot here). Then click a spot in the map to see which data elements are at this spot.

Sharing a link to the maps

You can link to any map display using a URL of the form:[Zoom Level]/[Latitude]/[Longitude]&layers=[Layer code]

The layer URL parameter takes a special code representing your layer selection. The parameter is optional and if you leave it out, we will default to showing our "standard" map style. See Layer URL parameter for more information.

Your browser address bar (8) has the URL, and you can copy it from here for sharing e.g. by email. This should be automatically populated and dynamically modified as you pan around.

You can also use the 'share' panel (6) to access this type of URL or some additional options:

Short links

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.

Adding a Marker

Another option on the 'share' panel is to share a map URL which will cause it to show a marker.

  • Zoom/pan to the approximate area you require.
  • Open the 'share' panel (6)
  • Tick the "Include marker" box to add a marker.
  • Pan the map or drag the marker, to position it precisely
  • Zoom out (e.g. by clicking the minus button) if you wish to share a map of the wider area
  • Select 'Link' or 'Short Link' in the right-hand side box
  • Click into the URL box directly below the buttons, the URL will get selected automatically, copy the URL (e.g. by right click and "copy")
  • Paste your URL into a new browser window to test it
  • Paste your URL elsewhere to share it.

See also Question: How do I add a marker to a map? which lists some other options.

Other URL tricks

Note that some URL parameters may not be supported long term. We offer no guarantees

bbox URLs

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.[Min Longitude]&minlat=[Min Latitude]&maxlon=[Max Longitude]&maxlat=[Max Laitude]&layers=[Layer code][Min Longitude]%2C[Min Latitude]%2C[Max Longitude]%2C[Max Latitude]&layers=[Layer code] (note %2C is an encoded comma, per RFC 2396)


You can also combine the bounding box and marker. Example:

node/way/relation URLs

It is also possible to directly ask to show a particular node, way or relation. Examples:

Browsing node/way/relation

It is also possible to directly ask 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.

What next?

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 a nice documentation site for beginning editing.

What else is next? Well there are various other ways of Getting Involved, or may be more interested in Using OpenStreetMap.

Alternative map browsing options

If you need an alternative interface for basic map browsing...

  • Mobilemap is optimized for browsers without Javascript support. The display is optimized for small screen sizes and aims at mobile devices.
  • You may also search for List of OSM based Services.

Technical Details

Technical details about this map 'browsing' interface, are found on the "Slippy Map" page