Beginners Guide 1.3

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  Get help   About OpenStreetMap   Browsing   How to contribute   Contribute map data   Editors ±

Creating/Editing OSM data

OSM's data are made from the following elements:

Schematical illustration: (1)node (2)way (3)closed way
  • Node Nodes: Nodes are individual dots used to mark specific locations (such as a postal box). Two or more nodes are used to draw line segments or ways.
  • Way Ways: A way is a line of nodes, displayed as connected line segments. Ways are used to create roads, paths, rivers, etc.
    • Closed ways: Closed ways are ways that go in a complete loop. They are used to create "areas," such as parks, lakes, islands or buildings.
  • Relation Relations: When ways or areas are linked in some way, but do not represent the same physical thing, a relation is used to describe the larger entity they are part of. Relations are used to create map features, such as cycling routes, turn restrictions and areas that are not contiguous. A long way, such as an interstate or a state highway with multiple segments should be grouped into a relation for that highway. Another example is a national park with several locations that are separated from each other. Those also should be grouped into a relation.

All these elements can carry tags, describing name, type of road etc. We will explain them in the following sections.


iD is the easy to use editor found per default on the "Edit" button of the OpenStreetMap homepage, and is ideal for quick editing contributions. It runs in your browser and downloads data automatically as you look around.
Potlatch 2 is the precursor to iD, still used by quite a few people, and still available under the 'edit' button drop-down ("▼"). Requires Flash.
JOSM Logo 2014.svg
JOSM is a highly expandable standalone Java desktop application which allows fluid zooming, panning, and editing of a locally stored dataset, before uploading changes in a batch.

Make adjustments to your working place

Next step

See also