Upload GPS tracks

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A good way to get involved in the OpenStreetMap project is to upload GPS track logs (also named GPS traces). Recorded by your GPS device, the typical track is a record of your location every second, or every meter. The collected data can be displayed as a background of thin lines or little dots within the map editor. These lines and dots can then be used to help you add map features (such as roads and footpaths), similar to tracing from aerial imagery. GPS Satellite NASA art-iif.jpg
  Record   Convert   Edit   Upload   Accuracy   GPS Reviews  


Uploading GPS tracks (also called "GPS traces") is used to support editing OSM and means to upload a own GPS traces (collected by using your GPS device) to the OSM server. Uploading GPS tracks is a different process than editing the map (see below for more info on the difference), and is also different from bulk imports.

Instead of uploading there is also another possibility to use your GPS trance only for your own editing: All of our main editor programs support displaying GPX files from your local storage without uploading them.

How to upload a GPS trace

The GPS traces link, highlighted. It may be hidden behind a "More ▼" or a "☰" drop-down menu button if you use a small window width.
  1. Convert your GPS trace to the GPX file format if your GPS device does not supply this format natively.
    • Only GPS traces in the GPX file format can be uploaded to OpenStreetMap.
    • Files can easily be converted to this format using tools – see the "Convert" page/tab.
  2. Select the "GPS traces" from the top main menu.
  3. Select "See your traces", or "upload a trace" directly
    1. If you are not already logged-in to the main OSM website, you will be asked to log in. If you don't have an account for the site, create an account first. Note for editors of this wiki: The OSM account is different from this wiki's login and the upload procedure described here is not the same as uploading images to illustrate the wiki pages.
  4. Use the "Browse" button to select the GPX file on your local computer.
  5. Enter a Description and Tags, if you like
  6. Select the Visibility of GPS traces.
    • If you do not want your GPS trace to be seen by anybody else, stop here and do not upload.
  7. Click Upload.

The file will be uploaded to the OSM server, where it will join the queue of files waiting to be inserted into the database.

Uploading Compressed files

A single file may also be uploaded after being compressed by gzip, having a .gpx.gz extension. If you have a big file or multiple files to upload, you may compress them into a zip archive and upload it. It will then be treated as one big gpx file (that is, only one entry in your trace list is created).

Uploading Waypoints

GPS waypoints can also be uploaded to the OSM database. However, gpx files still need to contain at least one trackpoint. See Upload Waypoints.

Troubleshooting

I have uploaded a GPS trace but nothing has happened on the map

When you upload a GPX file the points are extracted and inserted into the database. We do not however automatically create streets, paths or other map features based on your uploaded files. To add map features you (or somebody else) can use an editor to draw them using the GPS traces as a guide by viewing them as a background layer. (For more information see: Q:Why aren't my GPS traces shown on the maps? or Q:How are uploaded traces (GPX files) from my GPS device used in the OpenStreetMap editing process?)

How can I view my uploaded traces?

Once your GPX file has been uploaded to the database, you will be able to...

  • See your trace listed on the GPS traces tab of the website
  • Edit the map using your trace as a background (press edit beside any trace)
  • Please see the documentation of the OSM editor which you are using for how to use GPS traces. Just some hints:
    • For editing in Potlatch 1: Convert the GPS track to ways.
    • See your trace among all the others, while editing an area
      • In iD it will soon be integrated into the gps layer.
      • In Potlatch 2 toggle 'GPS' (use the button, or press 'g')
      • In JOSM on the download dialogue window, select Raw GPS data under Data sources and Types.
  • Use the API to fetch your trace among others within given bounding box

What are GPX file tags?

Note: Tagging traces is completely separate from tagging OSM data itself. Don't get the two confused!

When uploading GPX files, tags provide a simple way to describe your GPS traces. They make your GPX file findable with a single word and allow you to group the trace alongside other similar traces. For example, all the traces tagged 'Melbourne' are listed at www.openstreetmap.org/traces/tag/Melbourne. Please note that tags are case-sensitive - so Melbourne and melbourne may supply different results.

Each file can have many tags, and you can enter as many as you like with commas (",") between them. Usually the tags are the names of countries, cities and other places your trace concerns.

My uploaded trace has "PENDING" next to it. Why?

The trace is waiting for processing and insertion into the gps trace database. This usually takes less than 15 Minutes. At busy times (especially weekends), there can indeed be a wait before your trace is added to the database. You don't need to wait for this to start mapping, however:

  • If you're using iD just drag'n'drop the gpx file onto the editor area.
  • If you're using Potlatch, find the 'edit' link to the right of your track (in the GPS traces listing), and click this - not the usual Edit tab at the top.
  • If you're using JOSM or another offline editor, just load the track from your hard drive.

Why do I get bad signal / traces in city centres / near big metal buildings?

For a GPS to work and achieve some accuracy it needs to receive at least four satellite signals. Often when in city centres there are many tall buildings that can block these signals and stop the GPS from being able to work out where it is. There may also be multi-path effects from the material making up the buildings around you, whereby signals bounce off them so the receiver actually thinks it is somewhere in the buildings around. Another factor that can affect this is the number and position of satellites that can be seen at the time of logging; trying the route on another day or a different time of day may give better results.

Applications supporting direct upload of GPS traces

Software developers may be interested in the documentation for the GPX upload API.

The following applications support direct upload to OpenStreetMap: