Applications of OpenStreetMap

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This page presents an overview of how OpenStreetMap has been used until now. If you search for instructions on how to use OpenStreetMap by yourself, please visit Using OpenStreetMap.

Topographic mapping from TopOSM (USA only at present)

The core of OpenStreetMap is a collection of map data which can be used for many different purposes. You can get a first idea browsing the world map on the main page of OpenStreetMap. While browsing, try the Layers button on the right to view different map formats. It illustrates how OpenStreetMaps's data can be used in diverse manners.

Because everybody can use OpenStreetMap's data with very few restrictions, many different third party services are built on OpenStreetMap's data. Much of the value of OpenStreetMap lies in this variety of services. Each one serves you different information, and each one does so in a different way. There is much more information available through these services which you can't see on the OpenStreetMap world map.

Further, though we only talked about 'map data', OpenStreetMap is used for other purposes than maps, too.


ÖPNVkarte is a free public transport map.
When Typhoon Haiyan devasted parts of the Philippines in 2013, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team quickly worked on providing up-to-date maps like this one used in the DSWD Operations Center in Tacloban Airport.

Many people get to know OpenStreetMap through its world map. People can easily integrate this map on their website, with the possibility to add their own features. Wikipedia does so, and many other people too. Further, OpenStreetMap provides the raw map data to create customized maps from the scratch. Numerous third party online maps are based on OpenStreetMap data. You can also use maps without internet connection on desktop computers or mobile devices such as smartphones or even the Play Station Portable. There are tools and online services helping to create high resolution paper maps.

Maps can be used in very different ways. With OpenStreetMap, people get artistic or help with humanitarian activity (also see Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team). Within the OpenStreetMap Community, people focus on mapping a variety of particular topics, from accessibility to Special Populations. Third party services provide maps specialised on accessibility (wheelchair, blind, ...), on sports (hiking, biking, canoeing, skiing, ...), on History and many more. List of OSM based Services tries to give a comprehensive collection.

Many projects continuously improve their maps. Since they are all limited by the available information in the OpenStreetMap data collection, contributing map data is a good way to support them. ÖPNVkarte, a free public transport map, is a good example. The picture on the right shows the well mapped public transport system of Berlin. You can visit the project's page to discover regions of the world with less public transport information available in the OpenStreetMap data collection.

3D maps

Main article: 3D

The third dimension is a growing topic at OSM. It's already possible to add detailed buildings and a lot of minor objects, which results in a 'feeling like home'.


Main article: Routing
MapQuest Open was one of the many routing services based on OpenStreetMap.

Many different routing services (see also this list of routing services) are built on OpenStreetMap data, not only for cars. Based on OpenStreetMap, you can find your way in wheelchair, on bike or horse, during your next hike, using public transport, ...

The Look and Listen Map provides an online map and routing service for blind, visually impaired and sighted persons. While still in a development status, the project already won some prizes.

GIS software

Main article: GIS software

Many available GIS software is proprietary, closed source, and quite expensive. Often they operate with data in a proprietary data format. OpenStreetMap data, in contrast, is open. To achieve interoperability, there is a whole bunch of tools converting map data from/ to OpenStreetMap data, including support for the popular ESRI Shapefiles and PostGIS format. We try to document any special interoperability with OpenStreetMap for each GIS software. Try a search with the form on the top right of this page for your particular GIS software, or browse our GIS software category. There is also open source GIS software working together with OpenStreetMap.


Students learning the OpenStreetMap editing process, giving an introduction to GIS during a course at a university in London.
Main article: Education

OpenStreetMap is being used within education, in schools, universities and colleges in a wide range of disciplines. Some projects involve only the use of existing OpenStreetMap data, while others result in additional data within the OpenStreetMap data collection. The OpenStreetMap project is used in teaching geography, mathematics, ecology, community planning and technology.


Main article: Research

OpenStreetMap data is being used for research all round the world.