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These instructions refer to the OpenStreetBrowser service. This is now no longer available as a service, but the source code is available and these instructions may be useful for any future development.

OpenStreetBrowser allows you to find, view, and inspect specific information pulled out from OpenStreetMap.

These are introductory instructions about using OpenStreetBrowser.

These instructions are based on version 2.2.3a of OpenStreetBrowser (March 2013). Not all of this information might still be valid if the current version is a later one. Please use the discussion page to note required changes (or edit this page directly) so they can be kept up to date.

For more:


OpenStreetMap is a map (database) created from simple points, lines and shapes, each of which is tagged with information allowing map displays to be 'rendered' (drawn) appropriately.

You can select 'categories' in OpenStreetBrowser (listed in the left column). Selecting a category tells OpenStreetBrowser to search OpenStreetMap tags according to a set of rules and display/list the items tagged in a way matching these rules.

In effect this means you have an easy way to display and find all sorts of mapped things.

Note that OpenStreetBrowser is relatively new and being developed by (more or less) one guy only in his free time, so occasionally bugs happen. At least there are some helping hands, like Rostranimin who write most of this tutorial. :)

Note also that you may encounter specific issues or differences on different platforms/browsers. A few browsers are currently incompatible with OpenStreetBrowser - you may not see any map, or functions may fail. On tablet computers or with other systems you may also need to use specific techniques to mimic actions like a 'right click' of a mouse.

NB: Take special note of the fact that OpenStreetBrowser keeps track of what information it's asked to display and that if you are the first person to ask it to zoom in on a particular location, or to display a particular category of information for that area, then it won't be completely ready to do so. You'll not see icons and other information displayed, you may not see a proper map at all, and you'll see on the map the words "This overlay has not been completely rendered yet. Please try again later." Do what it says and next time you visit the information you wanted may well be displayed. You can shortcut this process for the base map by selecting the 'Mapnik' or 'Cloudmade' options (via the blue and white '+' symbol at the top right of the map display).

Introductory example

Click the category 'Services' in the left column. Then click the sub-category 'Financial'. Then zoom into a city (shortcut these steps by clicking this link: ) You'll see that two things happen. In the left column is now a list of banks and suchlike. On the map are displayed extra icons indicating these banks.

What's going on here is that OpenStreetBrowser scans the OpenStreetMap database for those points, lines and shapes in the displayed area which are tagged according to any of the following rules:

  • amenity=bank
  • amenity=atm
  • amenity=bureau_de_change

You can check what rules are being applied for this category by clicking the 'i' symbol alongside the 'Financial' category title.


There are three main columns in the OpenStreetBrowser display.

Column 1 (left): Navigation information

In this there are three sections.

At the top are some toolbox buttons. Click these to display or hide further options - search, route (navigation), map layers, and GPS (and optionally a fifth button for debugging stuff).

In the middle is initially a list of 'categories'. These categories are at the heart of the OpenStreetBrowser. If you click a category (and potentially a sub-category) the browser will attempt to display specific information according to the rules applying to that category. This area is where this useful information is displayed.

At the bottom are further additional options.

Column 2 (main): Map display

On the map display are some additional features.

Top left are controls for moving or zooming the map.

Bottom right is a link labelled 'Permalink'. This functions as on many other mapping websites – allowing you to get hold of a link to the map as its currently displayed – for sharing with others for example. There are some additional uses for this link when using OpenStreetBrowser.

Column 3 (right): Additional notes and information

The right hand column is used for various additional information (currently a stream from Twitter, tips, and a system for donating to the project). This column can be hidden by clicking on a cross in the top corner of the column.

Basic map use

You can use some mouse actions to interact with the map:

  • Drag: move the map view
  • Wheel: zoom in/out
  • Shift-drag: zoom into an area
  • Click: Open the context menu at the current position (optionally on right-click, see Options)

Categories (browsing)

Clicking on category or subcategory names (in the left column) is a way to display and list items on OpenStreetMap which match the rules specified for that category. A working list of available categories is available on a separate page.

Clicking again on that category/subcategory name hides this information.

The information specified by that category is extracted from the OpenStreetMap database. This database is made up of points, lines and shapes (polygons) tagged in relevant ways – for instance a point representing the location of a bank may be tagged 'amenity=bank'. The Financial sub-category (under the 'Services' category) searches for and displays points tagged in this way – placing an OpenStreetBrowser icon on the map above the base map (as an 'overlay'). Other categories may also display areas or lines or text (not just icons) in the overlay.

The rules used by OpenStreetBrowser are made visible by clicking on the 'i' symbol located near the category title.

OpenStreetBrowser category rules may specify all sorts of functions – what zoom level the map needs to be at to display relevant icons for instance, the icons to use, what words to write on the overlay, or what colours to use to highlight features.

Often there are more objects found than can fit easily on the list. Look for the word 'more' at the bottom of the list – if it appears then clicking it (potentially more than once) adds more objects to the list.

Browsing individual objects

Hovering the mouse pointer over an item on the list leads to it being highlighted on the map, and to the display of additional information appearing beside the mouse pointer about the category rule which has led to that object being shown.

Clicking on an item listed under a category allows for you to inspect the full set of tags for that object, and usually (default option) zooms/moves the map to display the object. It also displays additional information such as the length and area of the object, and information from Wikipedia if the object has a wikipedia tag.

Clicking on an item also displays a set of additional options relating to this item.

The first of these additional options allow quick access to the object on the OpenStreetMap website. You need an OpenStreetMap account to edit OpenStreetMap information. The other options allow markers to be placed on objects and 'home', 'destination', and 'via' points to be placed on the map for navigation functions.

Above the tag information are two buttons. The first returns the left column display to the overview state, and the right button centers the map on the object (e.g. if you moved the viewport away). There are also options to display 'translated' (for users of other languages) or 'raw' (unmodified from the database) tag information.


At the bottom of the list of categories is an additional option: the 'Marker List' function works like any other category, displaying a list of markers you've added to the map, some details, and options such as for removing them. If markers have been added then clicking one in the list allows a quick way to move the focus of the map. Markers can be added while browsing an object's full tag information, or by clicking on the map and selecting the appropriate option from the context menu which is displayed beside the mouse pointer. Markers aren't directly associated with an object, simply having a position on the map.

Markers can sometimes be dragged around to alter their position, but this function isn't always reliable (at February 2013).

More categories

Below the Markers category are the words 'More categories'.

Clicking 'More categories' make a set of very valuable additional options available. It brings up a list of additional categories which you can add to the list in the left column. Many of these additional categories are for more specialist use. They are defined by ordinary OpenStreetBrowser users. Descriptions of these are available on the page: OpenStreetBrowser/Category_list.

If a suitable category is not available for the use you desire you can create a new one with an option at the bottom of the 'More categories' window. For information on creating new categories or editing existing ones see later in these instructions.

What's here?

Clicking the map leads to a small menu appearing. You can change which mouse button has this effect in the 'Options' (accessed by clicking 'Options' at the bottom of the left column).

A key option is the first, titled 'What's here?'. (The other options which appear in this menu are discussed elsewhere - they relate to markers and the navigation function.)

Choosing this leads to the display of a list of any objects on the map at this position (appearing in the left column), whether they are displayed on the base map or not. Hovering the mouse pointer over the items in this list leads to them being highlighted on the map (in red). Clicking on one of the items on the list leads to the display of the same information about that object as is described in the section 'Browsing individual objects' (in these instructions, above).

Often objects are listed as 'unnamed' as they are mapped, but have no name tag in the OpenStreetMap database.

Some objects may be larger than the map window (for example the shape formed by a city boundary if you are viewing only a small part of the city). Sometimes hovering the mouse pointer over one of these objects results in no grey highlighting and on other occasions the whole map display is highlighted grey. Clicking on such an item in the list may lead to the map window zooming out to display the whole object.

Note that after clicking on items listed using 'what's here' there is no button to return to this list after doing so. Clicking your web browser's 'back' button works fine for this, although this does not return the map view to the same place (if it has zoomed out). To avoid losing the initial view you can open a new window/tab instead - in most browsers it is possible to click an item on the list with the right hand mouse button, and then to select to open a new window/tab (holding a normal keyboard key to achieve the same thing may not work).

Toolboxes (the icons just below the logo)

Search toolbox

Search is for searching for places (actually the names of any items on OpenStreetMap). When a list of places is displayed then hovering the mouse above a place name on the list results in a dot appearing on the map, so long as that place is currently in view.

Clicking on an item in the list has the normal effect – zooming (assuming default options are set) the map display to the object and displaying the full set of the object's tags.

Route (Navigation) toolbox

The navigation button brings up a set of options for navigation.

A route is created by adding markers to the map for points to be visited. The 'home' marker (displays a house symbol) is for the route beginning. The 'destination' marker (displays a chequered flag symbol) is for the route end. Additional points to be visited on the route are 'via' points (display is of an arrow).

There are two main ways to add markers to the map. The first is to click the options available when inspecting the tags of a specific object on the map. The second is to click directly on the map and then select the appropriate option from the small 'context' menu which appears at the mouse pointer (clicking may be with the right or left mouse button depending on options set elsewhere).

When markers are added to the map the points they represent are also listed in the navigation toolbox (with their latitude and longitude), as is a journey time and length, and a list of driving (walking etc) instructions. Points (home, destination and via markers) on the route can be deleted by clicking the small cross beside that point in the list.

If you wish to reverse the route, click the 'reverse' button in the navigation toolbox. The home and destination markers are reversed on the map. Beside the 'reverse' button are options for the mode of travel (car, car - shortest, bike, foot).

The order of points to be visited can be reorganised using the small 'swap positions' arrows which appear at the right of the list of points.

Use the 'go' button to re-calculate the route (e.g. if you went back to the overview).

Map layers toolbox

The base map toolbox brings up options relating to the style in which the base map is displayed. The base map is the basic map which appears - on top of which any additional information is added by the OpenStreetBrowser system.

The main options are:

  • OpenStreetBrowser: a style designed for OpenStreetBrowser specifically
  • OpenStreetBrowser (pale): the same style, but significantly lightened
  • Standard (Mapnik): the best known OpenStreetMap style
  • Cloudmade: a fourth style

The OpenStreetBrowser pale style in particular can be useful when using categories to highlight additional information, simply because of it being lighter.

There may be occasions when one of these base maps has not been rendered - and selecting an alternative will be necessary.

It may be necessary to scroll down the toolbox (a scroll bar will be visible in the toolbox) to see additional options when using a smaller window to view OpenStreetBrowser.

The 'Hillshading' overlay option is also useful for adding a three dimensional texture to hills. The 'overlay_pt' overlay displays public transport routes and stops (this is also automatically displayed when using the category 'Public Transportation' - a sub-category of the 'Transportation' category). The 'Map Grid' option displays a latitude/longitude grid (values are visible for each line at the top/right of the map window).

Advanced users may wish to know that it is possible to display a blue '+' symbol relating to layers, which is familiar to many users of OpenStreetMap, in its normal position on the display. Clicking this gives access to additional layer options. To do this first use the options settings to display the ladybird (debug) toolbox - then select the appropriate option within this toolbox.

GPS toolbox

There is one option here - which is to allow OpenStreetBrowser to follow your actual location using GPS information.

Ladybird (debug) toolbox (optional)

An optional button can be displayed here allowing some debugging information. To display this button select the 'Options' option at the bottom of the main display's left column and choose the option relating to debugging. The options displayed in this toolbox are: 'Show status of basemap tiles', 'Show original OpenLayers Layer Switcher', 'Activate touchscreen mode'.

Menu – left column, at the bottom of the screen

There are a set of options displayed at the bottom of the left hand column of the display. These have relatively simple functions.

Map key

Clicking this displays a fourth column at the right of the main map window containing a key for the OpenStreetBrowser base map. Click this option again to make the key disappear. Note that this key will be incorrect if you are displaying a different base map.


Clicking 'Options' leads to the display of a box containing options. These are:

  • 'Language Support' - changing the interface language and what's displayed in the list (not anything on the map).
  • 'Map Position' - (see below)
  • 'Autozoom behaviour' - allowing you to change how the map view responds when clicking items listed in the left column.
  • 'Context menu' options - changing which mouse button displays the small context menu when the map is clicked.
  • 'Keyboard shortcuts' - at this stage simply listing keyboard shortcuts.
  • 'Debug' - to choose whether the debugging toolbox is displayed.

Click 'Save' after changing options.

There are four options regarding map position.

  • last view is for returning the map to the location which was displayed when OpenStreetBrowser was last used (when the window was closed).
  • get geolocation is for locating the map on your current position - as identified by your web browser.
  • last permalink is for returning the map to how it was displayed last time you clicked 'Permalink' (small text reading 'Permalink' in the bottom right of the map window). Note that the permalink function sets not just the map location, but also what categories are selected. 'Last permalink' is particularly useful if you are working on a particular location as it allows you to return to a particular map display quickly. Permalinks are also useful if you want to share your current view (including selected categories) with other people.
  • default view is of the full world map.


Clicking 'Help' brings you to these instructions.


Clicking 'Blog' brings up a summary of the OpenStreetBrowser blog – which includes links to the full blog.

Recent Changes

Clicking 'Recent Changes' brings up a box displaying recent changes to OpenStreetBrowser categories (including edits to the talk notes for that category).


'About' is an internet link to the wiki pages about OpenStreetBrowser (and OpenStreetMap).

Clicking 'donate' brings up a box allowing donations.


Clicking the flag icon brings up the same language options as are displayed by clicking 'Options'. There's also an option to translate OpenStreetBrowser to your language.

Categories – editing, adapting, new

One of the most powerful features of OpenStreetBrowser is that users can create and edit categories (although you need to create an account and log in for this to be possible - use the link at the bottom of the left column).

The button for creating a new category is available at the bottom of the list of categories displayed by clicking the 'More categories' link in the left hand column (of the main OpenStreetBrowser display).

Existing categories are edited by clicking the 'i' symbol to the right of the category name (again in the left hand column of the main OpenStreetBrowser display).

The window which is displayed in these cases has four tabs. These are:

  • Info: which shows basic information about the way the category works (including descriptions specifically added to the category for this purpose).
  • Talk: which is a page of information intended to allow editors of that category to discuss it with one another.
  • Editor: which is used for editing how the category works.
  • History: which displays basic information about who has edited the category (and a description of what they did if they provided this),

For more about the tags and values used to define how a category works see the wiki page: OpenStreetBrowser/Category_Tags

URL link to category

Note that it is possible to create a URL linking to OpenStreetBrowser which specifies what categories will automatically be selected/displayed. The easiest way to achieve this is to set up the map display as required and to use the 'Permalink' link. Unwanted parts of the url which is generated can be removed.

For example the following URL links to a map at zoom level 16 centred at Berlin's latitude/longitude, with the financial sub-category of the services category displayed (on the OpenStreetMap base map):

The following URL (cut down from the longer one above) specifies only the category/sub-category to display without specifying anything else:[services_financial]

More information

For lots more general information about OpenStreetBrowser start with the main 'OpenStreetBrowser' information page.