Making open data maps the almost-easy way

One of the annoying things about open data is that you often need ninja skills to do anything with it. OpenStreetMap contains a wealth of geodata, but most tools make you jump through several steps involving the command line and all manner of data wrangling just to produce a custom map.

Maperitive tries to make it much easier to create nice looking maps. It has been in gestation since late 2007, and is now close to being easy to use.

It took me about half an hour of playing around to produce my first nice hiking map of Snowdon, although a problem with NASA’s elevation data led me on a frustrating journey to get Ordnance Survey open data in there to fill the gaps. I also had to work out Maperitive’s settings file for the way features are drawn to make the maps look a little neater and, well, British.

Making open data maps the almost-easy way

(Click on the images to see them on Flickr, where you can look at full sized versions).

Another hour messing around with the settings file and I had a nice map of an area my new father in law likes to go walking, the Long Mynd in the south of Shropshire. This time I aimed for something familiar to users of the Ordnance Survey walking maps.

Making open data maps the almost-easy way

The latest beta of Maperitive also allows you to export a 3 dimensional model using elevation data, and a flat image of the map. You can import these into a modelling tool, laying the map image over the 3d model, to produce nice graphics like this one of walking routes up Snowdon:

Making open data maps the almost-easy way

If the NASA elevation data works for you and you don’t want to change the style of the maps, it’s already a fantastic and fairly usable free-to-download tool. It’s a shame it isn’t free software with the code open sourced.

UPDATE: I completely forgot about this, you can download my Ordnance Survey-inspired stylesheet here.

12 Comments

  1. Hey, the YHA have been busy building hostels on top of the hills 😉

    (seriously though, this is lovely work).

    27th October 2011
    • Tom Chance said:

      I can’t remember where I saw that symbol being used for peaks, but I like it :)

      Mind you, a hostel with hot water and a few beds at the top of Snowdon would definitely beat that cafe!

      27th October 2011
  2. davespod said:

    Fantastic! Any chance of a quick step-by-step on getting the OS Landform Panorama contours into Maperative?

    29th October 2011
    • davespod said:

      OK, having read your message on talk-GB, looks like those files are already in a Maperative readable format and can just be dropped into the relevant directory. Brilliant!

      29th October 2011
      • davespod said:

        Now all we need is a way to label the contours. Tried to do this a while ago, and couldn’t find a way. Think I asked Maperative’s creator who said that it was not currently possible.

        30th October 2011
  3. Steve said:

    Love the OS-like style!! Do you think you might document the stylesheet somewhere? Could be a useful one to build on if you don’t object.

    31st October 2011
    • Tom Chance said:

      Yes, I’ll post the Maperitive rules file and the extra icons (such as for tumuli) later this week.

      31st October 2011
  4. Tom Chance said:

    Oh yes, I completely forgot! I’ve added a link at the bottom of the post.

    14th February 2012

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