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05 February 2013, 17:12

OpenStreetMap gets a new map editor

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The new OpenStreetMap editor
Zoom The iD editor features a new user interface that overlays editor controls on the map

MapBox has launched an alpha version of the new web-based map editor for the OpenStreetMap collaborative mapping project. The new editor is called the iD editor and is built using JavaScript and the D3.js data visualisation library. Development was funded as part of a grant by the Knight Foundation, announced in September, to develop new tools for the OpenStreetMap project. iD will eventually replace the OpenStreetMap project's current editor, Potlatch 2. In contrast to its predecessor, iD does not depend on Flash to run. The new editor was developed in conjunction with Richard Fairhurst, the original author of Potlatch 2.

The OpenStreetMap editor is used to update existing map features or enter new roads, buildings and landmarks, based either on a user's recorded GPS traces or by hand through tracing aerial imagery provided to the OpenStreetMap project for this purpose. The easier the project's editor is to use, the easier it will be for the project to attract new contributors, which in turn will improve the data set. MapBox, which sells a commercial mapping service based on OpenStreetMap, set out to create a user interface for the new editor which is intuitive and easy to use for new contributors to the project.

The new user interface is minimal by design and overlays editing controls on the map view that change depending on what is currently being edited. To this end, the development team wrote a new labelling engine that handles multipolygon objects and relations and was designed with performance in mind. Planned features for later versions of the software include a new preset system that allows users to more easily add and modify map features from a set of predefined settings and a translation system that allows for internationalisation of mapping data. Better documentation of the tool is also being worked on.

Interested users can try the new editor at a demonstration instance. The source code for iD is available from GitHub under the WTFPL, a licence that allows users to do whatever they wish with the code. WTFPL is currently not classified as open source by the Open Source Initiative (OSI), but the Free Software Foundation (FSF) regards it as a GPL-compliant free software licence.


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