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Great Open Source Map Tools For Web Developers

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the lay-of-the-land dept.

Open Source 34

snydeq writes "InfoWorld's Peter Wayner surveys the rich ecosystem of free maps, free data, and free libraries that give developers excellent alternatives to Google Maps. 'The options are expanding quickly as companies are building their own databases for holding geographical data, their own rendering tools for building maps, and their own software for embedding the maps in websites. ... Working with these tools can be a bit more complex than working with a big provider like Google. Some of these companies make JavaScript tools for displaying the maps, and others just deliver the raw tiles that the browsers use to assemble the maps. Working with the code means making decisions about how you want to assemble the pieces — now within your control. You can stick with one simple library or combine someone else's library with tiles you produce yourself.'"

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34 comments

Nobody to ding (-1, Redundant)

methano (519830) | about a year and a half ago | (#40709677)

I came here with 1 moderator point to get rid of and there were no posts to mod one way or the other. So I'm posting instead.

Re:Nobody to ding (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40709723)

My dog is constipated.

Re:Nobody to ding (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40709841)

You should have modded yourself offtopic.

Re:Nobody to ding (1)

methano (519830) | about a year and a half ago | (#40711379)

You should have modded yourself offtopic.

You can't mod and post on the same article, which is a pretty good policy.

Re:Nobody to ding (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about a year and a half ago | (#40712851)

You should have modded yourself offtopic.

You can't mod and post on the same article, which is a pretty good policy.

Except if you post as AC, which GGP probably should have done.
Then we could even see a +1 insightful comment on frosty piss by an AC...

Re:Nobody to ding (1)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | about a year and a half ago | (#40715115)

You cannot mod your own A.C. comment unless post the comment from a computer you have never used and from an IP address you have never signed in from.

Why? (1, Interesting)

azalin (67640) | about a year and a half ago | (#40709689)

While I do appreciate some competition and relying only on google to provide map service might backfire some day, there is no way you can get by simply not using it.
You can use any map on your page, you still have to go to google maps and set up/edit a profile (for brick and mortar business). So I either use google or have to set up 2 different systems. There may be other uses of course, but for simple "How to find us" pages, google is hard to beat.
On the other hand I try to keep an open mind for new ideas.

Re:Why? (1)

MSojka (83577) | about a year and a half ago | (#40709811)

Try using Google Maps to display a map of Venus on your site. Or, for that matter, try using it to display a map of FaerÃn or Tamriel.

While it's not impossible - setting up your own mapserver bound to a PostGIS database is a lot easier and a lot more flexible, especially for updates to the data.

Re:Why? (3, Informative)

queazocotal (915608) | about a year and a half ago | (#40709815)

You missed a step.
Unless you have a negligible amount of traffic, you need to pay.

Re:Why? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40709855)

Unless you have a negligible amount of traffic, you need to pay.

... whereas, of course, storing thousands of map tiles on your own system, serving them to thousands of site visitors, and making sure they remain updated is completely cost-free. Of course.

Re:Why? (0)

q.kontinuum (676242) | about a year and a half ago | (#40709999)

There may be other uses of course, but for simple "How to find us" pages, google is hard to beat.

What's the main advantage compared to integrating Nokia maps (like Bing, Yahoo, Facebook and many others do) in your service?

Re:Why? (2, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about a year and a half ago | (#40711281)

I just set up a map using OpenLayers for an event, with OSM data. I didn't have to register anything, I didn't have to create an account, and I didn't have to host anything myself. And, unlike the Google map of the same area, the OSM data contains accurate cycle paths for where the visitors are likely to be going and has all of the buildings correctly labelled. So, uh, why would I use Google Maps?

Oh, and if I only wanted to place a single pin in a map (your 'how to find us' example), then this is trivial without even knowing any JavaScript. The export tab on the OSM front page will generate the HTML for an iframe that you can just paste into your web page.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40715275)

Yes, Google's services are not as great as they seem. I looked into putting maps onto a page and found that OSM would definitely be the better option, though I haven't gone through with it. After that research I looked at other things I was doing with Google and found that most online reviews comparing Google Analytics with Piwik [piwik.org] favored Piwik. I found this review [realfreemarket.org] particularly insightful since it's only a month old (Piwik is open source, so changes fast and 2 year old reviews probably are not very helpful) and communicates well the superior features of Piwik. Although this is another I've yet to install like the maps, I will be making this change as I also want to capture what people with Ghostery and NoScript are doing on my site, and based on my own experience if I trust a site I will enable scripts for that site to get full functionality, so I assume I can get more accurate traffic data with Piwik.

Re:Why? (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about a year and a half ago | (#40715101)

You sound just like A microsoft fanboy. No one could possibly be better than your favourite monopoly. Google maps is good but there is enough comeptition out there that is good enough that you shouldn't have to tie yourself to one company.

Favorite 'map' tools (4, Informative)

Stavr0 (35032) | about a year and a half ago | (#40709739)

The newest camera / smartphones have GPS chips to geotag pictures so they can be overlaid on maps. For GPS-less cameras:

EXIFtool [queensu.ca]

GPSbabel [gpsbabel.org]

Have a GPS device turned on and logging tracks, take pictures, use the tools to add geotags to pictures.

... or use EXIFtool to strip identifying and geographic information before posting a picture.

With a map: good is good enough (4, Insightful)

captainpanic (1173915) | about a year and a half ago | (#40709787)

The good news is that once the competition has a complete map too, their tool can be just as useful as Google maps. Then it's just a matter of who makes the nicest UI and who can generate a map on your screen the quickest.

It's quite unlike Google itself, where their search engine seems to generate more and better results than other search engines (I admit, I might be biased).

So, I can foresee some competition for Google Maps soon. And that is good news.

Re:With a map: good is good enough (4, Interesting)

microbread (2651139) | about a year and a half ago | (#40710327)

The problem (is it a problem?) currently is that the different providers have different strengths. Microsoft has very good non-satellite maps, I think they're prettier than Google and they have the massive bonus of being partners with Ordnance Survey in the UK. Anyone who lives in Britain will know that OS is the mapping service for outdoor people. Bing has also had aerial (45deg) view for a long time, way before Google woke up.

Open Street Map is highly variable, but the best maps (for instance, Berlin) offer a level of detail that is frankly astounding - down to benches and lamp posts. Crowd sourcing has both advantages and disadvantages, though I haven't seen any vandalism yet. The ability to export maps is also great for developers/data miners. Simply being able to download reasonable maps of the entire planet for free (minus 20GB) is fantastic.

And of course Google Maps is venerable, has a uniformly good interface, decent satellite imagery and great navigation. And the killer feature - integration with search results and directory enquiry information.

Horses for courses really. I wish that we could have Google's search capacity with Bing's graphics and OSM's level of detail, but that'll take time.

Re:With a map: good is good enough (2)

ciotog (1098035) | about a year and a half ago | (#40712639)

Yahoo PlaceFinder does address tokenization down to the subdwelling (floor/unit level) that I haven't found in any other service.

Re:With a map: good is good enough (1)

richlv (778496) | about a year and a half ago | (#40717301)

how about osm with great search and good looks ? :)
that would get you best of all of them, as osm is the only one where you may use the data for commercial purposes w/o any fees, and may get full vector data for any custom or offline use

coo3k (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40710317)

study. [8ice.ed0]

What about non-web? (1)

hobarrera (2008506) | about a year and a half ago | (#40712051)

I still don't see any map libraries for non-web applications.
A few months ago I developed a mobile in QT, and haven't found any library to easily show a map in on screen.

I haven't found one for QT for desktop either, or any of the other common widget libraries. While embeding a browsers works, it's definitely not a tidy solution, nor a pleasant on to program.

Re:What about non-web? (1)

denvergeek (1184943) | about a year and a half ago | (#40713439)

There's stuff out there for iOS and Android that you can tweak to your own application For Android, there's osmdroid [google.com]. MapBox has an SDK [mapbox.com] out there as well for iOS. There's others, but hell if I can think of em off-hand right now.

Re:What about non-web? (1)

hobarrera (2008506) | about a year and a half ago | (#40716903)

I fail to see how iOS's or Android's SDK qualify as Qt and/or desktop in any way.

Re:What about non-web? (1)

denvergeek (1184943) | about a year and a half ago | (#40717561)

I was replying more to the "I still don't see any map libraries for non-web applications." remark. Both were examples of non-web applications. I see your point though.

Re:What about non-web? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40721997)

Hi,

Then you probably didn't look very far. ;-)
The Marble Widget Framework can be easily integrated with Qt applications:

http://techbase.kde.org/Projects/Marble/MarbleCPlusPlus

It allows for easy integration of custom map themes:

http://userbase.kde.org/Marble/MapThemes

also for routing plugins:

http://techbase.kde.org/Projects/Marble/Routing/BasicRouting

search:

http://techbase.kde.org/Projects/Marble/Runners/Search

reverse GeoCoding:

http://techbase.kde.org/Projects/Marble/Runners/ReverseGeocoding

Loading file formats like KML, GPX, OSM and SHP:

http://techbase.kde.org/Projects/Marble/Runners/LoadingKML

and inside the Marble library you get basically all the functionality provided by the well-known stand-alone application:

http://www.slideshare.net/marbleglobe/marble-virtual-globe-13-factsheet-english

http://www.slideshare.net/marbleglobe/marble-for-developers-factsheet

Re:What about non-web? (1)

iivel (918436) | about a year and a half ago | (#40714553)

Just start at the OGC and OSGeo websites. There are tons of applications. Personally, I think one of the best is actually a NASA project "WorldWind" http://worldwind.arc.nasa.gov/features.html [nasa.gov]

For Flash/Flex/Air based apps, there is a port of the OpenLayers project called OpenScales http://openscales.org/ [openscales.org]

Re:What about non-web? (1)

hobarrera (2008506) | about a year and a half ago | (#40716941)

I fail to see how those qualify as Qt and/or desktop in any way.

Flex/flash is a dying platform, ill suited for desktop or mobile development.
WorldWind is Java, and while I've nothing against java, I don't see how I could integrate that into an existing non-java application, regrettably. Even less so on a mobile app.

Re:What about non-web? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40720917)

Sorry, somehow I missed QT while reading that post and only saw mobile/desktop.

I don't know if quantum would work for you http://qgis.osgeo.org/, but osgeo has a ton of sponsored projects worth looking into.

Re:What about non-web? (1)

Tordanik (1771960) | about a year and a half ago | (#40717275)

I still don't see any map libraries for non-web applications. A few months ago I developed a mobile in QT, and haven't found any library to easily show a map in on screen.

I haven't found one for QT for desktop either, or any of the other common widget libraries.

Have you checked KDE Marble? They advertise the possibility to use their widget for displaying maps in other applications, see the developer section on the Marble website [kde.org].

There are also various libraries for use with OpenStreetMap in particular listed in the OpenStreetMap wiki's "Frameworks" page [openstreetmap.org], though I cannot tell for sure which of these smaller projects are good or even still alive.

Re:What about non-web? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40722005)

Hi,

Then you probably didn't look very far. ;-)
The Marble Widget Framework can be easily integrated with Qt applications:

http://techbase.kde.org/Projects/Marble/MarbleCPlusPlus

It allows for easy integration of custom map themes:

http://userbase.kde.org/Marble/MapThemes

also for routing plugins:

http://techbase.kde.org/Projects/Marble/Routing/BasicRouting

search:

http://techbase.kde.org/Projects/Marble/Runners/Search

reverse GeoCoding:

http://techbase.kde.org/Projects/Marble/Runners/ReverseGeocoding

loading file formats like KML, GPX, OSM and SHP:

http://techbase.kde.org/Projects/Marble/Runners/LoadingKML

and inside the Marble library you get basically all the functionality provided by the well-known stand-alone application:

http://www.slideshare.net/marbleglobe/marble-virtual-globe-13-factsheet-english

http://www.slideshare.net/marbleglobe/marble-for-developers-factsheet

Check it out: http://edu.kde.org/marble

Hope that helps :-)

Re:What about non-web? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40725907)

Mapnik (http://mapnik.org/), the renderer behind Tilemill and Openstreetmap is written in C++ and can be used as a library for desktop applications. It can render maps to an arbitrary memory buffer.

Especially if the map area isn't particularly large, you could also use a tool such as Tilemill to render the map to a MBTiles file (http://mapbox.com/developers/mbtiles/) . From there you can access the tiles very quickly via sqlite.

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