Learn How to Map in OpenStreetMap


The MapGive campaign gives you an understanding of why open map data is important to people all over the world and why you should invest your time to help create map data online through OpenStreetMap.org and the OpenStreetMap Tasking Manager. The places most in need of open map data creation may be places that you've never been to. That's okay! You can make a big difference simply by tracing roads, buildings, and other features from that you can spot easily from satellite imagery.

In this video tutorial, we'll show you how to map in OpenStreetMap so you can start creating open map data. Pause this video whenever you need to and practice what you've just learned. You can also find written “how to” instructions under “step 2” on the MapGive “start mapping” page.

Before you begin learning how to map, please make sure you have set up an OpenStreetMap account. You can find instructions on how to do that in “Step 1” on the MapGive “start mapping” page. If you have not signed up for an OpenStreetMap account yet, please pause this video now and do so. Then return here to continue the tutorial.

Once you've set up your OpenStreetMap account, the fun can really begin. We are about to learn the three main things you can map in OpenStreetMap: points (used to mark places), lines (used to mark roads and paths), and areas (used to mark outlines of buildings, fields, or any other large area). As you'll soon see, mapping is easy and anyone can do it from anywhere in the world, even in places that they've never been to.

In our next steps, we'll look at OpenStreetMap and become more familiar with it. You can pause this video at any point to review and practice what you learn along the way.

Overview of OpenStreetMap

To begin, you will log in to OpenStreetMap. Once logged in, you will see the map. To the right of the map are the map controls. You can ZOOM IN, ZOOM OUT, and VIEW your current location on the map. You can also select between LAYERS, view the MAP KEY, SHARE the map, or MAKE COMMENTS on a particular section.

Pause this video, log in, and take a moment to locate these features of OpenStreetMap. Then return here to learn to search and zoom in and out in OpenStreetMap.

Searching OpenStreetMap is easy. On the left side of the screen is a search area. Search for any location in the world that you like. Simply type the location and a new map of the area you selected will appear.

For now, you only need to know how to zoom in and zoom out on the map.

Use the ZOOM IN button, on the right of the screen, and examine the map. Depending on where you've selected, you should be able to see the three main elements of the map: points, lines, and areas.

End of Overview of OpenStreetMap

Pause this video and take a moment to practice with the zoom in and zoom out buttons, the search field, and the three main elements of the map: points, lines, and areas. Come back to learn how to create points, lines, and areas.

How to Edit OpenStreetMap

To create points, lines, and areas in OpenstreetMap, click on the drop down arrow next to the word EDIT. The drop down arrow will give you a few options. Select “Edit with iD (in browser editor)”. There are several other ways to edit and create map data in OpenStreetMap. For now, the iD (in browser editor) is the easiest to use because you will not have to download anything to use it, it simply opens up in your Internet browser.

After selecting “Edit with iD” (in browser editor) from the drop down menu, the iD editor will open up showing you the location you had previously selected. Now you will be able to create map data by adding points, lines, and areas.

Please pause the video now, open the iD (in browser editor) from the drop down menu, and then come back to continue.

At the top of the iD editor are the main controls. You can select which action you'd like to perform: map a POINT, LINE, or an AREA. The buttons to go BACK, FORWARD and SAVE are also at the top.

By clicking save after making an edit to OpenStreetMap, your changes go live to the entire world. Please remember to hit “save” often.

There is also a dialogue box to the left of the map. This dialogue box is where you will be able to input information about the points, lines, and areas that you map. It's ok if you do not know the name of the place, road, or area. Just marking it on the map so that the data exists is very helpful for others who can add in more detail.

Please pause this video for a moment and get familiar with the various buttons in the iD editor.


To the right of the map, there is a help button. You can click on it at any time to see valuable information and answers to questions that you might have about the iD editor. There is also a WALKTHROUGH, which will guide you through the process of editing in OpenStreetMap. You can select the walkthrough as many times as you like.

End of Walkthrough

You may have completed the walkthrough in OpenStreetMap when you signed up for an account and logged in the first time. If you haven't already, we recommend that you pause this video and go through the walkthrough. Once you have, you should be familiar with the various elements of the iD OpenStreetMap editor. You will also have a better sense of how to view buildings, roads, and areas from satellite imagery. Come back here when you are ready to learn how to map a point.

Getting started

Once you complete the walkthrough, the iD editor will still be open. To continue with this video tutorial, you'll need to pick an area to continue to practice mapping in. Any place in the world will work, and you don't have to pick a place you have been to or know well. An area with little existing map data is best, so try practicing in a place that is not a major city or heavily developed area. Simply type the location you'd like to practice mapping into the search box and click on “go”. A new map of the area you selected will appear.

Of course, you're welcome to practice mapping in an area that you already know. This may be easier for you to start with until you are comfortable mapping areas that you have not been to.

How to Map a Point in OpenStreetMap

To map a point in the OpenStreetMap iD editor, simply click on the “point” button in the top left of the map. It will turn blue to let you know that it's been selected. Then, simply click on a position in the map where there is a building or area that you'd like to define. A NODE will appear.

Also, a dialog box with a series of descriptive options to input will appear to the left of the map. If you know the name of the building or area, or additional details, you can enter them here. When you map areas that you've never been to before, you most likely won't know the names of buildings, roads, and areas. That is okay too. Simply marking points is a huge help. Once you've finished adding details connected to the node, you can close the dialog box by clicking on the “x” at the top right of it.

If you need to edit the node, simply click on it again and the dialog box will open. To delete a node that is incorrect or created by mistake, click on it. A trash can icon will appear next to it. Click on the trash can and the node will be removed.

Remember, if you ever need to step back a few edits, click on the back arrow icon at the top of the editor. You can allow step forward a few edits with the forward arrow icon. Remember to save often.

Please pause this video and take a moment to practice mapping a point. Return to this video when you are ready to learn how to map a line.

How to Map a Line in OpenStreetMap

Just as you clicked on the point button before, now click on the line button at the top of the iD OpenStreetMap editor. It will also turn blue to let you know that it's been selected. Now click on a position on the map. A dot will appear connected to a line. Click on another other point on the map and another dot will appear and the line will connect those two points. You can either continue to draw more points to establish the line or double click on the last point to finish drawing the line. The line will glow red to let you know that it has been created.

A dialog box will open up to the left of the map editor. You can specify whether the line is a road, path, river, or any other number of options. You can be very specific or general depending on what you can determine from the satellite image.

To modify a line that has already been created, simply click on it. The dialog box will open next to the editor along with the trashcan icon next to the line.

Click save to make sure your edits are logged into the OpenStreetMap database.

Please pause this video and take a moment to practice mapping a line. Return to this video when you are ready to learn to map an area.

How to Map an Area in OpenStreetMap

An area can either be a park, a building, a lake, a forest, or any other number of things. It's up to you to define on the map. Just as with points and lines, click on the area button at the top of the editor. It will turn blue to let you know that you've selected it. Once you've done that, select the edges of the building or feature you want to define. Just click on the corners and the editor will fill in the space in between. Once you've fully outlined what you want, double click on the last created point to complete the area. The area will turn red to let you know that it's been created.

A dialog box will appear next to the map editor and allow you to label the area you've just defined. There are numerous options and you can be as specific or general as you like, depending on what information you know. Again, it is okay if you do not know the specific name of the area, you can leave this section blank as you will most likely not know the exact names of the areas being mapped. Just label what you can see from the satellite imagery — such as a “lake” or “building”.

Also, always remember to hit save at the top of the editor.


That's it. That's all it takes to start mapping in OpenStreetMap. Once you hit save your edits are live and part of the OpenStreetMap data which is immediately available to anyone in the world.

Feel free to stop and practice what you've learned. You can come back to this video any time.

Once you feel confident mapping, continue to the next video to learn how to select a task from the OpenStreetMap Tasking Manager.