Editing Your Own OpenStreet Maps


JOSM (Java OpenStreetMaps) editor is a tool you can use to create your own maps. This tool allows you to build your own maps based on data from OpenStreetMaps, other online sources or your own data. You can make edits, add annotations and upload your results back on to the OpenStreetMaps server.

There are two ways you can run JOSM. The first is to install it on your system. If you have it within your package management system, you may want to install that way so any required dependencies are installed automatically. For example, the following command will install it on Debian-based systems:

sudo apt-get install josm josm-plugins

Notice that the above command also installs the package of plugins for JOSM. A large number of plugins are available from the community on the main project's website. And, if you want the latest version of JOSM, you can download a jar file from the project's website.

The second way to run JOSM is actually using a Java Web Start package. You simply launch the JNLP file, again from the main project's website.

Once you have started JOSM, in whichever way you have chosen to launch it, you will get a window with an information panel about updates and startup information. There also are links to online help information and the community forums.

Figure 1. When you first start JOSM, you get an information panel.

Now you can start creating your first map. The easiest way to get started is to download OpenStreetMap data as a starting point. Clicking on the File→Download from OSM menu item will pop up a new window where you can select an area to use as your map base.

Figure 2. You can select and download an area of the Earth as your map base.

At the top of this window, you can choose what data to download. The choices are OSM data, raw GPS data and additional notes. Within the map window, you can pan around to the area of interest and zoom in to an appropriate level. You then click and drag with your mouse to select a box of the area that you want to use in your map. Be careful with how big a bounding box you select, because the data server limits how much data you can pull at once. Luckily, you will get a warning at the bottom of the window if the bounding box is too large.

Once you have made your selection, you either can click on the download button to download it as a new map, or you can click the option "Download as a new layer" at the bottom of the map pane first to add this data to an already existing map. For now, let's just click the download button to get a brand-new map started.

Figure 3. You can download OpenStreetMaps data to start a brand-new map.

Looking at the new map, you can see that there is a lot of information available and a lot of functionality you can use to interact with that information. On the left-hand side, there is a strip of icon buttons you can choose from to interact with the map data. The right-hand side has several panes that can show the layers and detailed information of selected objects on the map. You can change which panes are visible on the right-hand side by clicking the Windows menu item and selecting the panes that interest you. If you select an object on the map, such as a road section or water way, the details of that selected object will show up in the information panes on the right-hand side.


Joey Bernard has a background in both physics and computer science. This serves him well in his day job as a computational research consultant at the University of New Brunswick. He also teaches computational physics and parallel programming.