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Open Source Programming

Great Open Source Map Tools For Web Developers 34

Posted by samzenpus
from the lay-of-the-land dept.
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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Great Open Source Map Tools For Web Developers

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  • Why? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by azalin (67640)
    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 idea
    • by MSojka (83577)

      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? (Score:4, Informative)

      by queazocotal (915608) on Friday July 20, 2012 @08:09AM (#40709815)

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

    • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)

      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 trivia

    • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Print version here: http://www.infoworld.com/print/198012 [infoworld.com]

  • Favorite 'map' tools (Score:4, Informative)

    by Stavr0 (35032) on Friday July 20, 2012 @07:55AM (#40709739) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by captainpanic (1173915) on Friday July 20, 2012 @08:03AM (#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.

    • by microbread (2651139) on Friday July 20, 2012 @08:48AM (#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.

      • by ciotog (1098035)
        Yahoo PlaceFinder does address tokenization down to the subdwelling (floor/unit level) that I haven't found in any other service.
      • by richlv (778496)

        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

  • 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.

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

        • 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.
    • by iivel (918436)
      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]
      • 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.

    • by Tordanik (1771960)

      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.

    • by westyvw (653833)

      Oh sure there is. I saw a QT mapping demo at Linuxfest and again at a GIS workshop. I believe I met someone who works here: http://spatialminds.com/ [spatialminds.com].

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