trying the cloudmade style-editor

Posted by OJW on 25 July 2009 in English (English)

Following-on from Nick's talk about how OSM (and specifically cloudmade) allows highly specialist maps, I've been trying to create an aeronautical chart as a cloudmade layer.

Now, some aspects of this are never going to be possible in a generic map editor, and I'm not expecting it to rotate symbols according to magnetic variation or any of the other weird stuff that specialised software would do.

Similarly, some data is never going to be available in OSM, e.g. airways and approaches that only exist within proprietary datasets and can't be seen on the ground (so to speak ;) We're not yet encouraging people to leave their GPS on during airliner landings!

However, it would be nice to have a map layer where you can browse airports, so if you want to buzz around Kent in your flight sim, you can easily see "ah, I want EGMD to EGMH", then zoom-in and see the runways available.

Maybe a few navaids could be entered into OSM by particularly keen mappers (and they could even listen to it on the radio to figure-out the frequency/ident without consulting proprietary charts!)

For display in the helicopter cockpit you might want something that looks like a low-flying chart, with power lines, television masts and tall buildings in bold red, that also shows wildlife sanctuaries, gliding clubs, heliports, etc.

So, onto cloudmade editor, and see how much of this is currently possible. Other options include Kosmos (which is very good at this sort of thing - - but only works on smallish OSM files), or running your own Mapnik (which I intend to try once I figure-out wtf my PC's postgres password is set to...)

The main issue which will limit the development of specialised maps, is that only a smallish set of objects have been listed as viewable on CM. For example, "airport' (and aerodrome - does anyone really understand the difference between these?) are available but I can't show runways or buildings or comms towers or heliports or lighthouses or {whatever} unless they're in the object list already.

(Is this a fundamental limit of cloudmade editor, where the data has been pre-simplified to a set of approved objects, or is it just a decision to simplify the UI by not exposing key=value filters to people editing?)

Another thing which seems to have been pre-chosen by the software is the zoom levels. While you can choose the zoom levels where features appear, this seems to have been limited so that you can't for example have power lines below zoom-14 because the options are greyed-out. Then the zoom-levels at which *labels* appear seems to be completely hardcoded - you can't make airport names appear on a map of the whole of UK, even if their symbols are visible (but it's perfectly happy to display city names at that zoom level).

There are various stylistic decisions which have been made by the software already, e.g. power lines must be dashed, and the width attribute disappears. Areas allow you to edit their fill, but not their outline. Icons are all preset (fair enough, you don't want us uploading images with all sorts of libpng exploits in) which limits it a bit for specialised maps.

Turning-off road names *must* be possible, since the 'clean' styles need it - I must just have missed the control to activate that... (roads are always useful as background information, even if you're not creating a road map)

So, after a bit of playing I've got a map showing just airports and terminal buildings, but most of the other features turn out to be quite elusive in this editor.

Other wishlists:

* Filtering by attributes. Say, all buildings with height > 20m are a potential hazard that needs to be marked, or remove roads that are in tunnels (Kosmos is very good at this)

* Customisable labels, that can contain any OSM tag from the data, e.g. "{name} - {icao}". (I guess the i18n people will also be pushing for this one?)

Comment from cnilson on 27 July 2009 at 11:14

Hi there Oliver-

Thanks for your post on Style Editor. It's great to get feedback on CloudMade's products - we will surely evaluate your requests for future versions!

A few comments:

- Style Editor will continue to grow in functionality. Our aim is to make Style Editor the tool for creating vertical map applications - just like the aeronautical chart application your currently developing. The trick for us is to balance performance of the tiles with the ability to make customized changes

- The above issue being the main reason why not all objects are editable, and not available at all zoom levels. More customization makes more performance challenges. Having said that, we want to continue to add more editable objects at more zoom levels. I agree with you turning off road names and other objects to make a clean map style is a must...stay tuned.

- Filtering: we are implementing filtering now by features in our vector map api. This is primarily designed to address navigation applications. Filtering by attributes would be a next step that we will evaluate beginning of the coming year.

- Customisable labels: a feature that we are considering now.

So you know, anyone can enter feature requests for Style Editor directly to CloudMade's requirement system here:

Or, if you'd like to have a discussion via email, you can reach me at

cragg at

Thanks again for your support of Style Editor!


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Comment from Buadhai on 7 October 2009 at 08:11

It would be very nice if the CloudMade style editor had more flexibility in terms of the visibility of objects at various zoom levels. While it might make sense to limit the visibility of, say, hotels to zoom levels 16 and above in dense urban areas, this restriction is not appropriate in the countryside where accommodation is scarce. I can understand wanting to limit clutter in cities, but outside of cosmopolitan areas showing more POI's makes the map both more interesting and more useful.

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