OpenStreetMap

A fast workflow for taking and processing personal survey notes

Posted by M!dgard on 31 December 2019 in English (English). Last updated on 3 January 2020.

Taking private notes on a survey with OsmAnd and processing them with JOSM is a breeze. Here’s how.

With this workflow you’re able to enter geo-referenced text while surveying and copy-paste it in JOSM. I do this to i.a. enter opening hours on the go.

tl;dr: Create quick actions in OsmAnd to create notes. Don’t upload, but export the notes as GPX. Open in JOSM, convert to data layer. Remove a note node when it’s done. Remove all notes in OsmAnd.

Personal notes?

If you don’t choose to upload your notes, they stay private.

Setting up OsmAnd

  1. Enable the OSM editing plugin. (main menu → Plugins → tap the icon for OSM editing, it turns orange)
  2. Enable quick actions. (main menu → Configure screen → switch Quick action to on)
  3. Add a quick action for “add note”. (quick action → Add actionAdd OSM note → switch Show interim dialog to on, leave message empty)

To save typing on things you add a lot, also add one-click quick actions for them. (Create a quick action like before, but switch interim dialog to off, and fill in a message.) I have those set up for bicycle parkings with the standard capacities that can be found all around Ghent: 5, 10 and 15. For non-standard parkings I can still create a manual note.

After surveying

On the device with OsmAnd

  1. Export your notes as GPX. (main menu → My placesOSM edits → share icon → All dataGPX file)
  2. A “share” menu will pop up to send the result somewhere. Get the file to your computer somehow. (I use the Nextcloud app with my own Nextcloud server.)

On your computer

  1. Open the GPX file in JOSM. Your notes will appear as pink markers with the text written next to them. (FileOpen… → locate and double-click the file)
  2. Discard the GPX layer but not the markers layer. (sidepanel Layers → right-click the .gpx layer → Delete)
  3. Convert the markers layer to an OSM data layer. (sidepanel Layers → right-click the markers layer → Convert to data layer → acknowledge the “don’t upload raw traces to OSM” warning → Proceed without simplifying)
  4. Create a new data layer. (FileNew Layer) Download data into it to start editing.
  5. Activate the layer with your todos to copy text, and the one with the OSM data to edit. Switch back and forth between these as needed. Delete a node from the todo layer when you’ve done it.

When you download data, make sure to do it in the data layer, and not in the todo layer!

Removing the notes in OsmAnd

It’s fast and easy: main menu → My placesOSM edits → trash icon → check the checkbox at the top. All notes are now selected. If you confirm the deletion, your map is clean again.

Alternative: favourites

You can do the exact same workflow using favourites instead of notes. This has certain advantages:

  • you can’t accidentally upload them and
  • you can categorize your todos.

For me those are outweighed by the disadvantages:

  • OsmAnd will complain about “favourite name already in use”,
  • favourite lists get long, such as when picking a destination from your favourites and
  • the favourite creation screen auto-fills the address, which takes some time to compute.

So I use the notes approach, though I do keep my “to survey if nearby” notes in a dedicated favourite category.


Shout out to Pieter whose diary post inspired the first part of this one! Thanks to s8evq for pointing out the alternative with favourites.

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