Keeping OSM up to date with OSMfocus

Posted by MichaelVL on 5 October 2014 in English (English)

Keeping OSM updated and in sync with the real (changing) world is in my opinion one of the key challenges for OSM. Adding new roads and POIs is fun - keeping them up to date is less so!

Have you ever come across POIs or roads and made a mental note to yourself to check later in e.g. JOSM if they are on OSM and tagged correctly? I have, and unless I document in detail what I am seeing with photos, there is a good probability that I miss some essential details. Also with photos, I often have lots of photos recording stuff that is already correctly tagged in OSM. Thus the hit/miss ratio is becoming smaller and this will continue as OSM mature.

To help myself spotting differences between the OSM database and the real world I wrote a small Android app that can display OSM data for nearby objects. With this its easy and efficient to be on the lookout for OSM updates.

The app looks like this:


and it can be found on google Play: OSMfocus

I'm hoping this will be useful for others and that it will results in more OSM updates.

Comment from nlehuby on 5 October 2014 at 10:18

Great app ! Thanks ! I was using the Layers > Map Data checkbox on the official OSM website for this purpose, but it's not very usable on mobile phone...

Comment from Takuto on 5 October 2014 at 11:24

Very nice! now this app needs ability to add notes in some format, field mapping will be piece a cake then. I think user should be able tap on one of those "tag tables", then add some note, which can be saved in OSM iNotes, or, if its too hard to program - in *.gpx file, like Favourites in Osmand (which I use for field mapping with meduim success).

Comment from stephan75 on 5 October 2014 at 12:22

Not bad ... will try it later when enough time.

This app needs an own article in the OSM wiki!

Many users will benefit from creating a new page there for your app.

Comment from RobJN on 5 October 2014 at 14:32

Sounds great. Is it possible to download data prior to going out surveying (that is, an offline data mode)? I've tweeted this at

Comment from MichaelVL on 5 October 2014 at 14:47

Currently there is no support for 'offline' mode, but if there is sufficient interest I might add this.

Currently I think some way of taking notes is the most urgent feature that needs adding - maybe by adding the capability of taking pictures.

Comment from Sanderd17 on 5 October 2014 at 16:33

If you want it to make notes, it could be good to couple it to OSM Tracker.

Via a big "note" button, you launch the OSM Tracker intent (either integrated or installed separately), where you can have all kinds of notes: photo, plain text, presets, audio, ...

But it's a great app so far.

Comment from DTHG on 5 October 2014 at 19:28

Is OSMfocus open source? If it is where can I view or download the source code?

Comment from DaCor on 6 October 2014 at 01:20

This is brilliant.

For future development something I would recommend from a personal point of view would be:

  • Offline mode is a must. Data charges can be prohibitive
  • Set a standard location for the popout which relates to the crosshair e.g. top left. This is purely to prevent the user having to scan all (up to 8) popouts when looking for info on a specific feature
  • The popouts, I would make them a min of 3 lines in height to make them easily usable in touch interfaces which, when tapped, would offer a list of options to:
  1. Add a note on OSM
  2. Edit tags on OSM
  3. Take a photo
  4. Record a note

Comment from stragu on 6 October 2014 at 04:07

Great, looking forward to trying it. Woud it be possible to add it to the F-Droid repos (if it is open source) ?


Comment from Lindroid on 6 October 2014 at 05:38

Great idea! Thanks a lot!

Comment from mhenson on 6 October 2014 at 16:44

Great Idea, I like to see all the tags, I already found some tag mistakes. Could you show map (browse map) with out requiring a GPS lock? I like that I can browse the map after a GPS lock. I would like to see tags of a restaurant real quick while waiting for food. If there are tags missing, I would want to edit tags or create an OSM note. Taking a photo and placing it where the cross hairs are would be nice (great for taking a picture of Open Hours). I then could use the picture and location of picture on the map for later editing in JOSM.

Comment from HannesHH on 7 October 2014 at 21:33

Any chance to get this for Android 2.3? It looks fantastic.

Comment from Klumbumbus on 8 October 2014 at 10:22

Great App. Thanks.

Comment from Klumbumbus on 8 October 2014 at 10:46

I noticed that addr:postcode and addr:country are not displayed. Is this by design? Are there more key which are not displayed?

Comment from kay_D on 8 October 2014 at 11:18

Fantastic app, easy and on the spot. Just became my favourite "is this shop still open?" app :)

Only sucks a little bit when values are lengthy (as sometimes the case with opening hours) as boxes become too wide. Apparently there is no limit to box width and no text line breaking.

I love it so much, if it could easily edit (add+modify) tags+values for existing geometry, it would be a perfect lightweight POI editor. At least for people like us knowing the tagging scheme good enough.

Comment from Klumbumbus on 8 October 2014 at 13:58

I noticed that addr:postcode and addr:country are not displayed. Is this by design? Are there more key which are not displayed?

OK, I just read the description in the play store. Can we use the description text in the play store to create a osm wiki page?

Comment from MichaelVL on 8 October 2014 at 16:36

Yes, you can definitely use the text for the OSM wiki. Any volunteers for creating a wikipage... please go ahead.

There will be an update soon which implements a limitation on legend-box size and wrapping of long lines.

Wrt. support for Android 2.3 - I dont think that will happen. The current implementation use features from Android API level 14, and although I might be able to decrease the required API level, I probably will not get down to Android 2.3.

Comment from MichaelVL on 8 October 2014 at 17:37

A new version with the changes below has just gone out to beta-testers. I expect to promote it to production in a day or two.

  • Limitations on legend box size implemented. Legend boxes no longer can fill the entire screen. Long lines are wrapped as indicated by a curved arrow and excess lines are indicated by an arrow 'going below a line'.

  • Use of most recent location instead of waiting for GPS fix. This will make it possible to use OSMfocus while waiting for the GPS.

  • Improved internal vector rendering, especially related to multi-polygon rendering.

Comment from Klumbumbus on 8 October 2014 at 18:47

New osm wiki page is here:

@MichaelVL: Can you upload the icon and a screenshot to commons, which can be used in the wiki?

Comment from Klumbumbus on 8 October 2014 at 18:59

I collected some improvement suggestions which were mentioned here at the osm wiki talk page

Comment from nidi0 on 11 October 2014 at 00:18

This is looking very interesting! I'd appreciate a lot if it's released as free software. This allows to release the app on the F-Droid market (many privacy aware people don't use Google Play) and generally encourages contribution.

Comment from Zian Choy on 13 October 2014 at 05:07

This is fabulous!

I love the user interface and the clever way you handled the overwhelming amount of information that even a single point can have.

I'd like to echo the call for offline data and suggest a possible solution. There is already an offline OpenStreetMap program called "OsmAnd" and they have set up a fairly solid system for offering regular up-to-date downloads of the entire world, broken down in chunks by country or province. Perhaps you could take advantage of the OsmAnd OBF files in 2 ways:

  1. If the user already has OsmAnd installed, read the OBF files on the device when there's no network connectivity and provide a way to create offline OsmNotes.
  2. If the user doesn't have OsmAnd installed, then suggest installing it & downloading some offline data. Or, you can try copying the code that OsmAnd uses to grab updated map data (you may want to clear this with the OsmAnd developers first) and bake data updating straight into your program. Or, do both. :)

Comment from Zian Choy on 13 October 2014 at 05:08


"Provide a way to create offline OsmNotes" should be its own item (as "#3"). And, you can probably copy & paste the existing OsmAnd code that implements that feature already.

Comment from AgusQui on 18 October 2014 at 00:10

would be nice to be opened what is being viewed on the Vespucci application and to correct at the time, that can also leave notes.

Comment from JoŇ°ko Horvat on 8 November 2014 at 10:55

Well done. Keep on.

Comment from 0x1fff on 10 September 2015 at 20:02

Is OSMFocus aplication open source (any github link)? Are you planing to add edit tags function, or other functions which mentioned DaCor on 6 october 2014 at 01:20?

Comment from MichaelVL on 12 September 2015 at 05:31

It is my intention to make OSMfocus open-source eventually. I was reworking it when I got caught up in other OSM-related projects (more on that soon) and it has kind of been on the backburned since then. Rest assured that its not forgotten...

Comment from 0x1fff on 12 September 2015 at 06:56

@MichaelVL - ok :). When it will be OpenSource just send info to FDroid repos :). I would love to see some tag edit options in OSMFocus. The interface is very nice, and i think it would be very easy to edit tags even for non technical users. If it will be available on mobile you can edit this stuff when you waiting for something.

For me it would be perfect to edit opening hours in restaurants that I use, update/set number of floors in building which I'm passing by (number of floors will be used to create 3D representation of building), adding a website address for interesting places, names of companies which are located in building (most places are mapped correctly, but there are no such specific information).

I don't know any of the OSM product with that kind of functionality on the mobile (Android) - maybe you know what should I use to be able to edit only tags in simple way?

Comment from MichaelVL on 13 September 2015 at 05:51

I have put my OSM Analytic Difference Engine on github. In short its a backend for a live service providing realtime insight into edits within a region of interest. Special focus has been made to analyse the changesets and provide a concise description of what has changed.

Some of purposes of this engine:

  • Prof-of-concept for an improved changeset-info service (improved compared to looking up changeset details on
  • Provide insight into changes in your area of interest
  • Improve team spirit of a regional OSM team/task-force.
  • Quality ensurance through peer review
  • Learning by seeing how other make edits to your region of interest.

Find it here:

[OSM Analytic Difference Engine for Denmark] [OSM Analytic Difference Engine on github]

Comment from RobJN on 23 January 2018 at 00:02

I love the OSMfocus app. Did you get anywhere with the open source release?

Login to leave a comment