OpenStreetMaps (OSM)/Geofabrik

This page will explaining the downloading of GIS shapefile data from two different sites which access the OpenStreetMap data base. OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a global GIS resource which is constantly being updated by volunteers. The quantity and quality of data varies from country to country and also between different areas in a country. Many cities are mapped at the building level while rural areas may only show roads and outlines of residential areas. The density of mapping has been increasing rapidly, particularly in developing countries.

The two sites are Geofabrik at and HOT Export Tool (HumanitarianOpenstreetmapTeam) at .Both sites are free (HOT Export Tool requires registration, Geofabrik does not), both sites have access to the OpenStreetMap database and both sites are updated regularly--Geofabrik is updated once daily while the HOT Export Tool is updated as changes are made. The main difference between the two sites is that Geofabrik produces a standardized download of each country in the context of a country map while the HOT Export Tool allows users to set the geographic and data parameters for the download.More details are given on each of the sites below.It is beyond the scope of this site to provide instructions on actually using the data with the QGIS software. For links to some of the available online courses on QGIS go to Online Courses

Geofabrik-- The main menu in Geofabrik is at . On this page there is a list of the main geographic regions in the world. To access your data first click the region you require. You will then get a list of all the countries in the region. The required file for QGIS is the centre choice . If  [] is in the column you can download the data directly by clicking on it. If there is an X it means that the data is too large a single download and you have to click on the country name. You will then see a list of sub-national administrarive regions which you can download. If there is an X opposite the name of sub-region this usually means that there is currently no shapefile available for this area in Geofabrik (note it is possible to create the necessary file in the HOT Export Tool). Many of these files will be large and may take some time to download. Note that the files are still in .zip format and have to be extracted before they can be used. The expanded list of files will be identified by lables--"railways", "roads", "places", etc. Each lable has a number of files attached --it is the .shp file that will be used directly for mapping.

HOT Export Tool-- This site allows the user to identify an area for which data will be downloaded. Various drawing options are offered. There are size limits to the file that can be downloaded and it may be necessary to create more than one download (the data can be linked in QGIS). Although this site is free, it is necessary to register before you can download data. The main page is at If you are registered you can log in, otherwise you can register. Once you are signed in you will be presented with a map of the world on which you can zoom in or out. Because the file size is limited you must limited your request to fairly small geographic areas--the drawing options provide for various geometric shapes or free hand outlining. Once the outline is chosen you will see a list of tabs on the left-- 1) "Describe" asks you to name and describe the download, 2) "Formats" lists the optional download formats--unless you are an experienced user you want "Shapefile", 3) "Data" provides a list of keywords. The data for these keywords is more detailed than that available through Geofabrik.(when you click an option a box to the right opens with a list of the included fields 4) "Summary" creates the export file. You can wait while the file is being generated or sign off and you will receive an email when the file is ready (the length of time required depends on how many people are querying the system.) Once the file is ready a green box with COMPLETED is generated. You download the file clicking on its name in the box Shapefile". You have to extract the data from the zip file. The extracted file includes three types of shapefile--line, points and polygon. Each of these can be imported directly into QGIS.

OpenStreetMap -- Open Street Map provides the facility to download shapefiles from the page on which mapping is being done. There is an "Export" label among the mapping provisions provided near the left hand top of the page. Clicking on the "Export" button brings up a page on which the user can select an area to download.The user is required to list the options for which data is requested. The size of the download is limited. The file produced is "hot.osm" but the "hot" portion can be changed to another name. The file normally works with newer versions of QGIS but if there are problems there is a QGIS plugin available.

Copyright 1998/2021 GRI Updated 8 March 2021