OpenLayers Vector Support

So, last week was an OpenLayers hack week. One of the things that we did was make adding support for new vector formats trivial. Instead of modifying several parts of the code, you only need to create two functions: a ‘read’, which takes a set of data — XML, strings, Javascript object, what have you — and returns a list of OpenLayers.Feature.Vector objects, and a ‘write’ which does the reverse — takes a list of objects and returns a string or object or XML.

To prove this, I set out to write some additional vector format support last night. I decided to add one read, and one write.

  • Read: KML. I added support for KML point display in about 20 minutes, including the time to find data and write a demo HTML page loading some example data. Adding LineString support was another 15 minutes.
  • Write: GeoRSS. Support for writing georss:simple points, lines, and polygons was simple… once I found data. I asked for a live example, and was unfortunately unable to find any valid line data outside the GeoRSS website, so I just generated something that was as close as I could come to the examples. I’m lazy, so the export is just RSS 2, and I’m sure that someone will come along and criticize it, but that’s one of the benefits of Open Source: Anyone can offer up a patch. Time from when I created the file stub to when I committed the code was 27 minutes, again, including a demo.

Altogether, the Format support in the new OpenLayers is pretty cool. Because of the way it’s built, I can even do something that is pretty damn ridiculous: Import KML, and export GeoRSS (or GML), all from the browser. Certainly, this is an incredibly crazy thing to do, but OpenLayers is a pretty crazy project.

I’m convinced that there’s nothing in the code that would make it difficult for someone who’s comfortable working with Javascript to write support for any simple-to-parse format. Now, to get the code back to trunk and get the patches rolling in.

One Response to “OpenLayers Vector Support”

  1. John Says:

    It seems this could be expanded to allow SVG support - it would be really powerful if svg images or svg overlays could be easily displayed on open layer maps. Are there any more docs or examples of the vector support and interaction ?

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