JOSM is the ‘advanced’ OpenStreetMap editor, used by most technical users of OpenStreetMap. It is written in Java, but despite that šŸ˜‰ it works reasonably well. Jokes about Java aside, JOSM is an excellent example of the type of ‘advanced’ editor that most GIS professionals would feel comfortable with* after some work understanding OSM: it has familiar interfaces for drawing lines, displaying and editing attributes, etc.

It works well on the eeepc: Java comes pre-installed, so it’s simple to get started; just download josm-latest.jar from the josm homepage and run (from a terminal) ‘java -jar josm-latest.jar’. You’ll be presented with a message that you can’t read, but it’s not really important. (The reason you can’t read it is that the message is apparently laid out with ‘fixed’ border sizes of ~350px… meaning the message only has about 100px across on the eee’s screen. “Oops.”)

First, we’ll set up the interface so it has more room for attribute values on the right hand side, by hiding the command history (Alt-O) and the selection list (Alt-E). You can bring these back at any time using the same shortcuts.

Next, we’ll download some data. The easiest way to download data for an area you’re interested in is to navigate one of the ‘slippy maps’ that OpenStreetMap has: my personal preference is to use Information Freeway, since it has a full page map. To see the area I’ve been mapping in, check out Grand Cayman; you can use this URL in JOSM by copying it, then selecting “File”, “Download From OSM”.

Navigating the map once you’ve downloaded it isn’t too difficult: by default, you’re in ‘zoom’ mode, which will do a ‘rubber band zoom’ (As we call it in OpenLayers) by default. You can switch modes using hte keyboard: simply hit ‘s’ (for select), ‘a’, for add, ‘d’, for delete, or ‘z’ to go back to the default ‘zoom’ mode. Moving the map can be done with Right click->Drag, and the arrow keys can also be used for navigation if you hold down ‘Control’. Zooming in and out can be done with the ‘scrollwheel’, which on the Eee is the right hand side of the trackpad.

In general, the editing experience of JOSM on the eee is actually significantly better than my mac. The reason for this is simple — the Mac doesn’t have a right click, which means that navigating by dragging the map doesn’t work. Additionally, one of the ways to get information about nodes near your cursor is the middle click. On the Eee, this is as simple as tapping two fingers on the trackpad.

That said, there are some significantly lacking aspects in using JOSM on such a small screen that don’t come up on the Mac:

  • Toolbar is too tall — can’t select buttons towards the bottom of the list
  • Preferences dialog is too small: can’t see the ‘okay’ button, so can’t enable plugins (one of the coolest aspects of JOSM)
  • Inability to resize right hand side control panels: this means that the ‘layer switcher’ panel is as tall as the tags panel, which isn’t really neccesary for me. Similarly, ‘relations’ (Which are seldom used, at least at this point) share equal play time with tags/attributes, which is somewhat unneccesary

All in all, JOSM doesn’t work out too bad on the EeePC, but the lack of plugins due to the preferences panel being ‘too tall’ is somewhat annoying, and I haven’t yet figured out how to get around it. It’s possible that installing the plugins manually will work okay, but it’s been so long since I’ve installed them from within JOSM that I don’t even know how anymore!

* Of course, many GIS professionals working with OSM are going to have a steep learning curve, due to the nature of OSM’s data model: the majority of the vectorization software (at least, the stuff that I’ve seen) works with features, whereas OSM is topological, which makes interacting with the data a very different experience.

13 Responses to “JOSM on EeePC”

  1. Allan Doyle Says:

    Cool. Thanks for writing this up. I think the Eee and other tiny laptops are an important new class of machines. It’s nice to hear about how they work in real life.

  2. Dylan Says:

    Nice summary. Regarding the remarks on getting up to speed on the OSM data model: keep in mind that most “professionals” (i.e. people who have been in the geoinformatics sector for many years) got started with topological formats. ESRI Coverages, GRASS vectors, TIGER data… These formats aren’t hip or promoted right now, but before ArcMap and web-mapping they were in common use. Some would argue that any data creation/editing step should be done in a topology-aware environment.


  3. crschmidt Says:

    I’d certainly agree that some people feel that way, and I’ve come to accept that it works fine for OSM (And stopped whining about it ;)), but for the users I’ve been working with in the OpenLayers space, the idea of topology is very unfamiliar. It’s possible that this is solely as a result of the very narrow target market that OpenLayers manages to reach, I don’t know. I do know it makes editing data within OL much more difficult šŸ˜‰

    More seriously, it seems like all data coming out of state-type GIS departments is shapefiles, not coverage files: am I wrong on that? are these things being edited topologically and then distributed without topology? Based on my working with these data formats, I’d say this likely isn’t true: it seems like the data itself isn’t actually topological (things which should be on the same location sometimes aren’t) in a way that seems to imply it’s *not* solely as a result of data conversion. Using these as data points is what led my comment: maybe I’m just wrong, and everyone *is* using topology. I don’t know enough about ‘real’ GIS software to tell: my experience is mostly with things like qgis, which seem to mimic the Arc* interface, and are definitely *not* topological.

  4. ominoverde Says:

    About your Mac and right click.
    You can easily put two fingers on the trackpad, click and drag.
    It takes a moment to get used but works smoothly.

  5. crschmidt Says:

    Lorenzo: Two fingers on the trackpad is scroll-wheel behavior, no? I was able to successfully scroll in JOSM using this method (where ‘scroll’ == zoom in and out) but that doesn’t give me a right click.

    Also, since someone else mentioned it: In general, ctrl+click on mac is a right click — but in JOSM, on my machine, it doesn’t seem to be. It’s possible this is a problem with my setup — don’t know.

  6. John Cowan Says:

    Well, if you insist on not getting a real computer, you could at least get a real mouse, and then you’d have right-click. Besides, isn’t there some workaround like Command-click or the like?

  7. crschmidt Says:

    Part of the reason for getting a laptop is so that i can use it anywhere. Getting a mouse is fine when I’m sitting at a desk, or sitting at a table — but what do I do when I’m curled up in a chair mapping? What do I do when I’m laying in bed in the early morning for hours, too lazy to sit up? With a trackpad (and right click) I can map: I’m not yet aware of any separate mouse that will work well on a down comforter.

    As always, though, it can be said that there are many technical solutions to all the problems I have. I just have personal preferences — and using the Eee makes mapping easier in circumstances where I’m *not* sitting at a desk to map.

  8. ominoverde Says:

    Chris, 2 fingers and press button.
    Check System Preferences -> Keyboard and Mouse -> TrackPad.
    On Mouse Gesture, check “for secondary clicks, place two fingers on the trackpad then click the button”.
    Then if you move your fingers has the same behavior as clicking and dragging with the second button.

  9. Dylan Says:

    I will stop whining about topology- although much of my frustration in working with vector data from several un-named government agencies is related to poorly digitized (bad-topology) data.

    You are correct about the distribution models accepted by most groups that make vector data available- they rely on widely adopted (but severely limited) simple feature models. I think that this comes down to a simple fact. Most people who need vector data are making maps- and usually simple maps. A large part of what I do deals with data stored in PostGIS and relies on the simple feature model.

    Getting back to the point- simple feature models are useful and widely used. However, the moment you change from the map-making or browsing mode to a data analysis mode the topological monstrosities found in most shapefiles start to make your life difficult. And thus the whining– if you are in a data creation / editing position, why not make others’ lives more enjoyable by at least enforcing some sort of topological rules on the data? Sooner or later all of the duplicate vertices, micro self-intersections, and misc. digitized junk (usually have to zoom in to find this stuff) will come back to bite you.

  10. Steve Says:

    JOSM works well on the EeePC – yes, even the plugins.
    On any Linux running running X (such as the EeePC’s standard Xandros distro), you can move windows into virtual space off the visible screen. This means if a window is too tall (such as the plugins window), you can see all of it by using alt-left click and moving the window up until you can see all the buttons/options you need. Works well. I have all my plugins, etc, selected on the EeePC – just like its big brother desktop machine.

  11. Simon Says:

    This is a trivial point, but I cannot understand why so many people think that Macs have one button mice. You can’t even buy a one button mouse from Apple these days!

    A visit to the Apple shop today will show that *every* current desktop Mac includes a “Mighty Mouse.” These mice *look* like they have no buttons at all – just a little grey bump on top – but in fact they have:
    1) a left-click button (activated by clicking on the top-left);
    2) a right-click button (activated by clicking on the top-right);
    3) a third button (activated by squeezing the sides)
    4) a fourth button (activated by pressing the “grey bump” on the mouse’s top), AND
    5) a scroll wheel that can scroll horizontally and vertically (the “grey bump” rotates & clicks!).

    Older Macs did come with a one button mouse, but those can be upgraded to a wired Mighty Mouse for US$50 (US$70 for the wireless Bluetooth version). If this is too expensive for you, there’s a Kensington mouse, with two buttons and a scroll wheel, for US$15.

    If times are hard and US$15 – US$70 is out of your price range, or you just like Apple’s old one button mice, use the keyboard commands described in the previous posts.

    Please! No more posts about Apple’s one-button mice!

  12. crschmidt Says:


    It seems like you either intentinoally or unintentionally didn’t read my point about “Why I don’t want a seperate mouse”:

    “Part of the reason for getting a laptop is so that i can use it anywhere. Getting a mouse is fine when Iā€™m sitting at a desk, or sitting at a table ā€” but what do I do when Iā€™m curled up in a chair mapping? What do I do when Iā€™m laying in bed in the early morning for hours, too lazy to sit up? With a trackpad (and right click) I can map: Iā€™m not yet aware of any separate mouse that will work well on a down comforter.”

    Mac laptops are still one button, for no good reason that I can see. However, that means that ‘Macs have one button mice.’ is true for Mac laptops — and since this is a post about the EeePC (a laptop) comparing to other laptops (Macbooks), I don’t see how your comment is relevant.

  13. Marnen Laibow-Koser Says:

    I use JOSM on my MacBook Pro all the time. To right-drag, just hold 2 fingers, click, and drag. Pretty handy once you realize it’s possible. šŸ™‚