Spherical Mercator Maps in OpenLayers 2.8

Following on from my previous post, it is indeed much easier to put Spherical Mercator “Google-style” maps into OpenLayers, following the 2.8 release this week.

Spherical Mercator is a pseudo-spatial reference system (SRS) that takes some liberties with strict geographic accuracy, to provide a projection that requires the minimum of maths to compute – as this is done on the fly in the user’s browser for OpenLayers-based maps, this is important. (More details.) Maps using Spherical Mercator often use a very hierarchical tile structure – tiles being the generally 256×256 pixel square GIF or PNG images that form the basis of many of the mainstream online “slippy” maps.

Google Maps, OpenStreetMap and NPE-OSM are three sources of tiles using the Spherical Mercator SRS – which the geographers here at UCL have taken to calling WebMercator, and is also known as EPSG:900913 (the numbers representing Google in l33t-speak…) – it has now also been assigned an official EPSG number of 4375 3857. Yahoo and Microsoft Virtual Earth also use Spherical Mercator but a different naming structure for their tiles. The common CRS for all these raster images allows them to be swapped out easily on web maps, which the Mapstraction project aims to achieve.

OpenLayers has an excellent page about Spherical Mercator and has some simple examples to get such a map up and running.

Anyway, I have a large number of sets of tiles in Spherical Mercator, for a project to be launched in the (hopefully near) future. It is now this easy to set them up as layers in OpenLayers.

The map itself still needs to be set up with care:

var bounds = new OpenLayers.Bounds(-30, 40, 15, 70); 
//Fits comfortably around the UK.

map = new OpenLayers.Map ("map", 
    controls: [
        new OpenLayers.Control.Navigation(),
        new OpenLayers.Control.PanZoomBar(),
	new OpenLayers.Control.Attribution(),
	new OpenLayers.Control.MouseDefaults()
    maxExtent: bounds.clone().transform(
        new OpenLayers.Projection("EPSG:4326"), 
        new OpenLayers.Projection("EPSG:900913")), 
    numZoomLevels: 18,
    maxResolution: "auto",
    units: "m",
    projection: new OpenLayers.Projection("EPSG:900913"),
    displayProjection: new OpenLayers.Projection("EPSG:4326")

I’ve created a function to create each layer:

function getChoroplethLayer(name, attrib)
    return new OpenLayers.Layer.OSM("", 
        "/tiles/" + name + "/${z}/${x}/${y}.png", 
        {numZoomLevels: 14, transitionEffect: "resize", 
          attribution: attrib});

Then it’s just a case of running through the layers:

layer_choropleth_1 = getChoroplethLayer("choropleth_1", "X");
layer_choropleth_2 = getChoroplethLayer("choropleth_2", "X");

…and adding them to the map:

map.addLayers([layer_choropleth_1, layer_choropleth_2]);


If you want OpenStreetMap’s default Mapnik map tiles themselves, then it’s even easier:

    new OpenLayers.Layer.OSM(null, null, 
        {transitionEffect: "resize"}));

OpenLayers New Release

OpenLayers, the open source Javascript framework for delivering powerful “slippy” maps via your web browser, has just had a new version released – 2.8. It’s the first release since September last year and is brimming with new features and bug fixes.

If the number of presentations mentioning OpenLayers at Monday’s OS GIS conference is anything to go by, there’s a lot of OpenLayers-powered sites out there now, many of which will benefit from the upgrade. Not least, getting OpenStreetMap base-mapping onto your OpenLayers website just got a whole lot easier. (And will get easier still once the documentation is written!)