This guide describes how to access and begin using OpenStreetMap data. The guide links to free shapefile format depictions of physical and cultural features available for download. This guide also covers how to begin using shapefiles in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, but is not intended to describe use of the general OpenStreetMap web site interface.
The remainder of this page describes what OpenStreetMap is. The Free OpenStreetMap Data page of this guide provides links to websites where free data can be obtained. The Using OpenStreetMap Data page describes how to unzip downloaded shapefiles and begin using OpenStreetMap shapefile data using ArcGIS, a Geographic Information Systems software package.
OpenStreetMap is a project to create a free editable map of the world. The project is motivated by restrictions on use or availability of map information across much of the world, and has been facilitated by relatively inexpensive global positioning system devices. Unlike proprietary software, the data are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike licenses. As the name of the project implies, the OpenStreetMap project makes street attribute data available. But the OpenStreetMap project also collects and has available other geographic data attributes, such as buildings, land use, natural features, places, railways, and waterways. See the links below for more information on the OpenStreetMap project.