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I often prefer more "power user" type of software, but the brief amount of time I've spent looking at JOSM, I've found confusing. iD seems very intuitive, and has little or no learning curve.

Am I doing myself a disservice in the long term by not learning JOSM? What are the main things that I'm missing out on by using iD?

asked 09 Jul '14, 03:05

keithonearth's gravatar image

accept rate: 13%

edited 09 Nov '14, 11:19

aseerel4c26's gravatar image

aseerel4c26 ♦


The iD developers would be happy to hear you find it intuitive! :)

(09 Jul '14, 16:00) neuhausr

This is, in the end, nearly the same question as Should I use Potlatch or JOSM?. Something like: what are the advantages of JOSM over typical "newbie" or reduced function editors?

(13 Dec '14, 14:14) aseerel4c26 ♦

The benefits of working with JOSM include:

  • Efficiency: edit faster with a powerful search function, filters to hide data you don't want to edit, and the largest available selection of editing tools of all editors
  • Offline editing: save your partially completed work locally, work with your private GPS tracks or photographs without having to upload them
  • Customization: customize keyboard shortcuts, pick from high-quality plugins for specialized tasks, enable UI dialogs for experimental features, change how the editor's map rendering looks
  • Cutting-edge mapping: get tool support for emerging mapping topics like lane mapping, 3D mapping or indoor mapping

For an useful overview, check the wiki's comparison of editors.

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answered 09 Jul '14, 11:37

Tordanik's gravatar image

accept rate: 35%

edited 05 Jan '20, 09:50


Thanks! Enough of those reasons sound really useful to me, and I really should take the time to learn a more advanced editor. Thanks too for the link to the wiki, I was looking for something just like that but didn't find it. I'll add a link to it in the see also section of the iD page on the wiki.

(09 Jul '14, 23:38) keithonearth

Note: iD now (Nov 2018) now has in-built validation, filtering and plenty of keyboard shortcuts. It also backs up edits in a cache so that editing can be returned to, or restored in case of a browser crash.

(26 Nov '19, 17:43) SK53 ♦
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answered 09 Jul '14, 11:35

Vincent%20de%20Phily's gravatar image

Vincent de P... ♦
accept rate: 19%

I hope I'm not too late to add my two-penneth but speaking from the view of a complete beginner, iD is great for doing simple changes - and much more complicated ones too - but once you go beyond a certain "sophistication level" it can get a bit awkward and certain edits - such as creating nicely squared-off buildings - can become a bit of a chore.

If you know you'll be mapping a lot of buildings then learning the JOSM basics will save you so much time. The extrude, duplicate, and align functions are worth their weight in gold when creating lots of 90-degree-angled shapes - as you would when mapping a housing estate for instance. And that's without going into the various building plug-ins.

My recommendation would be to take a few hours to play around with JOSM, making shapes on a part of the map that's empty, then messing around with the tools to see what they do (not forgetting to see what happens when using Ctrl/Alt/Shift too). When you're finished, exit without uploading to clear your "scribblings". Once you figure out how it works you'll wonder how you coped without it.

You can always jump back to iD for the stuff you're more comfortable with there if you need to. You're never stuck with one or the other so use either depending on your confidence level in each.

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answered 11 Jan '15, 13:00

Garry%20Patchett's gravatar image

Garry Patchett
accept rate: 0%

Not too late at all. It was good encouragement and has got me using JOSM, at least for a small (but growing) list of tasks. I still feel like its UI is a mess, but its extensive features is definitely a time saver.

Thanks for your comment.

(26 Feb '15, 00:40) keithonearth

JOSM is more customizable:

  • you can develop your own "plugin's" for display styles (
  • your own presets (
  • define your own keyboard shortcuts
  • develop more powerful plugins in Java (e.g. revert changesets)
  • you can write scripts that deal with the data (python, Javascript)
  • you can work offline
  • there are filters to hide data you do not want to work on, or you can only download specific data ( )
  • you can import data from different types of sources (kml, csv, etc.) -- (be aware that this often has to follow the OSM import guidelines). But it's ok when you could generate such files from data you gathered through surveys.
  • import procedures sometimes only work with JOSM (e.g. Dutch BAG import)

and probably more

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answered 09 Jul '14, 06:49

escada's gravatar image

accept rate: 21%

edited 09 Jul '14, 06:50

Please do not let anyone make you think that using iD is a waste. At HOT Mapathons we start all our new mappers on iD to get them started and understanding what they are doing. There is nothing wrong with iD as a beginner editor and as you progress and begin to better understand the tagging of nodes, lines and areas. While JOSM is a far more sophisticated editor with a lot more functions and tools you will only need some of those once you get into some serious mapping. Not wanting to scare you but have a look at the tagging available at

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answered 07 Jan '15, 21:10

RAytoun's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

If you're adding simple features, you won't really need JOSM. Some of the disadvantages of JOSM:

  • Needs that bloated system, Java; over 100 MB download on my system
  • Overly-busy UX straight out of the early 1990s, with too many tiny information panes which quickly fill up with scrollbars
  • Doesn't work on mobile (iD does/did, mostly, for simple adds/edits — until it got really good at browser detection ☹)
  • Barely works on Mac; needs a multi-button mouse
  • Ugly screen rendering of maps
  • Bewildering for new users
  • Heavily modal, and — like vi — you're always in the wrong mode
  • Slow to start, especially in the recommended JNLP version, which checks and downloads updates as it finds them.
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answered 09 Nov '14, 03:34

scruss's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

edited 09 Nov '14, 22:11


One bit is likely really wrong: "Needs that bloated security-liability of a system, Java". It seems that you confuse the Java platform with Java browser plugins? You do not need a Java browser plugin (and are advised to not install it/turn it off)! Running Java software is not less secure than running C software (possibly even more secure).

And, really, on which system setup and in which usecase do you feel that JOSM is "slow"er compared to iD?

What is bad on getting automatic plugin updates? Maybe you should activate less.

(09 Nov '14, 11:23) aseerel4c26 ♦

Amen to scruss's answer. Long-term contributors often attempt to influence newcomers into using their preferred editor, often without any awareness of the strengths of other editors. In reality, no editor is right for everyone, and each has their pros and cons depending on the type of mapping you do, the area you map in, your computer system and many other factors.

The simple answer is: use whatever you feel most comfortable in.

(09 Nov '14, 11:58) Richard ♦

aseerel4c26: If Java were secure, why does it pop up a warning for me on starting JOSM if I'm not running the very latest version? JOSM takes at least a minute to start (8 core, 12 GB, Ubuntu 64-bit) for me, while iD is open for edits (including WMS imagery!) within 5 seconds. So yeah, slow.

(09 Nov '14, 16:11) scruss

@scruss: thanks. A warning? And what does the warning tell you? I am no mentalist. And what do you mean by "secure" here?
Ah, you were referring to the startup time (and not e.g. editing or map panning). It may be good to clarify this. However, one minute is strange to me. There is something wrong with your setup. JOSM needs barely 5 seconds for me (by the way: nicely multithreading to all 4 cores - 2 physical with OpenJDK+Linux, also 64 bit and less RAM, although this does not really matter). iD seems to be a bit faster for me, too (but not if I add the browser startup time to that ;-) ).

(09 Nov '14, 19:58) aseerel4c26 ♦

@Richard, very true. Exaggerated, imprecise claims about our editors do not help other (new) users. But others may be unfortunately scared away from JOSM, if they would like to use/try JOSM provided that they know neutral and more precise facts about JOSM. Indeed, Scruss should apparently better use another editor, and that's fine.

(09 Nov '14, 20:13) aseerel4c26 ♦

@scruss That's just a general hint about an update. Not all updates are security related and not all security bugs will affect JOSM. Likewise, browsers have security bugs, too, which could affect in-browser editors in theory. So that's really not an advantage or disadvantage of a specific editor and doesn't really belong here.

(09 Nov '14, 20:13) scai ♦

I wasn't talking about the "You should update" message in JOSM, I was talking about the "You are not running the current version of Java, this may be a security risk" popup. I was running the 'recommended version' via JNLP, and running from a local version is a little quicker. So I'll revise.

(09 Nov '14, 22:06) scruss

The 'keep your software up to date' warning is probably from java, not josm. That's a warning valid for any software, including your browser. I'm sure you could apply to java the same update policy as you have for your browser. And on the subject of your browser (and therefore iD), you should know that it is a more "bloated platform" than java by a wide margin.

(09 Nov '14, 22:48) Vincent de P... ♦
showing 5 of 8 show 3 more comments

Non mentioned usefull items; Copy and paste of ways, tags and other objects. Mirror objects if you’re working with a row of objects. Shft M Turning adjusting of a way or object. Ctrl Shft with mouse And above the use of the scale in the left upper corner. Starting the program by selecting a GPS file without logging and adding codes or anything, just push a button and select the area.

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answered 09 Jul '14, 12:14

Hendrikklaas's gravatar image

accept rate: 5%

One reason crucial to HOT contributors: input square-angled buildings with only two clicks by using the buildings_tools plugin.

You really feel the difference after tagging several hundred houses...

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answered 09 Nov '14, 08:48

rwst's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

edited 09 Nov '14, 08:49


But not every HOT task requires adding buildings.

(09 Nov '14, 09:04) scai ♦

iD squares buildings too & has done it for a long time, it even uses the same short-cut as in Josm & Potlatch2 (Q). Josm for arcane reasons squares buildings with a different algorithm (based on geography) so it may report buildings from other editors as non-orthogonal.

(26 Nov '19, 17:46) SK53 ♦

With ID you're stuck with Bing satellite image but, for example, I just used Landsat data in JOSM to pinpoint villages in Africa where Bing showed only clouds.

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answered 10 Nov '14, 17:31

rwst's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%


You're not at all stuck with Bing. iD can use any tiled imagery source and, by default, supports the editor-imagery-index repository which lists dozens of sources from around the world.

(10 Nov '14, 17:35) Richard ♦

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question asked: 09 Jul '14, 03:05

question was seen: 17,894 times

last updated: 05 Jan '20, 09:50

NOTICE: is no longer in use from 1st March 2024. Please use the OpenStreetMap Community Forum