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I am noobie to OpenLayers and can not for the life of me figure out how to display a geoJson file. This seems like it should be easy but I have been banging my head for a day. I'm sure I am missing something obvious. I have my geoJSON file (countries.json) on a server and basically followed the instructions in "OpenLayers:beginners guide" word for word so I dont know why the thing wont display. Here is my code:

function init(){
    map = new OpenLayers.Map('map_element', {});

    var vector_strategies = [new OpenLayers.Strategy.Fixed()];
    var vector_format = new OpenLayers.Format.GeoJSON({
        externalProjection: new OpenLayers.Projection("EPSG:4326"),
        internalProject: new OpenLayers.Projection("EPSG:900913")

    var vector_protocol = new OpenLayers.Protocol.HTTP({

        url: 'ne_50m_admin_WM.json',
        format: vector_format

    vector_layer = new OpenLayers.Layer.Vector('Countries',{
        protocol:  vector_protocol,
        strategies: vector_strategies


I keep getting thrown this error: mapProjection is null

Does anybody have any ideas what may be going astray?

share|improve this question
where you are getting the error on map.zoomToMaxExtent();? –  CaptDragon Mar 30 '12 at 14:53

3 Answers 3


I've used the book too, but it looks like you're attempting to switch to the Spherical Meractor projection for your GeoJSON layer (as described in the one section of the book). So, I first would define your map as such:

map = new OpenLayers.Map("map", {

    projection: new OpenLayers.Projection("EPSG:3857"),
    units: "m",
    maxResolution: 156543.0339,
    maxExtent: new OpenLayers.Bounds(
        -20037508, -20037508, 20037508, 20037508.34),
    displayProjection: new OpenLayers.Projection("EPSG:4326"),
    controls: [
        new OpenLayers.Control.Navigation(),
        new OpenLayers.Control.KeyboardDefaults(),
        new OpenLayers.Control.PanZoomBar(),
        new OpenLayers.Control.Scale(),
        new OpenLayers.Control.Attribution()


This will define your map for spherical mercator so that you can display map backgrounds from Google Maps as well. The controls are just what I include as well as the maxResolution. BTW, with OL 2.11, the latest Spherical Mercator EPSG 3857 is coded into OL. So, no need to use a Proj4js defs statement if that's the projection of the map you wish to display your data in. After that, you can add a baselayer from OpenStreetMap:

var osm = new OpenLayers.Layer.OSM("OpenStreetMap");

Then, as I was testing this at one time after reading the book, I defined the vector Style and StyleMap:

var vector_style = new OpenLayers.Style({
          strokeWidth:2, fillOpacity:0, strokeColor: '#008000'});

var vector_style_map = new OpenLayers.StyleMap({
         'default': vector_style,
         'select': {strokeColor: '#0000FF'}

So, this will plot my GeoJSON vector layer in green and if it's a polygon, won't fill it. If I had a selectfeature function defined, it would highlight it in blue.

Next comes your vector layer with your GeoJSON file and transformed from 4326 to 3857:

var vectorlyr = new OpenLayers.Layer.Vector(
                   protocol: new OpenLayers.Protocol.HTTP({
                      url: 'myfile.geojson',
                      format: new OpenLayers.Format.GeoJSON({
                          internalProjection: new OpenLayers.Projection("EPSG:3857"),
                          externalProjection: new OpenLayers.Projection("EPSG:4326")})
                  strategies: [new OpenLayers.Strategy.Fixed()],
                  styleMap: vector_style_map


Note that the GeoJSON file should be on your server. For my test page, it's in the same location on the server as the page.

Finally, add the layers to the map, center it, and set the zoom level. As the map is defined for spherical mercator, you have to transform the map.setCenter from lon/lat to the coordinates in map units. Now, this code was taken from one of my test pages for GeoJSON vectors and I probably could add the LayerSwitcher control when I define the map controls above.

// add layers to the map

map.addLayers([osm, vectorlyr]);

map.addControl(new OpenLayers.Control.LayerSwitcher());

// transform coordinates for centering the map and set zoom level

map.setCenter(new OpenLayers.LonLat(-120, 40).transform(
    new OpenLayers.Projection("EPSG:4326"),
), 4);

If you've followed what's necessary for the rest of the page (i.e. HTML, OL, etc), then hopefully, this should help get you going.

share|improve this answer
thanks, this is great! I was finally able to display the vector layer. As you say I was attempting to redefine the projection but beyond that the geojson that I was attempting to load was too big for my browser too load (rookie mistake) I commented out the projection stuff and switched out to a less complex geojson and it displayed fine. Your comment is very thorough and I appreciate it. It actually helped me through an issue I had styling the vector so thanks! –  DSaeger Apr 4 '12 at 17:43

I think that you are initializing your map badly:

map = new OpenLayers.Map('map_element', {});

should probably be

map = new OpenLayers.Map('map_element');

so that it picks up some default parameters rather than a null set. This will give you a default projection of EPSG:4326.

share|improve this answer
I tried to initialize map with the default parameters as you specified and am still running into the same error "mapProjection is null" –  DSaeger Mar 30 '12 at 13:57
cool edit CaptDragon - I didn't know you could do that –  iant Mar 30 '12 at 14:18
Yeah, there's support for many languages/formats, I love it. –  CaptDragon Mar 30 '12 at 14:51

I'm pretty sure that Openlayers downloads projection information from SpatialReference.org - this means that your EPSG coordinate system has to be available on that site (and EPSG:900913 doesn't appear to be). This also happens if your connection times out, so if you're on a flaky connection the following might also help.

You other alternative is to manually define the projection for Proj4js, with something like:

Proj4js.defs["EPSG:3111"]="+proj=lcc +lat_1=-36 +lat_2=-38 +lat_0=-37 +lon_0=145 +x_0=2500000 +y_0=2500000 +ellps=GRS80 +towgs84=0,0,0,0,0,0,0 +units=m +no_defs";

(This is the projectino for VicGrid94, down here in Aus)

This does mean you need the proj string for the projection, but hopefully this shouldn't be too hard to sort out from the documentation.

This way you can define a projection of your own and use it in your OpenLayers application however you wish to (with OpenLayers.Projection("EPSG:myProjection")).

share|improve this answer
OpenLayers has 900913 and 4326 baked in to save on load to spatialreference.org –  iant Mar 30 '12 at 8:57
Ah. Wasn't sure. Thanks @iant –  om_henners Apr 13 '12 at 1:47

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