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I am exporting OSM data (in .osm) files to use in qGIS. I am interested in having the street names displayed. I know they are in the OSM data set because they are displayed when I browse the data online, but when I view my downloaded files and open the attribute tables for streets, most of them simply have "null" or "label" as values.

What am I doing wrong?

How can I extract data from OSM which includes the street names?

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Use the OSM plugin for Quantum GIS - via Plugins Fetch Python Plugins - select and install OpenStreetMap plugin. you can download from inside QGIS using bounding box. –  Mapperz Jun 15 '12 at 13:50
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Just to fill-in on Mapperz's solution: When you load an *.osm file using the plugin, you will have an option to add columns of attributes such as Name, Highway, Place, etc. The Name column will contain the highway name (if it's available). –  Micha Jun 15 '12 at 14:15
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A bit of googling would point you to this page: LINK –  Alexandre Neto Sep 14 '12 at 8:13
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2 Answers

An easier option I think would be to download the data as shape files and work from there. Just go to the folder of the region you are interested in and download the shp.zip version of the data you need.

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It's probably quicker to download the OSM data based on your bbox. As mentioned above, the wiki explains this in detail [1]. To summarize what's on the osm wiki:

a) within the osm map homepage, zoom to AOI and click export;

b) use the http api and append your bbox coordinates.

[1] http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Downloading_data#Choose_your_region

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This will only work in sparesly detailed areas. In Central Europe, you will not even get your whole home town via the api call. Downloads from geofabrik or filtering via Overpass API are intended for such requests. –  Andre Joost Sep 14 '12 at 11:04
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