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I'm using Openlayer and GeoServer when I pan or zoom the map - OpenLayers kicks of a series of WMS requests. Does 1 WMS request = 1 tile in response. I'd have thought if you sent a WMS request with the map extents then we'd get multiple responses back to reduce the number of requests - is this possible?

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Yes, 1 request is 1 tile. Getting several tiles in a single response is not possible, but if your GeoServer is serving "raw" wms'es (i.e. not cached tiles), you can tell OpenLayers not to request tiles, see the singleTile option

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Thanks.The single tile is not an option as this is an Ortho layer and the single tile size would be masssive and unusable. –  gisWeeper May 30 '13 at 8:44
    
well, re-consider that: it's not the whole layer as a tile returned once, but instead of requesting several 256x256 px tiles it's one "tile" that fits the map viewport. But again: i do not think there is a real problem in requesting a bunch of tiles –  atlefren May 30 '13 at 8:46
    
Alright I didnt realize that. So basically if my OpenLayers map is in a container that is 600x400 GeoServer will serve up a single tile of that size - i'm guessing this requires GeoServer to work to create an image of that size and that caching wont be possible. –  gisWeeper May 30 '13 at 9:28
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Correct, and this is why tiles with a given size is used –  atlefren May 30 '13 at 9:39
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