A quick question that I don't see an answer to elsewhere: if I download a .osm dataset from Planet.osm (for example) which GIS applications could consume/display this data without translation?

For example, this page says ArcGIS 10 "can use OpenStreetMap as a basemap" - but I'm not sure if that means it will open .osm files or read the data from a service?

So, are there any GIS apps (proprietary or open source) which will read .osm files?

Or perhaps taking a step back: is OSM data meant to be consumed like this, or is OSM meant to be used mostly for dynamic display of mapping on web pages?

  • It might be better if you re-title your question to ask 'what GIS application can open and use .osm files'. Sep 3 '10 at 19:23
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    As a side note, beware of licensing issues when using OSM data.
    – Jaime Soto
    Oct 29 '10 at 17:55



I'll talk about ArcGIS.

If you are talking about ArcMap, then in ArcGIS 10, you can View and edit OpenstreetMap Data directly in ArcMap.

See this page for more details: ArcGIS Editor for OpenStreetMap.

With this you can

download data from OpenStreetMap, store it locally in a geodatabase, and use the advanced editing environment of ArcGIS Desktop 10 to create, modify, or delete data. Once the edits are complete, the changes can be posted back to OpenStreetMap and made available to the OpenStreetMap community

So to clarify, ArcGIS will not deal with the .osm files, but will directly access the data from the OSM servers.

  • 1
    Just a note that your link is broken. I think you're looking for this: esri.com/news/releases/10_3qtr/openstreetmap.html
    – James M
    Sep 3 '10 at 19:32
  • Does anyone know how to open .osm files using ArcGIS 10.2??
    – bailey
    Feb 27 '14 at 16:43
  • @bailey Your comment would make an excellent question, either on this site or perhaps in the ArcGis 10.2 documentation... ;-)
    – Simon B.
    Jul 10 '14 at 7:55

Quantum GIS from version 2.0 onward can display and also download .osm files. For earlier Quantum GIS versions, one of the OSM plugins should be what you need.

  • if you add the OSM plugin.
    – Ian Turton
    Sep 3 '10 at 19:40
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    2 osm plugins for QGIS, one to view and one to edit the data with. mapperz.blogspot.com/2009/11/…
    – Mapperz
    Sep 3 '10 at 20:10
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    @iant With version 2.0 that is no longer correct. Plugin is now obsolete. Feb 5 '14 at 15:47
  • It is not obsolete, but build-in. And nowadays only for the viewing port.
    – AndreJ
    Jul 10 '14 at 8:41

The free software GRASS GIS has a plugin to import OSM files. I've never used it, just pointing it out.


Maperitive can use .OSM files directly to render maps (you can simply drag and drop it into the application). It also supports .osm.bz2 and .osm.pfb formats.

But as @mattwigway says, you won't be able to consume the whole Planet file (it's huge!). Maperitive currently works with smaller files only, since it has to load all of the data into memory to be able to render the map.

Disclaimer: I'm the author of Maperitive.


If you are in fact using a full Planet.osm file, you'll probably want to load it to a database of some sort; otherwise, drawing maps will be incredibly slow. Then any GIS software that can access that database will be able to access the OSM data.

Also, note that Cloudmade offers OSM data in Shapefile format: http://downloads.cloudmade.com/


You may be interested in looking at the tutorial that I am writing at the moment. Unfortunately it is written for someone running a Mac OS X system but you can get the gist from it and apply it to a windows system. It involves parsing the .osm file into a postgres/postgis database from which your GIS application can query the osm data. From here you would be able to export the data as a shapefile if needed (arcgis user?). Cheers!


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