Would this work as a stack for serving web maps with the basic GIS viewer functionality (pan, zoom, layer switching, info popups)?

  • Apache Web Server
  • Mapnik to serve the geo-data (TileMill to Style the Mapnik data)
  • OpenLayers to display in browser
  • GeoExt or JQuery for added functionality

Do I have that right? Am I missing anything? I've read through a bunch of the threads and other web map info, still not sure exactly where/how Mapnik fits in. It can replace GeoServer/MapServer in a stack?

And TileMill, not sure how the styled map gets added to the server.

Thoughts and advice very much appreciated!

  • 1
    So is Mapnik more about styling your base layers? Not re-rendering the tiles each time someone turns layers on and off? Or would you build out your tiles with every possible combination of layers turned on?
    – user2331
    Mar 14, 2011 at 22:36
  • Hey Zarbo, that is probably something for a comment, rather than an answer. Anyways, I believe that Mapnik helps you style your tiles. It will then render those tiles whenever you ask it to. Usually, this would occur when TileCache (or whatever other caching system you use) asks for a new set of tiles. But this can also happen when a user asks for the tiles.
    – jvangeld
    Mar 14, 2011 at 23:57
  • Thank you. How do I comment? I only see Your Answer box at bottom. Thank you.
    – zarbo
    Mar 15, 2011 at 14:53
  • look for 'add comment' link
    – underdark
    Mar 15, 2011 at 15:14
  • there was a recent blog (5 parts) from the chicago tribune that goes over how some of those different components were used in setting up a web map and serving it out, that may offer some explanations, blog.apps.chicagotribune.com/2011/03/08/making-maps-1
    – SaultDon
    Mar 15, 2011 at 15:57

3 Answers 3


That will work as Mapnik can be configured as a WMS (http://code.google.com/p/mapnik-utils/wiki/WmsInstallGuide) but I think you are supposed to just build out all the tiles in the world and serve them directly to openlayers (assuming that you have enough disk space). See http://openlayers.org/dev/examples/tilecache.html for an example.

  • Cool, I didn't know that Mapnik could serve data.
    – jvangeld
    Mar 15, 2011 at 0:16

In regards to TileMill, you export a map as MBTiles and then can either turn it into flat image files with mbutil that you can put on a web server or S3, or you can use TileStream to serve the MBTiles file dynamically.

Like any tile server, you then use OpenLayers (or Modest Maps, Polymaps, Google Maps) for a Javascript API.


If you plan to use the Mapnik OGCServer then do not use the one located at code.google.com, the code has since been updated and moved to a seperete project located here:


Although the documentation is not the best the service can be deployed in a variety of ways using cgi, modwsgi, pyramid, etc.

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