OSM (OpenStreetMap) is great for making a real time public map for general purposes but what if I want to add private info to a map such as the location and date of my first kiss or a note about every location I posted fliers etc.

I'd like to know how to add private information to OSM.

I have heard that TileMill or OpenLayers are best for this but cannot find a video tutorial on adding private map data to a private layer and being able to back that info up and update it or transfer it to others to edit or update etc...

As I research more I'm seeing that TileMill/Mapbox are what I am looking for.

Which makes no sense. It is expected that OSM has this functionality and what does the name TileMill have to do with OSM or maps at all? I think a lot is lost in new possible community members coming to OSM for this functionality and being totally confused and sent to something called TileMill.

Still haven't found any video tutorials for TileMill/Mapbox or any clear info that these are in fact what I am searching for.

  • The name TileMill has been chosen by MapBox. If you are interested in where this name comes from, then ask the MapBox guys
    – scai
    Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 9:59

4 Answers 4


For a simple way to add markers on top of an OSM based map: uMap

This lets you add markers, or draw lines or areas on the map. You can import data from a GPX, KML, or GeoJSON file etc. It has a number of different tile layers to choose for the background map.

You can share a link to the map if you want, or embed it another webpage. By default, any maps created on uMap are public, but you can set them as private if you want. You can export all of the data to a GeoJSON file, so you could back up that.

  • Thanks for posting this, I had no idea Umap existed and it was exactly what I needed
    – Pyroglyph
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 20:10
  • 1
    Note that uMap is open source, and there are a number of instances. uMap also allows you to specify a layer's data by providing a URL. If that URL points to an application that data can be kept up to date.
    – febeling
    Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 11:35

That depends on what you want to achieve.

How to render your own tiles is described on switch2osm. This step is only necessary if you want to change the style of the tiles. TileMill is another approach for rendering your own tiles, among many many others.

If you are instead just interested in adding a custom overlay, then go for Leaflet or OpenLayers. These libraries allow you to add markers, photos, polygons, popups, GPX/KML/... tracks and similar things on top of already existing tiles.

  • Thanks for all your help @scai. Mapbox with tilemill is what i was looking for . extremely simple to use without having to read any instruction manuals. Plus all my layers/tiles/edits are backed up in a cloud without any thought on my part. Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 13:15

If I understand correctly what you are looking for is something a bit like what is possible using Google Maps with its user added markers and lines. The reason that Google can do this is that they offer a service costing lots of money - but paid for by advertisers.

OSM is different. There are disadvantages - and advantages. The fact that it's a lot harder to do what you want is a disadvantage. The fact that once you get things sorted your data about your first kiss can be held by you (not uploaded to Google) is an advantage.

My first suggestion would be that you take note that OSM thinks of itself as a database of geographical information, not a service as such. What you should do is to see if any of the huge number of OSM based services offer what you want. See here. So I know that this is much less convenient than Google's offering, but remember this is a very different system you are dealing with.

My next suggestion would be that you explore the functionality offered by Leaflet. Follow through the tutorials. What you can do is to set yourself up a very simple very basic webpage (if you're unfamiliar with this you'll need to sort this out first). Note that this webpage does not actually need to be on the internet! You can store it on your own computer. Into this webpage you can insert a map using the Leaflet tutorials - and then markers using the same system.

If you need more than a few markers (etc) then you'll also need an efficient way to produce the geographic data. You'll quite likely want to produce geojson files with your data in them. QGIS with the openlayers plugin (for display of OSM map) may help you do this.

This will be quite a puzzle - but if you get the whole thing working you'll be in a much more powerful position in regard to your data and the maps than you would be using alternative systems.


Mapbox is the answer to my question along with this nice tutorial:

Download TileMill from here to create your own layers to work with your MapBox projects.


Don't forget to sign up for http://mapbox.com to use their web app and make your own private maps

  • Your question is way to broad to give such a specific answer.
    – scai
    Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 8:12
  • Well i don't disagree with you about that. I think that a lot of people posting similar questions to mine are actually looking for this answer. We expect that OSM has this functionality. I am still very disappointed that it does not and i have to use mapbox to get the job done. Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 13:24
  • The OSM project is mainly about collecting and distributing free geographic data. This geographic data can in turn be used to create arbitrary maps and overlay on top of them. But this is not OSM's main goal, so it is left for others (like MapBox). There is no reason to be disappointed about OSM. Without OSM MapBox probably wouldn't be what it is today.
    – scai
    Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 14:27

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