The lack of visibility of Notes really sucks

Notes should be considered vital information for mappers, and should be more visible to contributors, but they’re often ignored/forgotten for years. They’re the only way to get information from and a great way to get leads from people who are not regular OSM contributors.

I do most of my OSM editing on Chicago. I found many notes that had been open since 2016, 2017, 2018… I’ve been working on resolving/closing them, but I also came to wonder why so many are left unseen. Then I noticed the issues.

There are three editors that I consider the “main” editing tools: iD, JOSM, and Potlatch. These are the most prominently featured in the wiki, at least for beginners.

  • iD hides notes at the start of every single session. It will not save your setting, and iD developers do not seem to be interested in changing this. There is a long-ignored pull request that should fix it.
  • JOSM shows notes in downloaded data. Notes will not show up in the Download window’s map, so if you’re looking for notes you need to download a wider region with “OpenStreetMap data” unchecked (“Notes” should already be checked) due to the limit on download size. There is also a plugin, NoteSolver, that can streamline dealing with notes but I have not tried it. (EDIT: Corrected. I misunderstood JOSM and the wiki before.)
  • I have not used Potlatch, and there’s no mention of it on the Notes wiki page. It hasn’t been updated in 2 years so I don’t know if it’s relevant anymore.

These mobile apps are effective:

  • StreetComplete - shows notes with questions, and lets you (optionally) see any notes. You can also post them from the app. You can’t close notes, but you can comment on them / add images.
  • Vespucci shows notes by default. You can comment and/or close/reopen notes. Its unconventional UI/workflow causes a steeper learning curve, but I have respect for how much power is in this little app.

That wiki page linked above also shows a few neat lesser-known options.

  • NotesReview - Shows some number of the world’s latest notes by default, so it may not show any notes in your country until filters are adjusted. Does not include aerial imagery, but lets you view the note in another editor (I can’t get the JOSM link to work). Defaults to a dark theme that is very low-contrast, which seems like an accessibility issue; there’s also a light theme available that seems to have a higher contrast. Lets you comment, or comment & close.
  • Generating an RSS feed - for monitoring a specific area for new notes. May be a bit technical for some people. Not visual. I assume the feed includes links to where you can see the notes, but I haven’t tried it yet.
  • osm-note-viewer - Doesn’t show notes right away, but instead you choose how to find notes in an area or some other method. Interesting approach. I prefer this viewer’s theme to that of NotesReview. Its UI seems less intuitive though. Took a while longer to figure out how to log in and comment (hamburger menu at top left of map; “Interact” at very bottom of left frame. Only tool I’ve seen so far that lets you interact with multiple notes at once with the same comment/action. I’m not sure why I’d want to, but it’s neat.

What about you, do you ever check for notes? What editor do you use the most, and how are notes handled there? Why do notes seem to be such a low priority for OpenStreetMap developers?

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Huh? Are you sure? I did not install such plugin yet Notes work just fine.

But I agree that many users aren’t even aware of Notes; that was my impression after a mapper meetup.

Still, I can see why people may be not enthusiastic; notes mostly contain low quality spam.


That is not true. There has been support for a very long time.


I dont think its a visibility issue. Its a priority issue.

We have a lot of armchair mapping today which is in my guess >80% - So people are not out in the fields that often, especially in the well mapped areas.

OTOH notes typically mean “You need to go there to find out, cant be fixed from @home

Notes which are easy like “This shop is gone” are typically processed quite fast, notes like “There is a hydrant somewhere around this corner” are tricky as someone needs to especially head there.

I personally dont have issues with old notes. I use RSS feeds and an rss2email for notification of new notes or updates in the areas i am interested in.

Sometimes i go on my bike and make a 20 Note ride around town in summer. And then you need to have the courage to close if not beeing able to decide. If I cant find a solution, most likely the average mapper wont be able to find a solution - so close it.

And sometimes i have “tracking notes” like “There is a construction site here - Watch for changes” and then feeding it with updates whenever i see change. For me thats some kind of geographically bound temporal mailinglist anyone can subscribe to.



For notes it does not help that many are low quality.

I think that it is clear that anonymous notes should be disabled due to how many are pointless, wrong or outright abusive. But in recent thread about this only about half of people who described themselves as processing notes thought that anonymous notes should be disabled.


The tool that I use to check for notes is MapComplete but I agree with the overall sentiment that many notes are low quality and if you wanna input good data you gotta verify on-site which makes them not a priority for many mappers


I think you taking them too literally and engaging with trolls did feed the one you were experiencing in Kraków. I can totally see why they got a raise of you scrambling to close with overly verbose explanations.

I consider this kind of notes as quite irritating, it is frustrating to have notes that are effectively unfixable.

(Though fortunately in my local area no active mappers try to use notes in this way)


Oh, it is not only this specific case that convinced me that anonymous waste more time than help, after taking into account getting new mappers.

I admit that likely mass closing/hiding and not bothering with communication would work better in this case. And let mappers what is going on if they would ask.

Well, I hope that some time of DWG hiding notes there will cause them to go away.

(I went with mass closing in some other cases)

So what tool would you consider to hold up communication between multiple mappers for a mid/long term development in a geographical area/spot?

OSM only does give us Notes (Changesets are only for a specific change/point in time) and i consider notes a tool for communication.

Its a geographically bound, temporal mailinglist anyone interested in this can subscribe to.



Slightly OT but isn’t it time the US-community stops promoting something that relies on mappers processing notes (aka making it somebody else’s problem), and suggest something like OSMyBiz


I would use forum thread - especially for long term situation.

For “this construction is expected end by date X” we have dedicated tags.


@RicoElectrico @whb Oops, thanks for the correction. Where the Notes wiki page says “but it requires using special option. For JOSM, there is the plugin NoteSolver” I misunderstood this to mean you can’t edit without the plugin, and I didn’t remember seeing notes in JOSM since I only ever downloaded very small areas. Corrected the post.

Thanks! I hadn’t seen it before. I’ll try it out.

OK, had some issues. Using Firefox:

Once I manage to find the building, though, adding a business seems pretty straightforward.

It will add a note if there’s not a suitable category, though. But 99% of the time this shouldn’t be an issue.

I may be misunderstanding what you’re saying but we use notes locally to record where planning applications have been approved so we know we have to resurvey to check for when new houses/roads whatever have been added, and can close the note when the construction is complete. Similarly I subscribe to the local paper so I can add notes for any public notices about public footpath diversions, or speed limit changes or whatever, so we can go and resurvey to check when the speed limit signs are in place, or the new path route can be surveyed. Another mapper near me irregularly updates a umap somehow showing which notes are due a resurvey (currently it seems to be many of them).

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BTW I am also planning on making a website to redirect to a random open OSM Note which will only show a note again after all open ones have been cycled through, with global and per-country queues. I need to figure out how to update Notes more often than daily because there are no diffs. It is possible to have a global RSS in the API but still, there’s the problem of notes hidden by moderators. Probably will write this in the Christmas break.
Back some time ago, there was per-country stats on the Pascal Neis’ website with user ranking. I presume this could also motivate people to close Notes again.


The difficulties might be related to the instance of Overpass it uses (FF is unlikely to be an issue for many reasons). I would suggest opening issue on the repo so that the folk from OST can weigh in on what might be the problem.

I meant note “road is planned to be build here” or “according to newspaper new office will be built here” that often stay for years with nothing actually happening.

(notes about something reportedly being constructed already make more sense)


My favorite type of note is “there is something wrong here”.


Would it help to be able to toggle anonymous notes on and off separately from notes by people with an OSM account?