OS VectorMap District graduates to beta release

opendata2It won’t have escaped the notice of some of you that we’re rapidly approaching the first birthday of OS OpenData (has it really been a whole year?!) So with that in mind, we’re very pleased to be able to announce that OS VectorMap District has graduated from an alpha to a beta release and is now available to download and order.

Consider it an early birthday gift from us, to you.

OS VectorMap District made its debut as part of OS OpenData last year, designed specifically for displaying third part information on the web (like our Blitz map last year), and when in its vector format, as a customisable backdrop map. It was an alpha release and by no means the finished article, so based on your feedback the new beta version boasts new content and a range of improvements.

What’s new?

  • Foreshore – the inter-tidal area has been created as a feature in its own right. This new polygon means you can show the sea up to either high or low tide level. In the alpha release this was just a white space between two lines.
  • Land polygons – a Land feature has been added to cover any land areas that are not a feature in the specification (e.g. farmland). This enables users to alter the colour of this feature.
  • Combined underground/over-ground railway stations – separate feature code created to give greater detail.
  • Places of worship – not in the alpha release, a selection of these now included.
  • A user guide is now available on the product web page.

What’s improved?

  • The detail level is now more consistent. For example, the alpha version had an overly-detailed coastline and simplified buildings.
  • Text improvements, including:
    • River names are now better aligned with their features.
    • Text size now better matches the importance and size of the feature it represents.
    • The placement of text in relation to the feature has also now been improved.
  • Better building depiction that is more detailed than in the alpha release.
  • We’ve also improved the appearance of roads and reduced data volumes by taking out some lines and points.
  • Better generalised coastline, woodland and water features. Features have been simplified and fragmentation of lines reduced, making styling quicker and easier.
  • Sea, foreshore and inland water are now in separate layers, enabling users to display, style or turn these off altogether depending on what you want.
  • We’ve added new content such as leisure centres and police stations.
  • Based on user feedback, the raster data no longer shows the community service symbols (the mortarboard symbol) and non-national boundaries. But these are still available from the vector files if you need them.

Data changes

  • Shapefiles will be supplied in larger tiles (100km x 100km) to speed up loading.
  • The Shapefile structure has changed to a feature-based model. Features now identified by name rather than feature code.
Christchurch in the alpha version.

Christchurch in the alpha version.

Christchurch as it appears in the alpha release.

And now as it appears in the new beta release.

So that’s it – lots of new things to try and to play with. We hope you like them. And, as ever your feedback is important, so if there is anything you don’t like (or do, for that matter,) please let us know so we can make the next release even better.

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9 Responses

  1. Paul Bennett

    It’s looking great — really beautiful in fact, but when will you add paths and tracks?

    I understand the OS claims that the public right of way data isn’t theirs to publish in this format but surely paths (short dashed black lines on Explorer) and tracks? For example, the “Pony Track” up Ben Nevis is missing yet you can make out where it should be because of the zig-zag shaped gaps in the scree.

    These paths would make the maps immensely more useful. Please do all you can to include paths, tracks and PROW in a future release.

    1. Hi Paul, we know this is something people are keen to see, so thank you for your feedback. It’s also good that you like the new look!

  2. Ann

    I agree – it’s a real improvement and it’s much easier to use the vector data in their new form.

    I’d second the call for including footpaths/rights of way and I’d add the need to include field boundaries too. Without these the use of VectorMap District for rural/countryside applications is seriously limited. Rural areas also look white and empty as a result.

    All the best


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  5. Four years on still waiting for footpaths in OS OpenData. I also wonder why in the current VectorMap district, the ‘Land’ polygons are missing. If one is combining with a DEM this obviously distinguishes land below sea level from sea.
    Are these somewhere in another OpenData product?

    1. Hi David

      Apologies for the delay in getting back to you on this one, I somehow missed it. I’ve just checked with my colleagues in the Products team on this one. They tell me that while we continue to support and improve the OS OpenData products, that footpath information is not included within our OS OpenData offerings and at this time there are no intentions to include this in the immediate future.

      Regarding the land polygons, in previous releases of OS VectorMap District the land was supplied as a set of polygons. A new methodology has been developed for applying tint to areas of land, which allows for other countries such as Ireland and France to be easily integrated in the resulting map.

      Full details of the approach can be found in the OS VectorMap District Product Guide located at the following link:

      See here for the product extents polygons:

      Many thanks

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