Map Builder: Edinburgh

Map Builder is a customised open source mashup framework for working with maps and data. As well as working with historic maps you can analyse details such as distance, area and altitude as well as generating elevation profiles.

The following example is centred on Edinburgh and incorporates many of the map and data layers developed as part of the VUG project. For information on customising and saving Map Builder for your own purposes see the Customise section.

An introduction to the environment

The following guide introduces the main menus and features of the environment.

The left side "Menu Bar"

The Menu bar is an accordion menu made up of three panels: Layers; Toolbox; and Bookmarks. To open a panel click on the "+" icon. Only one panel can be open at a time.

1. Layers

The layers panel lists your current map and data layers. View layers on the map by ticking the checkbox – and clear them by unchecking the box.

To remove a layer right-click (PC) or control-click (mac) on the layer name to reveal the layer context menu. Click on Remove.

To change the transparency of a layer select Layer Options from the layer context menu. Move the slider to a value between 0 and 10 (0 being fully transparent) and click Apply Settings. Note: transparency cannot be set for KML/GeoRSS (data) layers.

2. Toolbox

The toolbox contains useful tools for searching and interacting with the map. See Toolbox in more detail.


Click on a bookmark name to centre and zoom the map to a predefined area.

To add a bookmark refer to number 8.

To remove a bookmark from the list right-click (PC) or control-click (mac) on the layer name to reveal the layer context menu. Click on Remove.

The top menu

4. Zoom In / Zoom Out

These are drag zoom controls and operate differently from the zoom controls on the map itself. To zoom in or out click the appropriate button and then drag to select the area of map you want to zoom to.

5. Full Extent

Click this to return the map to its original location and zoom.

6. Map Addresses

This allows you to find the locations of multiple addresses – a process called batch geocoding. The easiest way to do this is to prepare your address data in a spreadsheet and copy and paste in to the Input field. See Map Addresses in more detail.

7. Measure

This allows you to measure distance and area. Additionally you can reveal an elevation profile for the line or polygon you have drawn. See Measure in more detail.

8. Bookmark

Bookmarks the current map location and zoom. Give the bookmark a name, click OK, and it will be added to the Bookmarks list.

9. Add Data

Add a Static Tile Map Service (zoomable raster map) or KML/GeoRSS (data) layer to the Layers panel. See Add Data in more detail.

10. Base Maps

Changes the map over which the Layers can be viewed. Choose from Google; Live Earth; Open Street Map; OS Open Data (Edinburgh area only); or blank (no base map).

11. Street View

Open a Google Street View window. This is only active at certain zoom level and when there is a Street View data available for the location you are currently centred on.

12. Options

Configure the Mashup. Choose from various Google Maps Options. There are also details and credits about the ExtMap environment in About MESH Mapping Tool.

Toolbox in more detail

Double click on a tool name in the Toolbox to open or activate it.

Find Address (Geocoding)

This tool opens in a window and uses the Google Maps API geocoder. Note: we cannot guarantee that any results are accurate so please use this tool as a guide and try to verify where possible.

The process of finding a location from an address is called geocoding. Enter the address you would like to find in the Address field and click Find Address.

A grid will appear with the full address as return by the geocoder. Click on the grid entry and a marker will appear on the map where the geocoder thinks the address is.

Some addresses may return multiple entries, especially where you have not entered specific enough information. All addresses returned by the geocoder will be listed in the grid. Click on grid entries to see locations on the map.

Reverse Geocoding

Double clicking this tool enables it. Once enabled it will return the street address (or nearest street address) for any point you click on the map.

To disable Reverse Geocoding double click on the tool in the Toolbox panel.

Get Altitude

Double clicking this tool enables it. Once enabled it will return the altitude, as well as latitude and longitude, for any point you click on the map.

To disable Get Altitude double click on the tool in the Toolbox panel.

Go to XY

This tool opens in a window.

If you know the latitude and longitude of a location enter it here and the map will be centred on that location.

Search AddressHistory

This tool opens in a window.

Addressing History ( is a JISC funded project developed and hosted by EDINA at the University of Edinburgh. The project holds rough geographic locations and entries from three sets of Edinburgh Post Office Directories.

Search AddressHistory enables you to search the Addressing History database via its API, overlay the results on your map and add it to the Layers panel.

Enter your search criteria into the fields in the top half of the search window. Click Find P.O. Entries to search the database.

After a few moments any results will appear in the Results grid. If there are no matching entries then No records will appear in the results grid. Clicking on a grid entry will centre the map on the point and an information balloon will appear.

If you would like to add these results to the Layers panel click Add as layer. The layer will be named with the search criteria you used.

Map Addresses in more detail

The Map Addresses tool enables you to geocode many addresses at once.

The easiest way to do this is to prepare your address data in a spreadsheet and copy and paste in to the Input field.

Input type: does the data have a column title row? If not then the input type is Raw list and if there are headers then it's Tabular. The tool will try to automatically detect whether the data you have pasted in has column titles or not.

Source: choose between the geocoding datasets provided by the Yahoo! and Google APIs. Note: precision of address on a 1 to 8 scale is only available from Google.

Colour: choose a colour for the place markers.

Calculate distance from first point: If you check this box then a straight line distance from the first address in the list will be calculated for each subsequent address.

Include extra fields in output (precision, city, country, etc.): This is only available from the Google API. Precision can be useful as an indication of how accurate the geocoder thinks the result is.

Once you have selected the options you require click Start geocoding. As results are returned you will see them appear on the map.

Once all the results have been gathered they will be listed in the Geocoded Results grid and you will see all the points on the map.

If you would like to retain the results in Google Earth (KML) format click on Save as KML. A KML file will be downloaded to your local computer.

Measure in more details

The measure tool enables you to measure lengths and areas of the map. Select the line button to measure length and the polygon tool to measure area.

The cursor will appear as an X will in measure mode. Click to add points. To end the measurement double click. An entry will appear in the Measure Tool window entitled Shape (for area) or Line (for length).

Click Show elevation to see an elevation profile of the line or polygon. The elevation profile will appear in a separate window.

Add Data in more detail

The Add Data tool enables you to add maps and data to the Layers panel to be overlaid on the map. Supported formats are Static Tile Map Service for zoomable maps (Map Tiler format) or KML/GeoRSS for data.

Enter a Service Name – this is the layer title that will appear in the Layers panel. Select the Service Type from the drop down list and enter the URL of the map or data.