Ordnance Survey background map – streamed into ArcMap

You can see your own data in ArcMap, now wouldn’t it be good to automatically have an OS map in the background,

like this:

Imagine the background map being streamed directly into ArcGIS, with no data to download and process, and generalization  automatically adapting to your zoom level, just like in Google Maps!

Such a map service is now available, and it is free for UK academic use. The dataset is called OS OpenData, and it is provided to UK academia through Digimap OpenStream, part of the excellent EDINA Digimap services. In technical terms it is an Web Map Service (WMS), compliant with the OCG WMS specifications.

To use this service you need to register for it and get your personal API key on http://openstream.edina.ac.uk

Once you have your API key, launch ArcCatalog and define OpenStream as a data source:

  1. In the catalog tree go to GIS Servers and double click Add WMS Server.
  2. For URL enter:
  3. Click Get Layers to verify that it works. Click OK.
  4. You now have a new data source entry under GIS Servers, called ‘OS OpenData on openstream.edina.ac.uk’

Now add the OpenData data to your ArcMap project:

  1. In ArcMap go to File > Add Data.
  2. Navigate to GIS Servers > OS OpenData on openstream.edina.ac.uk > OS Open Data and click Add.
  3. If you don’t see any map content, expand the OS Open Data layer, right click  any layer and Zoom To Layer. Then zoom to your are of interest.
  4. It always is a good idea to set the coordinate systems to British National Grid.

That’s it!

For further documentation and help see http://openstream.edina.ac.uk

Kudos to EDINA, this really makes work a lot easier for many projects.

Two notes:

  • In the same way you can add any other map service that complies with OGC WMS standards.
  • Digimap OpenStream is an OGC 1.1.1 compliant WMS, so you can  display the OS map not only in ArcMap, but in any compliant WMS client, like ERDAS Imagine, Google Earth, QGIS, your web application,…  For a complete list of compliant clients see the OGC website.

2 thoughts on “Ordnance Survey background map – streamed into ArcMap

  1. Nice article, it’s such a shame it doesn’t apply to the other 90% of the population. Sadly yet again it’s classic ordnance survey mentality.

    The original mapping data was all paid for by the public when OS was a public utility, and now the same public have to pay to look at what they already funded.
    Why they consider academia the only domain ‘worthy’ of accessing it for free speaks volumes about the mindset of OS.

  2. Not quite right, nealb_ar. I think all of the map layers in the edina WMS are OS OpenData products and can be downloaded for free by anyone from the OS web site. However, I’m not aware that anyone is running a free to access WMS with these map layers loaded. It’s exactly what I’m looking for, but I’m struggling.
    Clearly this is because running a web site serving potentially large volumes of data isn’t free….. it’s not the mapping data you end up paying for, but the service to deliver it as a WMS.

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