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Building interactive maps with statically generated vector tiles


This put up aims to be a impartial right records to pre-assemble and lend a hand vector tiles
as static resources for interactive maps with out the want for a exact server or a third-celebration carrier.

At the same time as you’re in a run or you’d rather study by example, right here’s
the availability code for a
demo project that implements the entirety explained
right here.


  1. Assess if serving static tiles is correct for you
  2. Get and fetch records
  3. Convert your records to GeoJSON
  4. Establish static tiles
  5. Add indispensable metadata
  6. Add kinds
  7. Host the tiles
  8. Use your tiles

Assess if serving static tiles is correct for you

Statically generated sigh (handle this blog) comes with advantages each and each in
prices, resources, and security:

  • Efficiency: no server-aspect processing nor databases
  • Web web hosting: uncomplicated setup and zero to non-upkeep
  • Security: no server-aspect language factors to milk and no database to hack

Alternatively, pre-generating tiles also has barriers:

  • That you just would maybe’t generate records on the flit in step with person input.
  • Static tiles are higher high-quality to maps that don’t swap typically, re-generating
    a wide desire of tiles recurrently can also be a waste of time and resources.
  • That you just might additionally want to put aside restrictions on the scales that an particular person can take
    (zoomed layers can generate a wide desire of tiles)

Serving static sigh works in a impartial correct amount of instances, however is now not well
high-quality to everyone, and earlier than bright ahead it’s rate asking the request: will
it be just right for you?

Get and fetch records

At the same time as you know what you’ve to level to within the scheme, however you don’t contain the records
but, the following step is discovering a right records provide.

A web search is your most attention-grabbing ally, however right here’s an incomplete
checklist of sources with a wealth of records:

Ahead of utilizing the records, please build certain that to comply to the phrases of use and
attributions of each and each provide.

Convert your records to GeoJSON

There are varied codecs to store Geographic records records however the tool
you’re going to use within the following step requires the input records to be within the GeoJSON

To convert the records to GeoJSON you would maybe well maybe also use any online carrier or tool
of your desire.

GDAL (ogr2ogr) is my tool of desire because it enables you to
convert almost between any layout you would maybe well fetch within the wild. If you’ve
do in it, changing the records is a subject of working:

ogr2ogr -f GeoJSON provide.geojson provide.shp

Establish static tiles

tippecanoe is a characterize line application that enables you to
generate vector tiles from GeoJSON files, it’s able to generating:

  • A single .mbtiles file (oversimplifying, mediate of tiles saved in a SQLite
  • A folder hierarchy that comprises {z}/{x}/{y}.pbf files with the tiles, the put aside
    z is the zoom level and (x, y) the coordinate of the tile.

The file hierarchy is convenient to lend a hand static tiles because customers recurrently use URL constructions within the form of to request tiles.

The premise is roughly as follows:

  1. Generate an .mbtiles file for each and each layer of records that you should level to.
    At this stage, you would maybe well maybe also alter the situation and visibility of this deposit at
    varied zoom levels.
  2. Combine the .mbtiles files and generate the file hierarchy we described
    above utilizing the tile-join characterize (included when you install tippecanoe)
# Generate a .mbtiles file for each and each layer you should level to
# this reveals countries at low zoom levels however states at better zoom levels: 
tippecanoe --exclude-all -z3 -o countries-z3.mbtiles --coalesce-densest-as-indispensable countries.geojson
tippecanoe -zg -Z4 -o states-Z4.mbtiles --coalesce-densest-as-indispensable --lengthen-zooms-if-mute-shedding states.geojson

# Be half of the generated files and Dangle a nested checklist of tiles
tile-join -e tiles countries-z3.mbtiles states-Z4.mbtiles

Don’t let the flags threaten you, tippecanoe‘s README comprises a
cookbook with examples, probability is you would maybe well fetch
one thing precious there.

This step will fluctuate from project to project searching on what records you
want to level to.

Add indispensable metadata

Along with the tiles, tippecanoe generates a metadata.json with
records about the tiles and the layers frail to generate them.

The client sharp the tiles uses this file later on, however for it to be usable
you’ve to manufacture some cleanup:

  1. Space the URL by which you’re going to host your tiles.
  2. Convert the string fee of the vector_layers key into JSON.
  3. Delete the json property.

That you just would maybe manufacture this manually, or with a bit of of glue code, right here’s a bit of of
JavaScript, be at liberty to borrow, alter and use it:

const metadata = require("./tiles/metadata.json");
const { writeFileSync, copyFileSync } = require("fs");

// build a backup of the records in case one thing goes negative
copyFileSync("./tiles/metadata.json", "./tiles/metadata.backup.json");

// convert the `vector_layers` key from a string to JSON
metadata.vector_layers = JSON.parse(metadata.json).vector_layers;

// Space the tiles key
metadata.tiles = ["{z}/{x}/{y}.pbf"];

// Take away the `json` key to forestall errors
delete metadata.json;

// Write the updated file
writeFileSync("./tiles/metadata.json", JSON.stringify(metadata));

Host the tiles

Deciding on the put aside to host the tiles is fully as a lot as you, as this might increasingly depend upon
your infrastructure, however listed below are some suggestions:

  • tippecanoe exports gzipped .pbf files by default, build certain that to living the Declare material-Encoding: gzip header or to generate uncompressed tiles by adding the flag --no-tile-compression
  • Fabricate determined to add the metadata.json file within the foundation of the tiles

Add kinds

From the MapBox documentation:

A Mapbox style is a doc that defines the visible appearance of a scheme: what
records to arrangement, the expose heart’s contents to arrangement it in, and simple the system to style the records when drawing
it. A mode doc is a JSON object with issue root level and nested
properties. This specification defines and describes these properties.

It’s indispensable to specialise in that no topic what the notice ‘kinds’ can also imply,
this JSON doc also signifies what records to arrangement.

At the same time as you should delivery from scratch to withhold things gentle, right here is
improper template you would maybe well maybe also use:

  "model":  8,
  "title":  "Your Theme",
  "sources":  {
    "tiles":  {
      "form":  "vector",
      "url":  ""
  "layers":  [
      "id": "country-fills",
      "source": "tiles",
      "source-layer": "countries",
      "type": "fill",
      "paint": {
        "fill-color": "#E6ECF2"

Key aspects to conceal:

  • A vector provide named tiles with the URL web web hosting the generated vector
    tiles aspects to the metadata.json file.
  • The level to of a total lot of layers is managed via the layers

The style doc can also be as complex or as uncomplicated as your application wants, and
can consist of expressions to compute the fee for
varied attributes.

Use your tiles

The final step of the puzzle is to luxuriate in your vector tiles with a shopper
library, from plugins for the well-liked Leaflet, to native customers.

The oldsters at MapBox withhold an updated checklist at

Whatever you interact out will depend upon your wants, however impartial so you’ve a
reference, sharp the generated tiles utilizing mapbox-gl-js is as uncomplicated as
offering a link to your styles when instantiating a brand new scheme:

new Mapbox({
  container:  "scheme",
  style:  "",


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