in Libraries

Generating offline maps for iOS applications


Recently, I had to implement an offline mapping solution for an iOS application. Here’s a walkthrough of how to do it.


I generated a tile database using TileMill. I used the Route-Me iOS library which provides a map view that supports offline tile sources.


Actually, generation of the tile database was the more time consuming part of the task, especially since I had not worked with maps before. Here’s a run down of what it took. TileMill will help you style maps.

Getting started, I installed the application and tried to use built-in features to style the map. I quickly realized I would need to import some data sources to get the map I wanted.

After more research, I found this project called OSM Bright by the company that produces TileMill, MapBox. I used the OSM Bright Mac OS X Quickstart to set everything up. The script that follows runs through most of the steps required in the Quickstart.

Database setup

Install GDAL complete, which is a prereq.

wget //
hdiutil attach GDAL_Complete-1.9.dmg
open "/Volumes/GDAL Complete/GDAL Complete.pkg"

<h1>Complete installation manually</h1>

Now, we’ll setup Postgres and the PostGIS extension.

    brew install postgresql
    # libpng is a dependency of gdal, which is a dependency of postgis
    brew install libpng &amp;&amp; brew link -f libpng
    brew install postgis
    # initialize database
    initdb /usr/local/var/postgres -E utf8
    createdb <code>whoami</code> # creates a db for your username. For some reason initdb didn't do this for me and I was getting login issues without this existing.
    # make sure <code>which psql</code> = /usr/local/bin/psql
    pg_ctl -D /usr/local/var/postgres -l /usr/local/var/postgres/server.log start
    psql -c &quot;create database osm;&quot;
    psql -d osm -c &quot;create extension postgis;&quot;

osm2pgsql Tool setup

Now, we’ll setup the osm2pgsql tool which is used to load Open Street Map data into a Postgres database.

    # although there is a homebrew formula available, it did not seem to work on Mountain Lion
    # brew install --HEAD osm2pgsql
    wget //
    hdiutil attach r26782.dmg
    open /Volumes/osm2pgsql-r26782M/osm2pgsql-r26782M.pkg
    # Go through the installation instructions

OSM data

We’re done setting up our database that will store Open Street Map data. Now, let’s download the data we’ll need. It’s OSM data for the Philadelpha Metro area in PBF format.

    # download relevant data from //
    wget //

And then we import it into the database.

    osm2pgsql -c -G -d osm -S /usr/local/share/osm2pgsql/ philadelphia.osm.pbf

Creating the TileMill project

Now, we can use the OSM Bright project to create a new TileMill project.

    git clone git://
    cd osm-bright
    vim # edit and add your postgres settings

This will create a new project in your TileMill projects directory, which is probably ~/Documents/MapBox/project/. The directory name will be whatever was specified in

Exporting mbtiles from TileMill

Open TileMill and select your project. If you didn’t change the name in, it will be called OSM Bright.

  • Edit the Project Settings by clicking the wrench icon at the top right. Zoom in on Philadelphia and change the Center location and Bounds using the interface.
  • Click save.
  • Click the Export Menu and select MBTiles. Select a zoom range. The higher the range you use, the larger your database will be. I though ranges between 13 and 18 worked best for my purposes. Save the mbtiles file with a name like Philadelphia.mbtiles.
  • The export will be queued and put in ~/Documents/MapBox/export/ when complete.

XCode Development

Project setup

Once you have created a new iOS application, we will setup the Route-Me MapView as a subproject. Below, the Header Search Paths and Link Binaries are the most important steps.

  • Clone the Route-Me repo into a vendor directory inside your project. (This is the convention I used, and I’m not sure if it is the best) git clone vendor/route-me
  • Add the vendor/route-me/MapView/MapView.xcodeproj into your project.
  • In your Project Settings, click the application target > Build Settings > Enter “Header” into the Search Box, and add vendor/route-me/MapView/Map to the **Header Search Paths* key
  • Build Settings > Under Other Linker Flags > Add -all_load -ObjC
  • Go to Build Phases > Target Dependencies > Click +, Choose MapView > MapView
  • Go to Build Phases > Link Binaries > For each of the following libraries, Click +, select the binary, and then click the Add button.
    • libMapView.a
    • libsqlite3.dylib
    • CoreLocation.framework
    • QuartzCore.framework
  • Add the Philadelphia.mbtiles file you created before to the project.


Go to your storyboard or nib and add a subview to your primary view. Give it the class RMMapView. Add outlets to your UIViewController for this map view. Make sure to wire the outlets up in Interface Builder as well.

    // In your header file
    #import &lt;UIKit/UIKit.h&gt;
    @class RMMapView;

@interface MyViewController : UIViewController  {
    IBOutlet RMMapView *mapView;

@property (nonatomic, strong) IBOutlet RMMapView *mapView;

    // In your implementation file

#import &amp;quot;RMMapView.h&amp;quot;

// ...

@implementation MyViewController
@synthesize mapView;

// ...

Set the map’s center point, default zoom level, and min and max zoom. The min zoom should match the one you specified when you exported the mbtiles file from TileMill.

    // In your implementation file
    - (void)viewDidLoad {
       // ...
       mapView.contents.minZoom = 15.f;
       mapView.contents.maxZoom = 17.f;
       mapView.contents.zoom = 16.5;
       [mapView.contents moveToLatLong: CLLocationCoordinate2DMake(39.949721,-75.150261)];
       // ...

Run the app and you should see everything load. The map is loading live from //

Set the tile source to use an offline source instead.

    // In your implementation file

#import &amp;quot;RMMBTilesTileSource.h&amp;quot; // Add this header

- (void)viewDidLoad {
   // ...

   mapView.contents.minZoom = 15.f;
   mapView.contents.maxZoom = 17.f;
   mapView.contents.zoom = 16.5;

   // the tile source *MUST* be set after min and max zoom
   NSURL *tileSetURL = [[NSBundle mainBundle]
   mapView.contents.tileSource = [[RMMBTilesTileSource alloc] initWithTileSetURL: tileSetURL];

   [mapView.contents moveToLatLong: CLLocationCoordinate2DMake(39.949721,-75.150261)];
   // ...


There you have it! You should have a map view displaying an offline-accessible view of Philadelphia. Route-Me is a great library which allows you to do other things like add paths and markers. If you had problems with any part of this, please let me know. An example project is provided at Github. It uses a tile database I generated myself using the instructions above.