Comparing Mapbox, OpenLayers and Leaflet
What are these platforms?
Things we all love about these platforms
Of course each platform has its own highlights but before that, we should mention all the great features that these platforms share:
Dynamic styling is the key factor in changing the look of your web GIS. Mapbox, Leaflet and OpenLayers all support dynamic styling. Developers can style layers depending on values of your features.
Mapbox visualizes data beautifully and vectorably. However, it is not so easy to style your layers with Mapbox since you don’t have full control. Check out the Mapbox Style Specification here for more information on how to style your layers.
OpenLayers allows users to style elements using the style function and the style class. It is not as powerful as the Mapbox Style Spec though and developers need to write more code.
Leaflet is a mix between Mapbox and OpenLayers. Users can use a style function along with its core set of featured elements.
Mapbox, OpenLayers and Leaflet all support for integrating images via the tile server. For example satellite images from sentinel data.
Raster data and raster styling
All three libraries support displaying single raster images. You can add many types of image, such as images in GeoTIFF format to your map.
OpenLayers does let developers style raster images within the library. Leaflet lets developers style raster images via plugin while Mapbox doesn’t support in terms of styling raster images.
Option to use your own basemap
All the three libraries support default basemap for users to use right away. OpenLayers and Leaflet use OpenStreetMap as one of their default basemaps. Meanwhile, Mapbox requires users to sign up for an API token to use its default basemap. However, developers can freely use any other basemap than the default.
Mapbox, Leaflet and OpenLayers all well support custom tooltip.
Supported by all of three libraries.
All the libraries do support a geocoder for the user to search for addresses and center on the map. OpenLayers and Leaflet support Geocoder via plugin.
All the three libraries support projection. However, Mapbox only supports mercator projection.
OpenLayers support varied projections via EPGS codes.
Leaflet requires users to use plugin to be able to use projections.
Main differences among three libraries
Open Source Code
OpenLayers and Leaflet are open source, provided under the BSD 2-clause “Simplified” License. Mapbox GL JS is licensed under the 3-Clause BSD license but Mapbox service is not free.
Choice of map provider
OpenLayers and Leaflet allow users to freely choose map provider while Mapbox only support Mercator map provider.
Leaflet is pretty minimalist product with only 140KB in size. Leaflet library is small and possibly expand with plugins but not meant to be a fully fledged web based GIS. OpenLayers is fully ledged mapping library which contains all the required features in the core library, weighing up to 644KB (version 6). Mapbox size is 732KB (version 1.7).
OGC Services (WMS, WFS)
Mapbox supports WMS (Web Mapping Service) and WFS but only vector tiles in GeoJSON format. OpenLayers support very well both WMS and WFS. Leaflet supports integration of OGC Services via plugin.
Above are some significant features of three most popular map platforms: Mapbox, OpenLayers and Leaflet along with their main differences. Hope this article help you gain more knowledge to understand more about these map libraries. At BHSoft, we have very good expertise with all these libraries to ensure the quality of our GIS service.
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