osmium-file-formats - Man Page

OSM file formats known to Osmium

File Types

OSM uses three types of files for its main data:

Data files

These are the most common files. They contain the OSM data from a specific point in time. This can either be a planet file containing all OSM data or some kind of extract. At most one version of every object (node, way, or relation) is contained in this file. Deleted objects are not in this file. The usual suffix used is .osm.

History files

These files contain not only the current version of an object, but their history, too. So for any object (node, way, or relation) there can be zero or more versions in this file. Deleted objects can also be in this file. The usual suffix used is .osm or .osh. Because sometimes the same suffix is used as for normal data files (.osm) and because there is no clear indicator in the header, it is not always clear what type of file you have in front of you.

Change files

Sometimes called diff files or replication diffs these files contain the changes between one state of the OSM database and another state. Change files can contains several versions of an object and also deleted objects. The usual suffix used is .osc.

All these files have in common that they contain OSM objects (nodes, ways, and relations). History files and change files can contain several versions of the same object and also deleted objects, data files can’t.

Where possible, Osmium commands can handle all file types. For some commands only some file types make sense.


The osmium command line tool supports all major OSM file formats plus some more. These are:

In addition files in all formats except PBF can be compressed using gzip or bzip2. (Add .gz or .bz2 suffixes, respectively.)


Which format a file has is usually autodetected from the file name suffix.

If this doesn’t work, either because you are reading from STDIN or writing to STDOUT, or because you have an unusual file name, you have to set the format manually. You can also set the format manually if you want to specify special format options.

Most osmium commands support the --input-format/-F and --output-format/-f options to set the format. They take a comma-separated list of arguments, the first is the format, further arguments set additional options.

Special Format Options

The following options can be added when writing OSM files:


Enable/disable XML change format. Same as .osc.

force_visible_flag=true/false (default: false)

Force writing of visible flag, even for normal OSM XML files.

pbf_dense_nodes=true/false (default: true)

Enable/disable DenseNodes format for PBF files.

pbf_compression=none/zlib/lz4 (default: zlib)

Set compression type in PBF files. zlib (or true) is the default and almost all files use this. none (or false) disables compression which will make writing files a bit faster, but the resulting files are 2 to 3 times bigger. The lz4 compression is not quite as good as zlib but much faster to compress and decompress, it is currently not supported by most OSM file readers.


Set compression level for PBF. Available values and default depend on the compression type used, see the OSM File Formats Manual for details.

add_metadata=true/false/... (default: true)

Enable/disable writing of object metadata such as changeset id, username, etc. Disabling this will make files a bit smaller. This can also be set to other values, see the OSM File Formats Manual for details.

locations_on_ways=true/false (default: false)

Add node locations to way nodes. (PBF, XML, OPL only.)

use_color=true/false (default: false)

Output with ANSI colors. (DEBUG format only.)

add_crc32=true/false (default: false)

Add CRC32 checksum to all objects. (DEBUG format only.)


Here are some examples:


PBF format.


PBF format, don’t write metadata


XML format, compressed with bzip2.


OSM change file, compressed with gzip.


OSM change file, compressed with gzip.


OSM history file in OPL format.

See Also


If you have any questions or want to report a bug, please go to https://osmcode.org/contact.html


Jochen Topf <jochen@topf.org>.

Referenced By

osmium(1), osmium-add-locations-to-ways(1), osmium-apply-changes(1), osmium-cat(1), osmium-changeset-filter(1), osmium-check-refs(1), osmium-create-locations-index(1), osmium-derive-changes(1), osmium-diff(1), osmium-export(1), osmium-extract(1), osmium-fileinfo(1), osmium-getid(1), osmium-getparents(1), osmium-merge(1), osmium-merge-changes(1), osmium-query-locations-index(1), osmium-removeid(1), osmium-renumber(1), osmium-show(1), osmium-sort(1), osmium-tags-count(1), osmium-tags-filter(1), osmium-time-filter(1).