AngularJS and OpenLayers: creating a scale bar module


We’ve recently released a new product called mapTrunk. The app is built using the open source libraries AngularJS and OpenLayers 3 (among many others!). As part of our development efforts we looked into creating reusable modules. This blog post offers a high level introduction to AngularJS and OpenLayers 3 and shows how they can work together to create a reusable map scale bar module example.


AngularJS and OpenLayers 3

AngularJS is an open source JavaScript framework for creating web apps. It provides tools for making apps modular. AngularJS handles binding data which means the view (HTML) automatically updates when the model (JavaScript) updates. Other benefits of AngularJS include form validation in the browser, the ease of wiring an app up to a backend and the testability of the code. AngularJS also lets you extend the syntax of HTML and inject components into your HTML. This feature comes in handy when creating the scale bar module.

OpenLayers 3 is an open source mapping library. It provides tools for adding dynamic maps to an app. Commonly used mapping controls provided by OpenLayers include zooming in/out control, a mouse position control and a scale bar control.

The following example shows how to create a basic map with OpenLayers and AngularJS. The result is a map and a button to recenter the map. It also shows the user how many times they have centred the map.


Firstly we need to include the AngularJS and OpenLayers 3 libraries, add a div for the map and add a button. We also need to include the Angular app called “app”, which is created in JavaScript.

<html ng-app="app">
    <link rel="stylesheet" href=""/>
    <a href=""></a>
    <a href=""></a>
    <a href="http://main.controller.js">http://main.controller.js</a>
<body ng-controller="mainController as main">
    <div id="map"></div>
    <button ng-click="main.centerMap()">Button</button>
    <div>You have centered the map on coordinate [0,0] {{main.counter}} times.</div>
</body> </html>


Here we create our own Angular controller; mainController, which initialises the map and contains the function which is called on clicking the button, updating the counter.

var app = angular.module('app', []);

(function () {

    'use strict';

     * The main Angular controller which initialises the mapping
        .controller('mainController', [mainController]);

    function mainControllerblockquote {
        var vm = this;
        vm.counter = 0; = new ol.Map({
            layers: [
                new ol.layer.Tile({
                    source: new ol.source.OSM()
            target: 'map',
            view: new ol.View({
                center: [0, 0],
                zoom: 2
        vm.centerMap = function () {
  [0, 0]);

Creating the scale bar module

The OpenLayers library already has a scale bar module called ‘scale line’ built-in. An example can be found here. One of the requirements for mapTrunk was to create a scale line that can display distances in two units at the same time, metric and imperial.

To create a reusable module we can create a custom Angular directive. Angular directives basically let us create our own HTML syntax and inject components by using that HTML syntax. It makes the HTML code easier to read and hides the complexity of the component. In this blog we’re not going to go into the details of Angular directives so please see AngularJS’s documentation on directives for a full explanation.

First we need to create the Angular directive and decide what the HTML syntax is going to be. In the code snippet below we called the directive scaleLineControl. This translates into the HTML tag . The directive needs to have access to an OpenLayers map object to be able to add a scale line control to the map. The map object can be passed into the directive by adding it as a property to the HTML ‘map=””‘. The OpenLayers scale line control needs a HTML target ID so this ID can be given to the HTML directive as well. The scale line control is added to the OpenLayers map object by using the addControl function. The units of the first control are specified as metric. To create a scale line module which also shows imperial measurements, a second scale line control is added to the map with imperial units. OpenLayers takes care of listening out for changes on the map and updates the controls accordingly. Now we should see two scale lines on the map, but they are positioned on top of each other so we need some CSS to fix this.

(function () {

'use strict';

 * @fileoverview This file provides a scaleLineDirective. 
 * It add a scaleLine showing both metric and imperial units. 
 * CSS is needed to display the elements nicely
 * Example usage:

        .directive('scaleLineControl', scaleLineDirective);

    function scaleLineDirective() {
        return {
            restrict: 'E',
            link: function(scope, element, attributes) {
                var attr = 'map';
                var prop = attributes[attr];
                var map = scope.$eval(prop);
                var scaleLineControl = new ol.control.ScaleLine({
                    target: 'scale-line-container',
                    className: 'scale-line-top',
                    minWidth: 100,
                    units: 'metric'

                var scaleLineControl2 = new ol.control.ScaleLine({
                    target: 'scale-line-container',
                    className: 'scale-line-bottom',
                    minWidth: 100,
                    units: 'imperial'

Making it look good!

We can specify the CSS class names when creating the OpenLayers scale line controls. By doing so we can customise the default look of the scale line controls. Here we have added the class ‘scale-line-top’ to the metric control and ‘scale-line-bottom’ to the imperial control.

#map {
    width: auto;
    height: 100%;
    position: relative;
    overflow: hidden;

#scale-line-container {
    border-radius: 2px;
    background: white none repeat scroll 0 0;
    bottom: 8px;
    left: 8px;
    font-size: 10px;
    position: absolute;
    z-index: 1000;
    padding: 5px;
    text-align: center;

.scale-line-top-inner {
    border-style: none solid solid solid;
    border-width: medium 2px 2px 2px;

.scale-line-bottom-inner {
    border-style: solid solid none;
    border-width: 2px 2px medium;
    margin-top: -2px;


The result is an Angular directive which can be injected into HTML and easily be used in other applications.


For a full working example, see this Plnkr.

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