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[overpass] Date ranges with Overpass API

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  • From: Roland Olbricht <>
  • To:
  • Cc: Andy Townsend <>, Jochen Topf <>
  • Subject: [overpass] Date ranges with Overpass API
  • Date: Sat, 3 Dec 2016 22:53:38 +0100

Dear all, dear Andy, dear Jochen,

I've completed a public beta for (part of) the next Overpass API release. It features a huge chunk of new query language elements to allow "less" for dates. This should satisfy the request Andy has issued during the SotM-US 2015 for Historic OSM. Jochen has brought up the idea of a unified query language, and I would like to get as universal as possible.

The reason for this public beta is that I would like to have some feedback on the syntax to make it as intuitive as possible. I'm also interested in all kinds of bugs found. Things are not necessarily fast, but that can be fixed later on, I'm now only after syntax changes and functional bugs.

To test against this beta, please use the API endpoint

You can do so in Overpass Turbo by setting "Settings > General > Server" to "//".

A sample query is to search around Birmingham for things created in the 19th century:

way[start_date](if:[start_date]>1800 && [start_date]<1900)({{bbox}});
out center;

The new part is (if:[start_date]>1800 && [start_date]<1900).
This is combined of
- the framing (if:...)
- the logical operator "&&"
- the comparison operators "<" and ">"
- the tag evaluator [...], applied on the tag with key "start_date"

Available logical operators are "||", "&&", and "!".
Available comparison operators are "==", "<", "<=", ">", and ">=".

The comparison is numerical if both values are numerical and as strings otherwise.

One thing I'm not sure for example is what should be recognized as number and what is outside scope. I wanted to search for peaks outside Rome with elevation between 500 and 1000 meters. To cross-check whether all values are numbers I have used this:
This is a function that returns 0 if the value cannot be parsed as number and 1 if it is a number.

It turns out that entries with comma and entries with explicit measurement unit exist. Shall we treat them as first-class numbers or not?

Available functions with one argument are:
- "number" makes a number of its argument
- "is_num" checks whether its argument can be parsed as number
- "date" makes a double representing a date out of its argument
- "is_date" checks whether something can be parsed as date

I have already mentioned "[...]" as operator that takes a key and returns the value of the tag if it exists or the empty string otherwise.
There is a corresponding function "is_tag(...)" that returns 1 if there exists a tag of the key or 0 otherwise.

Finally, you can also count tags and members. Find all ways with more than 1000 members around Birmingham:

And find named objects that do not have any other tag:

There is more to discover. But I would like to get feedback to adjust the syntax where appropriate. For example, if you have suggestions for extra operators (do we need "!=" or bit shifts?), I will try to incorporate them. The only thing I will stick to is the C-like syntax - I'm heading more towards JavaScript to relieve the programmer's mind from learning yet another query language.

I will now wait about two weeks for feedback, write a follow-up with further features in this branch, and in the meantime return to the minor_issues branch to fix open bugs.

Best regards,


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