Leaflet example with WFS-T

This article is supposed to be No. 15 in the Japanese FOSS4G Advent Calendar 2012 and it's probably the first and last one in English for this year. First I wanted to build pgRouting Ubuntu packages and write about it, but then I saw the other great blog posts and decided to change the topic.

Recently several customers asked me, if it would be possible to use Leaflet instead of OpenLayers. For a simple map obviously that's no problem and quite easy task, but what if you need more than OpenStreetMap, a WMS overlay and a few dozen markers?

Leaflet example with WFS-T

The mission

So I tried to create a simple example with the following goals:

  • Simple fullscreen map with Leaflet
  • Drag and drop markers on the map
  • Write to the database with WFS-T right away
  • Plain HTML, Javascript and CSS (no server-side application except database and Geoserver)
  • A Christmas Tree icon
  • Quick, short and simple (maybe failed ;-)

If you have no time to read the whole article, the source code is hosted on Github and a demo exists, too.


The primary goal was to not spend much time. OpenLayers supports so many data formats and map layers, so it's easy to build a browser map application in a relatively short time.

But the browser application is just one part. To be able to store data with WFS you need to install and configure Geoserver and PostgreSQL with PostGIS.

PostgreSQL with PostGIS

This is a rather simple task. Create a database and then a table to store point data:

\c mydb

CREATE TABLE wfsdemo.points
  id serial NOT NULL,
  class text,
  ip text,
  pid text NOT NULL,
  created timestamp without time zone DEFAULT now(),
  the_geom geometry(Point,4326),
  CONSTRAINT points_pkey PRIMARY KEY (id ),
  CONSTRAINT points_pid_key UNIQUE (pid )
CREATE INDEX idx_wfsdemo_points_the_geom ON wfsdemo.points USING gist (the_geom);
CREATE INDEX idx_wfsdemo_points_ip ON wfsdemo.points USING btree (ip);

Because Geoserver's WFS doesn't support to insert empty attributes and use default values (instead it inserts NULL), the following workaround is necessary to automatically insert the current timestamp now():

CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION wfsdemo.points_default_timestamp()
  RETURNS trigger AS
    IF NEW.created IS NULL THEN
      NEW.created := now();
    END IF;
  COST 100;
ALTER FUNCTION wfsdemo.points_default_timestamp()
  OWNER TO postgres;

CREATE TRIGGER points_trigger_default_timestamp
  ON wfsdemo.points
  EXECUTE PROCEDURE wfsdemo.points_default_timestamp();


Configuration of Geoserver is done through the browser interface:

  • Create a Workspace (WFS: namespace).
  • Create a PostGIS Store that connects to the database and schema.
  • Publish a Layer of the wfsdemo.points table
  • Enable WFS

Note: Because of the browser "same origin policy" it's usally necessary to either use a proxy or run the HTML page as well as Geoserver with the same domain name and port number.

The Tree Map

After Geoserver and PostgreSQL are setup, finally we can start with the map. I'm using the following Javascript libraries:

<!DOCTYPE html >
	<title>Tree Map</title>
	<meta charset="utf-8" />

	<link rel="stylesheet" href="http://cdn.leafletjs.com/leaflet-0.4.5/leaflet.css" />
	<!--[if lte IE 8]>
	    <link rel="stylesheet" href="http://cdn.leafletjs.com/leaflet-0.4.5/leaflet.ie.css" />
	<link rel="stylesheet" href="http://code.jquery.com/ui/1.9.2/themes/base/jquery-ui.css" />

		<!-- CSS styles -->
	<div id="map"></div>
	<div id="box">Drag Marker on the map:
		<span class="poi-type"><img class="drag" type="tree" src="icons/tree_green.png" alt="TREE: green" />Tree</span>
		<span class="poi-type"><img class="drag" type="red" src="icons/poi_red.png" alt="POI: red" />Red</span>
		<span class="poi-type"><img class="drag" type="black" src="icons/poi_black.png" alt="POI: black" />Black</span>

	<script src="http://cdn.leafletjs.com/leaflet-0.4.5/leaflet.js"></script>
	<script src="http://code.jquery.com/jquery-1.8.3.min.js"></script>
	<script src="http://code.jquery.com/ui/1.9.2/jquery-ui.js"></script>

		// Javascript


To create a fullscreen map view with a floating panel on the top right corner, the following CSS works:

* { padding: 0; margin: 0; }
body,html { height: 100%; }
#map { width: 100%; height: 100%; min-height: 100%; }
* html #map { height: 100%; }
#box { position: absolute;  top: 10px; right: 10px;
	background-color: white; padding: 10px; z-index: 1000; }
#box img { margin-left: 20px; margin-right: 5px; cursor: pointer; }


The Noun Project has lots of good looking vector icons and I could find a Christmas Treet released under Public Domain license. With Inkscape it's not difficult to create an icon and a shadow image in a specific size:

With Leaflet markers can be configured easily:

var poiIcon = L.Icon.extend({
    options: {
        iconSize: [22,32],
        iconAnchor: [-20,0],
        shadowUrl: 'icons/poi_shadow.png',
        shadowSize: [22,13],
        shadowAnchor: [-31,-19],
        popupAnchor: [32,-2]

var blackIcon = new poiIcon({iconUrl:'icons/poi_black.png'});
var redIcon   = new poiIcon({iconUrl:'icons/poi_red.png'});
var treeIcon  = new poiIcon({iconUrl:'icons/tree_green.png',shadowUrl:'icons/tree_shadow.png'});

Drag and Drop

jQuery UI provides the right tools to implement drag and drop of markers into the map:

	helper: 'clone',
	containment: 'map',
	start: function(evt, ui) {
		$('#box').fadeTo('fast', 0.6, function() {});
	stop: function(evt, ui) {
		$('#box').fadeTo('fast', 1.0, function() {});

		// INSERT Point

Insert Marker

Then to insert a marker and append a Popup Leaflet also provides all you need:

var options = {
	pid: guid(),
	type: ui.helper.attr('type'),
	icon: eval(ui.helper.attr('type') + 'Icon'),
	draggable: true

var point = L.marker(position,options).addTo(map);
	'<a onClick="deletePoint(\'' + point.options.pid
		+ '\');" href="#">Remove Me!</a>',
		closeButton: false

point.on('dragend', function(evt){


Until here everything is easy with Leaflet. The (rather small) API documentation and a few Tutorials explain all you need for creating a simple map.

WFS-T from scratch

With WFS the excercise begins, because Leaflet doesn't provide specific help with WFS layers. It is the task that takes most of the time, because OpenLayers does such a good job in making a developer's life easy, that you can work with WFS for many years without digging much into details of the WFS standard.

With Leaflet you have to do it yourself! Once you learned about the obstacles and how it works, it's not too difficult. And it's propably a good excerise as well. But it's not fast and with OpenLayers you would save a lot of time.

There are probably various ways to write this better (and shorter), but that you don't need to start from scratch, here the result which worked for me:


To explain about all details here would make this article too long. You can find the full source code of this sample map on Github. Or just try the demo application:

  • Drag markers from the panel to the map
  • Move markers on the map
  • Open marker popups and remove them from the map

All actions send a prompt WFS request, so changes are written right to the database.

Leaflet is fun to work with and for sure suitable for simple slippy maps. But OpenLayers provides a lot more features and supports a long list formats, and the amount of available community resources is still difficult to beat.