OpenGeo is pleased to announce the first release of Styler (demo), which we believe is one of the best SLD editors out there.

“SLD” stands for ‘Styled Layer Descriptor.’ It is an open standard of rules for rendering of maps. Think of it as CSS for maps: it controls the colors, line widths, strokes, labels, varying them according to scale and attributes of the data.

Our initial goal is modest – make it easier for people to get their data in GeoServer and portrayed as they want. One of GeoServer’s advantages is its point-and-click web administration GUI. But when it comes to configuring how your map looks, GeoServer currently provides only a text box to fill out with SLD. Styler is the last piece needed for full GUI configuration of data. The initial release doesn’t cover all the potential rendering options that GeoServer supports, but we think it does a good job of covering the basics.

Despite humble beginning, Styler’s future is ambitious. Our aim is to democratize cartography, enabling anyone to create a map that emphasizes what they want to emphasize. And we want to give web designers the ability to design maps that match the rest of their site’s aesthetics, instead of picking between the handful of commercially provided options. In time we hope to incorporate full thematic mapping of statistics, as well as the ability to take someone else’s map and restyle it as one likes.

Though the initial release of Styler is a full application that integrates with GeoServer, Styler has been designed to be a component of GeoExt. This means the styling of data can be incorporated in other mapping applications. We seek to grow consumers of maps in to producers, so that users see maps as something that they can change and make their own, even within the context of another application.

Doing this well demands many usability improvements. Our goal is to make map creation an intuitive process that anyone can do. If you are interested in the goals or the results, please join us, we can use help with coding, testing, and funding. You can join the mailing list, and check out the roadmap to see where we’re hoping to head.