What OpenLayers can do is it can read different data formats with geospatial components. Common data formats that the tool works with include GeoRSS, KML (Keyhole Markup Language), Geography Markup Language (GML).
As an example, a GeoJSON file, which is an open standard, can be used to provide vector data and attribute information about given points. Vector data are also set up to be 3D by default with the Cesium tool used as the default display of 3D data.
Additionally, the Proj library enables the projection of vector and raster data well and works between and with many different types of projections. Despite varying formats often used for vector and pixel-based raster data, OpenLayers can re-project data to the desired projection relatively easy, making mapping far simpler for online tools.
What makes OpenLayers useful is different formats can be used together so that they can be stacked together and used for analysis, making it flexible for dynamic mapping and able to handle different data sources.
Other tools are also available and contributors are always adding more functionality within OpenLayers, often these contributions being small but useful functions users find.
Some of the common functionalities include map zooming, editing and adding points, digitizing polygons, rotating existing polygons, and other dynamic webmap functions. Most functions, in fact, that we know we can do using online maps today are found in OpenLayers.
Functionality includes pinching to zoom in and out, something users have become accustomed to on popular online maps, is available, where OpenLayers can detect a device’s capabilities to then determine if pinching would be used. Basic functions include snapping and measurement, but more complex analytical processing is not something OpenLayers is that well developed yet.