Add layers

Layers are the contents of a map. They include a wide range of topics about people, the earth, life, and so on, and are composed of imagery, tiles, features, and more. To get started adding layers, sign in to the site, open the map viewer, and click the Add button. You can search for layers, browse Living Atlas layers, add layers from the web, add layers from files, and add map notes. You can also get directions and add the route as a layer.

What layers can you add?

The following list shows what layers you can add to a map. When you save the map, any items you've added are saved with the map and the map appears in your My Content.

  • ArcGIS Server service (elevation layer, feature layer, map image layer, imagery layer, and tile layer) (URL)
  • Comma-separated values (CSV) file (.csv)
  • GeoRSS web feed (URL)
  • GPS exchange format file (.gpx)
  • Keyhole markup language (KML) file (.kml, .kmz)
  • Map notes (created in the map viewer)
  • Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Web Feature Service (WFS) (URL)
  • Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Web Map Service (WMS) (URL)
  • Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Web Map Tile Service (WMTS) (URL)
  • Route (created in the map viewer)
  • Shapefile (.zip)
  • Text file (.txt)
  • Tile layer (URL)

Data layers versus reference layers

Layers define how the data in your map looks and behaves, for example, what the symbols look like and what information appears in pop-ups. Layers can contain data or a reference to the data. A layer from a file contains data; a web layer contains a reference to data hosted on ArcGIS Online, a third-party resource like Amazon, or your own organization's servers. Configurations saved to reference layers do not change the data layer. For example, in a reference layer, you might show different symbols and pop-up configurations than in the original data layer. If you delete the reference layer, the data still exists (but you lose your layer configurations). If the owner of the data layer deletes the layer, the data is deleted as well. As the owner of a layer that contains data, you can enable delete protection to prevent accidentally removing the data that others may be using in their reference layer.

Search for layers

One option for adding information to your map is to find existing layers from your organization, your favorites, ArcGIS Online, or an ArcGIS Server site. ArcGIS Online includes content you've added, content from groups you belong to, and public content. Living Atlas Layers includes world traffic and demographics. Layers you search for can be an ArcGIS Server map, image, and feature layers; tables; KML documents; route layers; and OGC web services.

The option to search Living Atlas Layers appears if you are signed in with an organizational account. You can browse selected map layers from Living Atlas of the World, such as demographic and traffic maps, that are available for you to add to your map. Living Atlas Layers may require an organizational subscription to access and, in some cases, consume credits. These are identified in the item description.

By default, you find layers in your organization. If you are not a member of an organization, by default, you find layers in ArcGIS Online. A GIS server search allows you to specify a URL to an ArcGIS Server site you know about and see a list of layers on that server. You can also enter the URL of an ArcGIS Server layer and add that layer from the list of results. Map, image, and feature layers are supported.

You have the option to get results based on the current extent of your map. For example, if your map is zoomed to Nevada, USA, your search results are ordered and based on your map extent. Changing your map extent to Pennsylvania typically returns different results (depending on your keywords). All layers that overlap your current map extent (and match your keywords) are returned. Uncheck Within map area if you don't want the results to be based on your current map extent.

  1. Choose Search for Layers and enter keywords within the Find field.
  2. Choose where you want to search for layers—My Organization, A GIS server, ArcGIS Online, Living Atlas Layers, My Content, My Favorites, or groups you belong to.

    You need to be signed in with an organizational account to see the Living Atlas Layers option.

  3. Uncheck Within map area if you don't want the results to be based on your current map extent. (Leave the box checked if you want the results to be based on your current map extent.)
  4. Click Go. A list of layers that relate to the keywords you entered appears.
  5. Click a title to see a pop-up summary of the layer, or click Add to the right of the title to add the layer to your map.

Browse Living Atlas Layers

As a member of an organization, you can browse and add Living Atlas Layers directly to your map. The layers are part of Living Atlas of the World and include imagery, demographics, land cover, and so on. Most of these layers are free to use on your maps and can be viewed by anyone. However, if you want to share a map publicly that contains subscriber content or premium content, you can create a map-based app and configure it to allow access to the content through your organizational subscription. (Your subscription will incur any credit costs.)

  1. Choose Browse Living Atlas Layers to open a gallery of layers. The gallery is based on the current extent of your map. Uncheck Within map area if you don't want the results to be based on your current map extent.
  2. Find the layer you are interested in:
    • Choose a category of layers such as imagery or people.
    • Use the keyword-based search to find a specific layer.
    • Page through all the available layers.
    • Check the box next to Show Esri Layers Only to only see layers published by Esri.
    • Hover over a thumbnail to see a description of the layer.
  3. Click Add To Map and As Layer or As Basemap to add the layer to your map.

Add layers from web

You can add the following types of layers through a URL: ArcGIS Server web service, OGC WFS web service, OGC WMS web service, OGC WMTS web service, Tile layer, KML file, GeoRSS file, and CSV file. If your organization is configured for Bing Maps, you can also add Bing Maps basemaps.

Choose the Add Layer from Web option and choose the type of web layer you want to add.

ArcGIS Server web service

An ArcGIS Server web service is a map, image, or feature resource that is located on ArcGIS Server. You can add secure services created with ArcGIS Server 10 SP1 and later if you know the user name and password. You will be prompted for this information when you add a secure service to the map. Anybody viewing your map will also be prompted for the login. The map will display without the layer if the login is not valid.

  1. Choose An ArcGIS Server Web Service and enter the layer's web address in the URL field.

    ArcGIS Server web service URLs are in the format https://<server name>/arcgis/rest/services/folder/<service name>/<service type>. If the service is in the root folder, you do not need to include the folder name in the URL. The URL format in that case is https://<server name>/arcgis/rest/services/<service name>/<service type>.

    For example, to connect to an ArcGIS Server map service, you would type a URL similar to the following: https://myserver.com/arcgis/rest/services/service/MapServer. For more information and examples, see Components of ArcGIS URLs.

    If you need to access your service over HTTPS, add your layer with https.

  2. If you want to use the layer as a basemap, check Use as Basemap.
  3. Click Add Layer to add the layer to your map.

OGC WFS web service

OGC WFS is a feature service that follows the OGC Web Feature Service specification. See an example. Once you've added an OGC WFS layer, you can view its attribute table, make simple style changes, configure pop-ups, change the transparency, perform analysis, and so on.

  1. Select A WFS OGC Web Service and enter the layer's web address in the URL field.

    For example, http://suite.opengeo.org/geoserver/wfs?service=wfs&request=getcapabilities

  2. If you want to append custom parameters to requests made to the service, do the following:
    1. Click Add Custom Parameters.
    2. Click Add Parameter and type the name of the parameter you want to append.
    3. In the Value column, enter the parameter value.

    The specified custom parameters will be automatically applied to all requests made to the WFS.

  3. Click Get Layers.
  4. Select the layer you want to add. You cannot select more than one layer.
  5. If the selected layer contains complex features, select the type of features to display: Points, Lines, or Polygons.
  6. Click Show Advanced Options and make changes to the following, as needed:
    • Maximum feature count—Type a new value to change the maximum feature count requested from the WFS and drawn in the web map.
    • Swap X/Y coordinates—Check this box to swap x,y coordinates.
  7. Click Add Layer.
  8. Repeat the steps if you want to add additional layers in your WFS.

OGC WMS web service

OGC WMS is a map that follows the OGC Web Map Service specification. See an example. Once you've added an OGC WMS layer, you can enable pop-ups, configure which layers are visible, change the transparency, set the visibility range, change the refresh interval, and so on.

  1. Choose A WMS OGC Web Service and enter the layer's web address in the URL field.

    For example, http://ows.terrestris.de/osm/service?SERVICE=WMS&VERSION=1.1.1&REQUEST=GetCapabilities

  2. If you want to append custom parameters to requests made to the service, do the following:
    1. Click Add Custom Parameters.
    2. Click Add Parameter and type the name of the parameter you want to append.
    3. In the Value column, enter the parameter value.
    4. In the Append to column, select All if you want to append the parameter to all requests made to the service or Layer only if you want to append it only to requests that draw or query layers.
    5. Repeat these steps for each parameter you want to append.
  3. If you want to use the layer as a basemap, check Use as Basemap.
  4. If you want to choose specific layers in the OGC WMS service to add to the map instead of adding the entire service, click Get Layers and check the boxes beside the layers you want to add. If you want to add the entire service, you can skip this step.

    If you specified custom parameters, they will be applied to all layers that you chose. If you want to append different custom parameters to specific layers only, you must add those layers separately.

  5. Click Add Layer.

OGC WMTS web service

OGC WMTS is a set of cached image tiles that follows the OGC Web Map Tile Service specification. See an example. Once you've added an OGC WMTS layer, you can change the transparency, set the visibility range, change the refresh interval, and so on.

  1. Choose A WMTS OGC Web Service and enter the layer's web address in the URL field.

    For example, http://tileserver.maptiler.com/wmts

  2. If you want to append custom parameters to requests made to the service, do the following:
    1. Click Add Custom Parameters.
    2. Click Add Parameter and type the name of the parameter you want to append.
    3. In the Value column, enter the parameter value.
    4. In the Append to column, select All if you want to append the parameter to all requests made to the service or Layer only if you want to append it only to requests that draw or query layers.
    5. Repeat these steps for each parameter you want to append.
  3. Click Get Layers.
  4. Select the layer you want to add. You cannot select more than one layer.
  5. If you want to use the layer as a basemap, check Use as Basemap.
  6. Click Add Layer.
  7. Repeat the steps if you want to add additional layers in your WMTS.

Tile layer

A Tile layer is a set of web-accessible tiles that reside on a server. The tiles are accessed by a direct URL request from the web browser. The URL contains values that are used by the map viewer to dynamically request the tiles that correspond with the extent and scale of the map as you pan and zoom. See an example.

  1. Choose A Tile Layer and enter the layer's web address in the URL field.

    You should get this URL from the data provider.

    If you need to access your service over HTTPS, add your layer with https.

  2. If the tile layer contains one or more subdomains, specify the tile layer's subdomain labels in the Subdomain field. Delimit the labels with commas.

    Subdomains are used by the tile layer provider to distribute tile requests across multiple servers. Not all tile layers have subdomains. If the tile layer does not have any subdomains, the Add Layer from Web window does not display the subdomain field. If you are unsure of the subdomain labels, contact the tile layer provider.

  3. Enter the title of the tile layer in the Title field.

    The Contents pane of the map will display the title you enter as the name of the tile layer.

  4. Enter any copyright information or required attribution information for the tile layer provider in the Credits field.

    The map will display the credits in the lower right of the map.

  5. Click Set Tile Coverage to set the extent of the tile coverage.

    Tile coverage represents the extent of all the tiles. This is an optional setting. When the extent is set, tiles are only requested for the extent specified. However, because the tiles are not clipped to fit the extent, tiles may extend beyond the extent.

  6. If you want to use the layer as a basemap, check Use as Basemap.
  7. Click Add Layer to add the layer to your map.

If the tiles are distributed across multiple servers, you need to give the map viewer information about the layer's subdomains.

KML file

A KML file contains a set of geographic features.

  1. Choose A KML File and enter the layer's web address in the URL field.

    You should get this URL from the data provider.

  2. Click Add Layer to add the layer to your map.

GeoRSS file

A GeoRSS file is a web feed that includes geographic features and locations. See an example.

  1. Choose A GeoRSS File and enter the layer's web address in the URL field.

    You should get this URL from the data provider.

  2. Click Add Layer to add the layer to your map.

CSV file

A CSV file that you reference as a URL is a web-based, comma-separated values text file of features that includes location information.

  1. Choose A CSV File and enter the layer's web address in the URL field.

    You should get this URL from the data provider.

  2. Click Add Layer to add the layer to your map.

Bing basemaps

The Bing Basemap option only appears if your organization has configured the map viewer with a Bing Maps key.

  1. Choose Bing Basemap and choose the type of Bing Maps you want to use: Road, Aerial, or Hybrid.
  2. Click Add Layer to add the layer to your map.

Add layers from files

You can add features to your map by importing data you have stored in a delimited text file (.csv or .txt), GPS Exchange Format (.gpx) file, or shapefile (compressed into a .zip). A layer from a file is stored in the map.

  1. Choose Add Layer from File and locate the file on your computer.
  2. Click Import Layer.
  3. If you add a delimited text file (.csv or .txt) with location information, choose to have the map viewer locate features using either latitude-longitude or address information.
    1. By default, the map viewer geocodes addresses based on your organization's region. To change the country that the map viewer uses to geocode your addresses, select a different country from the Country drop-down list. If your file contains addresses from multiple countries or from a country not in the list, select World.
    2. Review the location fields and click a cell to change which location field or fields are used.
  4. If you add a shapefile, choose to generalize the features for web display or keep original features.
  5. Click Add Layer to add the file to the map viewer.

Drag and drop a file

In addition to importing your .csv, .txt, or .gpx file through the map viewer Add button, you can drag it from your computer and drop it onto your map. The map viewer will handle the file as if you had used Add. Dragging and dropping a .txt, .csv, and .gpx file is supported on Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers; it is not supported on Internet Explorer and Apple Safari.

You cannot drag a shapefile from your computer and drop it onto your map; you must use the Add button.

Add map notes

You can add your own data directly to a map by adding a map notes layer. These layers are useful for adding a small number of features to a map, for example, the swimming pools managed by your city's parks and recreation department. When you add a map notes layer, it is stored in the map; it cannot be saved, downloaded, or used independently. Only you, the map author, can edit the layer.

  1. Choose Add Map Notes and enter a name for the layer.
  2. Choose a layer template. Each template includes a set of related shapes and symbols. For example, the Park Planning template includes symbols for picnic areas and bicycle trails, and the Oil & Gas Infrastructure template has symbols for oil refineries and treatment facilities.
  3. Click Create. A template appears in the left side of the map.
  4. Click a shape or symbol and click the map where you'd like to add the feature. Press the Ctrl key to enable snapping. Snapping helps you line up the feature you are adding next to an existing one on the map. How you add the feature depends on the geometry; for example, add points and circles by clicking on the map, and add lines and polygons by clicking on the map to start the shape and double-clicking to complete it.
  5. Add the following information about the feature to the pop-up that appears:
    1. Title—The title appears as the title of the feature's pop-up.
    2. Description—The description field includes formatting options for creating rich text such as hyperlinks, color, and styles.
    3. URL to an imageThe image needs to be stored on a public website (for example, https://publicimagesite/myimages.png) and should be in a web format such as PNG, GIF, or JPEG. For best results, the image should be 200 pixels wide by 150 pixels high. Other sizes will be adjusted to fit, so your image may appear stretched or shrunk.
    4. Related link—This opens a website when somebody clicks the image in the pop-up.
  6. Create your own symbol if you want by clicking Change Symbol at the bottom of the pop-up.
    1. Choose Source and click a symbol to use a predefined symbol.
    2. Choose URL and enter the URL of the symbol file. The symbol needs to be stored on a public website. The image file should be in a web format such as PNG, GIF, or JPEG. For best results, the image should be 200 pixels wide by 150 pixels high. Other sizes will be adjusted to fit, so your image may appear stretched or shrunk.
    3. Adjust the size of the symbol by using the Symbol size slider.
    4. Click Done and click Close. The information you add to your pop-up is automatically saved.

Add route layers

If you are signed in with an organizational account, you can use the map viewer to get directions and create a route layer in your map. If you have privileges to create content, you can save the route layer as an item in My Content or save the layer with the map, or both. If you save the route layer as an item, you can edit its item details and share it with others. Any existing route layer item can be added to a new or existing map from My Content using the Search for Layers option in the map viewer's Add menu.

In the map viewer, you can configure the layer, edit the route, and perform analysis on the route. Like any other map, maps that have one or more route layers can be configured, shared through a web app, story template, blog, and so on, and used in a map client such as an iOS device, Android phone, and ArcGIS for Desktop.

Create a new route layer

To create a new route layer, do the following:

  1. Open the map viewer.
  2. Click Directions Get Directions to display the Directions pane to the left of the map. Get directions by adding an origin and one or more destinations.
  3. Click the Save Save button, enter a name for the layer, and choose a folder in which to save the route. Click Save. The route is saved as a route layer in the map's Contents pane and as a route layer item in My Content.
  4. Do any of the following:
    • Click Share the route to view and edit the item details for the route layer or share it with others.
    • Make changes to the route as needed, including adding destinations, changing the travel mode, and so on.
    • Configure the route layer as needed, including changing the transparency, renaming it, and so on. To do this, close the Directions pane, go to the Contents pane, and click the More Options More Options button to see options for configuring the layer.
  5. Save any changes you made to the route by doing either of the following:
    • From the Contents pane, click the More Options More Options button and click Save Layer.
    • From the Directions pane, click the Save Save button and click Save.

Add an existing route layer

If you have an existing route layer that you want to configure or edit in the map viewer, do the following:

  1. Do one of the following to add an existing route layer to the map:
    • Open the map viewer and add the route layer to the map using the Search for Layers option.
    • From My Content, click the down arrow beside the route layer you want to add and click Add layer to map or Add layer to new map.

    The route appears on the map with the Directions pane displayed.

  2. Do any of the following:
    • Make changes to the route as needed, including adding destinations, changing the travel mode, and so on.
    • Configure the route layer as needed, including changing the transparency, renaming it, and so on. To do this, close the Directions pane, go to the Contents pane, and click the More Options More Options button to see options for configuring the layer.
  3. To save your changes, do one of the following:
    • From the Contents pane, click the More Options More Options button and click Save Layer.
    • From the Directions pane, click the Save Save button and click Save.
    • If you want to save the updated route as a different route layer item, change the Result layer name and folder as needed and click Save as new.

Configure the route layer

If you intend to share your route with others (and have sharing privileges), you may want to configure the route layer for your specific audience. For example, if you work for an emergency management agency and plan to share a map of evacuation routes with your police department, you might want to rename the route layer in the Contents pane and change the route name in the pop-ups to the names the police department uses.

On the route layer, you can change the transparency, rename the layer, hide it in the legend, and edit the route and save your changes to the layer. You can also move the layer up or down in the Contents pane if you have other feature layers in your map. You can access these options from the More Options More Options button in the Contents pane.

The route layer contains the four sublayers listed below. On each sublayer, you can set the visibility, configure pop-ups, change the style, view the attribute table, create labels, and hide the layer in the legend. You cannot change the name of the sublayers.

  • Stops—A point feature layer of your origin and destination or destinations.
  • DirectionEvents—A layer that contains key direction instructions. By default, this layer is not displayed on the map. You can display it by checking the box next to the layer name (in the Contents pane).
  • Directions—A set of line features for each segment of your route. This layer contains your turn-by-turn directions. By default, this layer is not displayed on the map. You can display it by checking the box next to the layer name (in the Contents pane).
  • RouteInfo—A line feature layer of your route. This layer includes the total drive time and distance.