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Prepare your layer

Collector allows you to create an asset inventory, record observations, and perform inspections in the field. Your mobile workers use the app in the field, collecting locations and filling out forms. The information mobile workers can provide is determined by the map they work with, and you define the map. You can include new layers as well as existing layers. The layers determine the information that can be captured in the form, and through the map you can customize the form for your mobile workers.

In this topic, you'll use your layer design and create the layer (optionally loading existing assets or observations into it). First choose how to create your layer. You can create your layer in one of four ways:

Once you have created your layer, you might want to limit the data available to mobile workers through hosted feature layer views.

In a later topics, you'll make a map (including the layer created here) that your mobile workers can take to the field for your collection project. You'll continue preparing your map for your mobile workers by configuring the form. You'll then configure Collector, and you'll be ready to test and deploy your map.

Choose how to create your layer

For many types of collection projects, it is a best practice to create an editable hosted feature layer to use to collect assets and observations (as discussed in Design your layer). There are two factors to consider when deciding how you should create your layer: how you want to use existing data (if at all) and your experience with ArcGIS.

First consider how you want to use existing data. If your collection project is about inspections (either ground truthing or updating assets or observations based on current status), your mobile workers need your existing data while in the field. Do you want to define the structure of the new layer yourself (specifying the fields) and import your existing data to that structure, or does the structure of your existing data suffice for your collection project? If you want to define the structure, create a layer and load your existing data into it. If you want to use the structure of the existing data, create your layer based on that existing data.

Your experience with ArcGIS helps you pick the right product to use to create your layer. Are you new to GIS, perhaps getting started with ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise just for this project? If so, create your layer using ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise. Depending on how you'll use existing data, you'll either create a layer using a template (designing your layer and then optionally appending existing data to it) or create a layer by importing existing data.

If, however, you are a GIS analyst and already use ArcGIS Pro, create a layer using ArcGIS Pro (designing your layer and then optionally loading existing data into it) or create a layer by importing existing data in ArcGIS Pro. Using ArcGIS Pro requires a stronger understanding of geodatabases and feature classes, along with the use of geoprocessing tools.

Once you have created a layer, consider if all your mobile workers need access to the full layer while in the field, or if some just need a subset of it. If a subset, consider making a hosted feature layer view to limit the data available to mobile workers.

Use a template in ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise

Feature layer templates covering a broad spectrum of industries and workflows are included with ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise. For example, create a layer for a damage assessments, fire hydrants, or ground control points. Each contains a recommended pattern to follow with your layer and supports customization. Add and remove fields (form entries), define lists of valid choices, define default values, and enable attachments (photos, videos, and audio). You can start with a blank template, Build a layer, to create a hosted feature layer and define all the fields yourself. If you have a layer you'd like to base your new layer on (for example, the past year's project), you can use an existing layer as your template. Once your hosted feature layer is ready, you can optionally load existing data. See Create from a template or existing feature layer in ArcGIS Online or Create from a template or existing feature layer in ArcGIS Enterprise.

Note:

The Build a layer template and the ability to edit the fields in a hosted feature layer are supported in ArcGIS Enterprise 10.7 or later.

The following are some recommendations for creating a layer from a template for use in Collector:

  • Create and configure the form for your layer by customizing the fields. See Define the fields to prepare for the form.
  • To allow mobile workers to attach photos, videos, and audio files, enable attachments. See Allow attachments in ArcGIS Online or Allow attachments in ArcGIS Enterprise.
  • To support using the layer offline for mobile workers that work in areas without a reliable data connection or any data connection at all, verify that sync is enabled. You'll do so in the layer's settings.
  • To know which mobile worker made which edits, configure the layer to track edits. You can also restrict mobile workers to only editing their own assets and observations. See Allow others to edit in ArcGIS Online or Allow others to edit in ArcGIS Enterprise.
  • Restrict the edits made by your mobile workers based on the type of data collection project they are doing. You'll do so by choosing a setting for What kind of editing is allowed in the layer's settings. For guidance on the permissions to choose, see Restrict editing permissions.
  • To store historical reports, you need to use a template that has a related table, for example, the Hydrant Maintenance Inspections template. You'll be able to configure the layer and table names, as well as the fields, so first make sure you get a related table and don't worry if the rest of the template doesn't match your desired layer structure.
  • To record information about the GPS used as the mobile workers are adding locations (for example, you want to know how accurate your locations are), capture GPS receiver information. This adds fields to your layer and prepares it to capture GPS metadata. With these fields in place, Collector automatically captures values provided by the GPS.
  • To load existing data into your hosted feature layer, append the existing data to the layer. See Append data to layers in ArcGIS Online or Append data in ArcGIS Enterprise.

For a complete, step-by-step example for Collector, see Create your first Collector map.

Import data in ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise

If the structure of your existing data suffices for your collection project and you use ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise, first see if you can publish your data as a hosted feature layer. See Publish hosted feature layers in ArcGIS Online or Publish hosted feature layers in ArcGIS Enterprise.

If your existing data format isn't supported for publishing as a hosted feature layer, you'll need to either convert it to a supported format and then publish it or create a layer and then load your data into it. To provide all your own fields while creating the layer, choose the Build a layer template. When adding the fields, refer to your existing data and match its structure.

Note:

The Build a layer template is supported in ArcGIS Enterprise 10.7 or later.

Use ArcGIS Pro

Use ArcGIS Pro to design a feature class. Once your feature class is ready, you can optionally load existing data. To use the data in Collector, add your feature class to a map in your ArcGIS Pro project and publish your feature class as a hosted feature layer. See Share a web feature layer.

Tip:

You can only load data into your new feature class from feature classes, tables, shapefiles, rasters, and annotation or dimensions feature classes. If your existing data is in a different format, you'll need to import it to one of those formats to create your layer with these steps. If it's in a different format, see Create a layer by importing data in ArcGIS Pro.

The following are some recommendations for creating a layer in ArcGIS Pro for use in Collector:

  • Create and configure the form for your layer by customizing the fields. Use the field type, domains, and subtypes to configure the behavior of the entries. See Define the fields to prepare for the form.
  • To allow mobile workers to attach photos, videos, and audio files, enable attachments. Run the Enable Attachments tool on your new feature class.
  • To support using the layer offline for mobile workers who work in areas without a reliable data connection or any data connection at all, enable sync. You'll do so on the Configuration tab while publishing your layer.
  • To know which mobile worker made which edits, enable editor tracking.
  • Restrict the edits made by your mobile workers based on the type of data collection project they are doing. You'll do so on the Configuration tab while publishing your layer. For guidance on the permissions to choose, see Restrict editing permissions.
  • To store historical reports, you need to add a related table as follows: First add a GlobalID field to your feature class (this will be the Origin Primary Key for the relationship class). Create a table in the project geodatabase to store the inspection reports, and configure the form for the table in the same way you do the one for the layer (this will be the inspection form in Collector). Include a GUID field in your table (this will be the Origin Foreign Key for the relationship class). Run the Create Relationship Class tool using your new feature class as the origin and your table of inspection reports as the destination. For historical reports, use a Cardinality of One to many. See Relationship class properties.
  • To record information about the GPS used as the mobile workers are adding locations (for example, you want to know how accurate your locations are), run the Add GPS Metadata Fields tool on your new feature class. This adds fields to your layer and prepares it to capture GPS metadata. With these fields in place, Collector automatically captures values provided by the GPS.
    Note:

    The GPS Metadata Fields tool is available in ArcGIS Pro 2.2 or later. If using an earlier version of ArcGIS Pro, you need to run a script. You can run it through ArcGIS Pro or at the command line. See the Add GNSS Metadata Fields script.

  • To load existing data into your feature class, import it by running an applicable tool from the Conversion toolbox.

Once you have published your hosted feature layer, you might want to further refine the editing permissions of your mobile workers. This is done through the settings on your published layer (using a web browser and updating the item page for your hosted feature layer). There are two types of limitations you might want to put in place:

  • If the mobile workers should only be able to edit assets and observations they submitted, use the layer settings to restrict them to only editing their own features. See Allow others to edit in ArcGIS Online or Allow others to edit in ArcGIS Enterprise.
  • If you are doing inspections (either ground truthing or updating assets or observations based on current status), you might want to further restrict the editing permissions of the mobile workers. When you published the layer, you could restrict them to either adding, updating, and deleting features or to updating feature attributes only. However, through the hosted feature layer you can be more specific about what is and isn't allowed. To further restrict the editing permissions of the mobile workers, choose a setting for What kind of editing is allowed in the layer's settings. For guidance on the permissions to choose, see Restrict editing permissions.
Tip:

ArcGIS Solutions provide free, industry-specific configurations for ArcGIS. Many of the common configurations, including those for local government, emergency management, and electric, include configurations for Collector. If there is a solution that matches your needs, or is similar, use the ArcGIS Solutions Deployment Tool add-in to ArcGIS Pro to deploy the solution of your choice to your ArcGIS organization. Once a solution is deployed, you can modify the deployed items as you would any other hosted feature layer in your ArcGIS organization. This includes loading existing data.

If you have ArcGIS Server, it is recommended that for a project creating new data or updating data not yet in your geodatabase, the project run outside your geodatabase (using a hosted feature layer). Then it can be reviewed for quality assurance and imported into ArcGIS Server at the completion of the project.

Import data in ArcGIS Pro

If the structure of your existing data suffices for your collection project and you use ArcGIS Pro, first see if you can bring your data into ArcGIS. You'll run an applicable tool from the Conversion toolbox to create a feature class from your existing data. Then you'll use the feature class to publish a hosted feature layer (see Create a layer with ArcGIS Pro, but skip steps 2 and 3, and in step 4, import into a new feature class instead of an already-created one).

Define the fields to prepare for the form

The form is how mobile workers provide details about assets, observations, and inspections (including notes and pictures). Each field corresponds to an entry in the form, and how you define the fields determines the form you can create. As you prepare your layer, you'll include necessary fields and make some choices about the structure of your data that will determine the configuration you can do with your form. See Add or delete a field in ArcGIS Online, Add or delete a field in ArcGIS Enterprise, or Fields view in ArcGIS Pro.

Note:

Using ArcGIS Enterprise to add and edit fields requires ArcGIS Enterprise 10.7 or later.

Restrict editing permissions

Restrict the edits made by your mobile workers based on the type of data collection project they are doing. The recommended permissions for the various data collection projects are as follows:

  • Create an asset inventory, record new observations, or add additional assets or observations to an existing collection.

    Mobile workers need full editing permissions for the assets and observations. Choose the Add, update, and delete features permission for them.

    Note:

    While you could restrict this to only adding features (or only adding and updating features if using ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise), allowing them to update and delete features lets them correct errors in the form and remove assets and observations created in error.

  • Ground truth existing assets and observations, correcting any discrepancies that are found.

    The editing permissions depend on what you want your mobile workers verifying in the field:

    • Mobile workers correct both locations and forms for the assets and observations—They need permission to update features. Choose the Update features permission for them. This permission can only be set through ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise. If you are creating your layer in ArcGIS Pro, choose Add, update, and delete features and further restrict the permissions after publishing your layer.
    • Mobile workers correct forms (but not locations) for the assets and observations—They need permission to update the attributes only. Choose the Update attributes only permission (ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise) or the Update feature attributes only permission (ArcGIS Pro).
    • Mobile workers correct both locations and forms for the assets and observations as well as add ones that weren't accounted for in the original data—They need permission to add and update features. Choose the Add and update features permission. This permission can only be set through ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise. If you are creating your layer in ArcGIS Pro, choose the Add, update, and delete features permission and further restrict the permissions after publishing your layer.
    • Mobile workers correct both locations and forms for the assets and observations, add ones that weren't accounted for in the original data, and remove ones that don't exist on the ground—They need full editing permissions for the assets and observations. Choose the Add, update, and delete features permission.
  • Update existing assets or observations with current status, without a need for historical reports.

    Mobile workers need to update the form and be prevented from changing the location of the assets and observations, adding them, or deleting them. Choose the Update attributes only permission (ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise) or the Update feature attributes only permission (ArcGIS Pro).

  • Update existing assets or observations with current status, keeping historical reports available.

    Mobile workers need to add new reports. If updates are allowed, they can also update existing ones. Choose the Add features permission (ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise), the Add and update features permission (ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise), or theAdd features only permission (ArcGIS Pro).

    Note:

    With these settings, mobile workers can add new assets and observations (as well as update the form and location of existing ones, if update is allowed) along with adding reports. If you restrict to updating attributes only, the same applies to your related table and mobile workers won't be able to add new reports. If you'd like to prevent them from adding new assets or observations, or changing existing ones, you can manage that as part of authoring the map by disabling editing on the layer of assets and observations (leaving it enabled on the table). This is covered in Make a map.

Limit the data available to mobile workers

Your layer might include more data than your mobile workers need to see. For example, you might be working with contractors who can only inspect assets while other employees of your organization need full editing access. Perhaps there are even entries in the form you don't want contractors to be able to access. By creating a hosted feature layer view for the contractors, you can limit the capabilities and access they have, preventing them from bypassing the restrictions. See Create hosted feature layer views in ArcGIS Online or Create hosted feature layer views in ArcGIS Enterprise.

Add your layer to a map

You have prepared the data your mobile workers use for collection. Since Collector opens and works with maps, you need to add your layer to a map using ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise.

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