In the field, mobile workers often work in areas without a reliable data connection, or with no data connection at all. For these situations, mobile workers can download maps to make them available offline. Once a map is downloaded, mobile workers can use it the same way they do when connected. While they only get updates to downloaded maps on request, downloaded maps allow mobile workers to continue working with GIS data you've shared with them without a data connection.
Explorer supports downloading web maps and mobile map packages (MMPKs). Web maps can be used while online or they can be downloaded. They can have multiple offline map areas defined as part of the map or on the device, and they must be configured to support offline use. MMPKs are authored in ArcGIS Pro specifically for downloading.
Your user type limits the maps you can create. Creators and GIS Professionals can create web maps. Creating MMPKs requires ArcGIS Pro, which is included with the GIS Professional user type.
If your users always have a data connection, create a web map for them to use.
Choose how to prepare a map for download
Both web maps and MMPKs work offline. Which you choose, and how you configure it, depends on your project requirements. Choose one of the following three ways to prepare a map for download, enabling mobile workers to work offline in Explorer:
Configure a web map for download and create map areas for mobile workers to take offline.
The primary offline workflow is to configure a web map for download and define map areas that the mobile workers can download. Areas, such as a region of the county or a service area, are defined in ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise by the author of the map. Mobile workers can view and download these map areas in Explorer.
If you know where your mobile workers will be working, such as a region of the country or a service area, this is the recommended offline workflow. If you don't know all the areas your mobile workers may need to download, they can still define and download additional map areas in Explorer.
When possible, define map areas as part of the map. This saves mobile workers from having to define the areas and allows map areas to be prepared and packaged once, then downloaded by multiple mobile workers. Map areas defined in Explorer are packaged and downloaded for a single use. If they are removed and must be downloaded again, or if they are needed by another mobile worker, they are redefined and regenerated.
Configure a web map for download and allow mobile workers to define map areas to take offline.
If a mobile worker needs to go offline in a location that wasn't prepared in advance—where there is unplanned work, for example—the mobile worker defines the area to take offline in Explorer.
As the map author, you need to configure a web map for offline use. You don't need to define map areas that mobile workers can take offline (though you can still define them—they won't obstruct this workflow). Mobile workers can then define and download map areas in Explorer.
Create and share an MMPK that can be downloaded by mobile workers or copied directly to their devices.
If a web map doesn't meet your offline map requirements, create and share an MMPK. For example, a web map may not support how you want to share your map. While mobile workers are responsible for downloading a web map to their device, MMPKs can be copied directly to the mobile workers' devices (sideloaded) before the devices are given to the mobile workers. It's not necessary to copy them before the mobile workers have the devices. Mobile workers can copy the MMPKs or download the MMPKs in Explorer using ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise. However, copying them removes size limits on the MMPK (other than device storage space). MMPKs can even be shared publicly, or have expiration dates after which they can't be opened.
Expiration dates are only supported on Windows. Support is coming to Android and iOS.
Support for your data is another reason to use an MMPK, as some data that won't work offline in a web map can be used in an MMPK. For example, if you have layers that aren't sync enabled, or layers that aren't available as feature services that you don't want to publish (file-based data), you can package them in an MMPK and use them in Explorer. MMPKs also support more advanced symbology than web maps.
Creating MMPKs has additional licensing requirements compared to creating web maps. To create MMPKs, you must have the GIS Professional user type and use ArcGIS Pro.
Configure a web map for download
Web maps that meet the offline requirements automatically support downloading map areas in Explorer. Do the following things to allow mobile workers to download a web map in Explorer:
- Ensure that your data meets the data requirements.
- Create a basemap to copy directly onto devices (optional).
- Create map areas (if defining them as part of the map).
Once your map is configured, mobile workers can download map areas to Explorer.
To disable downloading a map in Explorer, uncheck the Enable offline mode check box in the map's item details. For details, see Offline options in ArcGIS Online or Offline options in ArcGIS Enterprise. You won't see the Offline mode options if your map doesn't meet the offline requirements.
If you are using ArcGIS Enterprise 10.6.1 or earlier and your map contains a vector tile layer, map areas aren't downloadable by default. If all your layers meet the offline requirements (all feature layers support sync and all raster and vector tile layers support export), edit your map's item details and add the tag Offline-Ready. Then you'll be able to download it.
Web maps downloaded in Explorer must meet the data requirements for web maps used in Explorer in addition to having all layers enabled for offline use. See Enable the layers and map for offline use in ArcGIS Online or Enable the layers and map for offline use in ArcGIS Enterprise.
Create a basemap to copy directly onto devices (optional)
You can copy a basemap directly to the mobile worker's device (this process is called sideloading) and reuse it across multiple maps. This has a few advantages over downloading the basemap along with the map area: in most cases, it is faster than downloading the same basemap, and it also allows you to prepare basemaps for much larger areas. Additionally, basemaps copied to the device are available to all mobile workers who use Explorer—each user won't need to have their own copy, saving space on shared devices.
If you want the copied basemap to be the default used when downloading the map (avoiding downloading the basemap along with the rest of the data), the map must reference it and it must be copied to the mobile worker's device.
To copy a basemap directly to devices, prepare your basemap as a map tile package (.tpk or .tpkx) or vector tile package (.vtpk). How you create the package depends on where you are creating it, and what type of tile package it is.
- If you're creating a map tile package in ArcGIS Pro, use the Create Map Tile Package tool.
- If you're creating a map tile package in ArcMap, use the Create Map Tile Package tool.
- If you're creating a vector tile package, use ArcGIS Pro and the Create Vector Tile Package tool.
Provision the package directly to the mobile worker's device. On Android devices, this is done by copying the file to the device or SD card. On iOS devices, this is done through the Files app or iTunes. See Copy a basemap to the device.
Reference an on-device basemap
You might want your mobile workers to download only operational layers and not the basemap of a map, instead using a basemap you created to copy directly to their devices. As part of authoring your map, specify a tile package to use for the offline basemap as part of the advanced offline options. If that basemap is on their device, only operational layers are downloaded. If the referenced basemap isn't on the device, the mobile worker can continue and download the map's default basemap with the operational layers. See Use a tile package for the offline basemap in ArcGIS Online or Use a tile package for the offline basemap in ArcGIS Enterprise.
Specifying a basemap for offline use with ArcGIS Enterprise requires version 10.7 or later.
Create map areas as part of the map (optional)
Creating map areas as part of your map allows you, as the map author, to prepackage one or more areas of a map so that mobile workers in Explorer can download them without having to configure the extent or level of detail. See Create, edit, and manage map areas in ArcGIS Online or Create, edit, and manage map areas in ArcGIS Enterprise.
If you are using ArcGIS Enterprise, the interactive experience for creating map areas (as in ArcGIS Online) was introduced in ArcGIS Enterprise 10.7. If you are using ArcGIS Enterprise 10.6.1, map areas must be managed through ArcGIS API for Python.
Once map areas are created as part of your map, mobile workers won't be able to use the map without downloading a map area.
Create an MMPK for download
MMPKs created in ArcGIS Pro and shared with mobile workers can be downloaded in Explorer.
The following types of data can be included in your map:
- Local, file-based feature data—Geodatabase feature classes and shapefiles
- Feature layers and feature services—Hosted on ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Enterprise, or ArcGIS Server
- Tile packages—TPK and TPKX
- Vector tile packages—VTPK
- Rasters—Generally includes any type, including PNG, TIF, JPG, JP2, and others
- Locators—Classic locators and new locators
- Network datasets
- Annotation created with ArcGIS Pro
Make and share an MMPK
MMPKs that can be downloaded in Explorer are created in ArcGIS Pro with the following workflow:
- Create a project in ArcGIS Pro.
- Add your supported data, including a basemap, to the map.
Configure pop-ups for your features if your map users need to see details about the features. Add labels if your users will need them in the map.
- Optionally configure feature search by adding a locate provider or creating a locator.
See the Support feature search tip.
- Package and share the data using the Package Mobile Map tool.
- Share your MMPK in one of the following two ways to make it accessible in Explorer:
- Share it through your ArcGIS organization and download it through Explorer.
Offline maps shared through your organization can be kept private, shared among your groups or with your organization, or made public. You can share the offline map through ArcGIS Pro using the Package Mobile Map or Share Package tools. Alternatively, you can sign in to your ArcGIS organization's portal and upload the .mmpk file. (See Share items in the ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise help.)
- Copy (sideload) your .mmpk file from your computer to the Explorer app on your device.
Once it's copied to your device, the map is designated as an On Device map the next time the app is launched or when the list of available maps is refreshed.
To access an MMPK from your computer, you must either save the package to a file in ArcGIS Pro when you create it, or download the MMPK file from your ArcGIS Online content.
- Share it through your ArcGIS organization and download it through Explorer.
- In Explorer, download the map, open it, and work with it offline in the same way as any other map.
The following tips will help you make better MMPKs for offline use:
- Support feature search—By default, maps allow you to search for places, addresses, and coordinates. Often, map users want to search for particular features they see on the map. When you create the map, there are two ways you can support feature search, depending on the requirements of your map.
- Add a locate provider.
Using the Locate tool in ArcGIS Pro, you can add a locate provider so your users can search for features. Add one for each searchable layer. A locate provider can search multiple fields in a layer, and you provide a search mode for each searchable field. Search suggestions are not supported with locate providers. They don't increase the file size of your offline map. See Find places on the map in the ArcGIS Pro help.
- Create a locator.
You can create a locator in ArcGIS Pro that allows users to search for features. Create one for each searchable layer. Each locator searches a single field. Locators can include search suggestions. Locators increase the file size of your offline map. See Create a locator in the ArcGIS Pro help.
- Add a locate provider.
- Provide useful pop-ups—When users view information about features on the map, they are viewing the pop-up you created for that feature. When making your map, configure a pop-up with information users need. See Configure pop-ups in the ArcGIS Pro help.
If features don't have pop-ups, users can't interact with them on the map.
- Include labels—Your users may need to see labels on the map. You can make these available to them by configuring labels for the feature layers. See Labeling basics in the ArcGIS Pro help.
- Use a vector tile package for the basemap—Vector tile packages use tiles of the data instead of raw data. They take all the layers of your map and turn them into a single, optimized layer that looks the same but displays faster. As a result, the data contained in them doesn't include attributes, you can't create pop-ups, and users can't search the contained data. However, if you aren't regularly updating the basemap data in your map, vector tile packages allow you to process the data into a basemap once and reuse that each time you update the MMPK. Consequently, you can create an MMPK faster and update your operational data regularly without reprocessing your basemap layers each time the MMPK is generated.
- Use the same name for the title of your map and .mmpk file—Before an offline map is downloaded, the title in Explorer originates from the item details, which uses the name of the .mmpk file. Once downloaded, the name of the map is the title. To help your users understand the relationship between the map they downloaded and the map on their device, use the same name for the map in ArcGIS Pro and the .mmpk file.
- Similar to the last tip, use the default thumbnail for the item in your portal so it doesn't change when the offline map is downloaded.
- If you want the availability of your MMPK to end at a certain time, set an expiration date on it. After that date, mobile workers won't be able to open it.
MMPK expiration dates are only supported on Windows. Support is coming to Android and iOS.
The following are limitations when creating MMPKs for offline use in Explorer:
- The coordinate systems of the TPK and map must match or the TPK won't display.
- If you're using a version of ArcGIS Pro earlier than 2.1, all basemap data must be contained in a single geodatabase.
If your basemap has data from multiple geodatabases and you don't want to restructure it, consider making a vector tile package and using it as the basemap of your offline map.
- Services can't be included in an offline map.
Exercise: Create an MMPK of stores in Paris
Creating an MMPK for Explorer is similar to creating one for Navigator for ArcGIS. For steps that create an MMPK, see the Make a map with all your own data Navigator exercise. It includes steps specific to Navigator that you can skip if you're creating the map for Explorer. You don't need to create your own travel mode or test it. You can enable feature search by adding a locate provider or creating a locator. Instead of testing the map in Navigator, test it in Explorer.
Now that you have a map ready for offline use in Explorer, download it and work offline.