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Using mosaic datasets to manage imagery

Many organizations have massive, growing libraries of imagery and raster data. These libraries include source imagery and metadata from multiple sensor platforms and vendors, as well as diverse collections of imagery-derived products. Despite the many potential applications, this imagery is frequently poorly managed, making it difficult to locate, access, query, and share.

The mosaic dataset, created using ArcGIS Pro (or ArcMap), is the basis of image management in ArcGIS. A mosaic dataset is a form of catalog that references the source data, maintains relevant metadata, and defines processing to be applied to the rasters. Mosaic datasets ensure that imagery or raster collections can be easily displayed, queried, analyzed, or shared.

A mosaic dataset provides dynamic mosaicking and on-the-fly processing to generate products. You can use it to manage mosaicking rules, seamlines, raster type, and processing parameters. For supported file formats, the raster type is designed to display an image properly and set up processing parameters with minimal user input. Processing parameters, whether defined manually or by raster type, are specified using raster function templates (RFTs), which apply a processing workflow in-memory for fast, dynamic visualization or analysis.

A mosaic dataset is also optimized for sharing your imagery collection. When served as an image service, it makes the imagery, metadata, and RFTs accessible to desktop, web, and mobile applications. Alternatively, a mosaic dataset can be cached as tile cache and efficiently shared as a static basemap.

Explore the following resources to get started using mosaic datasets to manage your imagery and rasters. (Not sure where to start? Look for the star by Esri's most helpful resources.)

To view mosaic datasets or create tile cache, you'll need ArcGIS Desktop Basic. To create and edit mosaic datasets, you need ArcGIS Desktop Standard or Desktop Advanced. To serve mosaic datasets as dynamic image services, you need ArcGIS Enterprise with ArcGIS Image Server. To host raster tile cache, you can use ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Server.

Imagery Workflows resources

Community-supported tools and best practices for working with imagery and automating workflows:

ArcGIS Help

Reference material for ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online, and ArcGIS Enterprise:

ArcGIS blogs, articles, story maps, and technical papers

Supplemental guidance about concepts, software functionality, and workflows:


Videos that clarify and demonstrate concepts, software functionality, and workflows:

Esri Training

Authoritative learning resources focusing on key ArcGIS skills:

Developer resources

Resources and support for automating and customizing workflows:

  • Visit the MDCS GitHub repo to download a Python script to help automate the creation and configuration of mosaic datasets.

Esri Community

Online places for the Esri community to connect, collaborate, and share experiences:

* Esri's top picks

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