Working with the ArcGIS Platform

The ArcGIS platform provides a full range of GIS capabilities. There are various ways to add powerful functionality and intelligence to your ArcGIS API for JavaScript application by connecting to platform capabilities.

ArcGIS Online

ArcGIS Online is a cloud-based, collaborative content management system for maps, apps, data, and other geographic content. You can access ArcGIS Online through mobile devices, a website (, and desktop map viewers. With ArcGIS Online you can do the following:

  • Create web maps
  • Web enable your data
  • Share your maps, data, and applications
  • Find relevant and useful basemaps, data, and configurable GIS resources
  • Manage content and users in your organization.

With your free ArcGIS Developers account, you have access to ArcGIS Online for development and testing. Sign in at or You may want to upgrade to a paid ArcGIS Developer Subscription.

Using the ArcGIS API for JavaScript, you can work with content in a portal. For example, you can access and edit existing content and create new content items, search for users, and groups, and share and unshare items.

Learn more about developing with ArcGIS Online in the ArcGIS Online Help.

ArcGIS for organizations

To access all the capabilities of ArcGIS Online, your organization can purchase a subscription. With this subscription, you can store and process geographic data, solve complex routing problems, perform spatial analysis, create reports, and enrich your own data with demographic and geographic attributes. You also gain access to various productivity apps. A subscription can help you make geospatial information more pervasive both within your organization and throughout the general public.

Your free ArcGIS Developers account includes some subscription-only services for development and testing. Sign in at or If you upgrade your free account to a paid plan, you can still sign in using both of these sites.

Learn more about ArcGIS for organizations on

Portals, users, roles, groups, and sharing

ArcGIS Online is an information portal and is represented in the API by the Portal class. When you sign in to ArcGIS Online using an organizational account, you see a view that your organization administrator configured. This gives you access to maps, content, and other services specific to your organization. In addition to this, you can also access your own content and services.

A registered user of a portal is represented in the API by the PortalUser class. When you sign in to a portal, you get information relating to the authenticated user from the portal class. Several options are available for signing in to a portal, such as OAuth 2.0, network credentials, and tokens. Two authentication patterns are available, these are:

Groups are a way to collaborate with other users who share a common interest. A user can create groups, join groups, and share items with those groups. Groups have titles, descriptions, thumbnails, and unique IDs to help users identify them. The sharing model within ArcGIS Online is based on groups. Groups are represented in the API by the PortalGroup class.

A free, public account is another way to access ArcGIS Online. These accounts are not associated with an organization and offer a limited set of functionality. A public account allows you to use and create maps and share your maps and apps with everyone. Public accounts are for non-commercial use only.

Connect to public content and services on ArcGIS Online

To connect to ArcGIS Online and access public content anonymously, you can begin by creating a portal, without authenticating with the portal.

var portal = new Portal(); // Defaults to
portal.authMode = "anonymous"; // Set this for anonymous access, (no login required)
portal.load().then(function() {
  // Do something here

From here, you can access public content. For example, you can display a web map, or add a hosted layer from a PortalItem into your map. You can also search for content such as web maps, map services, groups, and users.

Some organizations share content publicly and allow anonymous access to that content; connect to publicly accessible content from such organizations by specifying the organization URL. For example:

var portal = new Portal("https://[organization-name]");

Connect to secured content and services on ArcGIS Online

Web applications that target organization users who are known to the ArcGIS platform, i.e. named users, should use the IdentityManager class in conjunction with the OAuth class. This is the simplest way to handle all authentication challenges that ArcGIS supports. To authenticate a user to a portal using this approach, you must set an instance of the IdentityManager and register an instance of the OAuth class with it. You then create a portal object, indicating that authentication is required. Next, load the portal.

// Register the IdentityManager with an instance of a registered OAuthInfo object
var info = new OAuthInfo({
  // Swap this ID out with a registered application's client ID
  appID: "<insert appID here>"
  popup: false // Optionally, you can choose to have the sign-in window display in a separate popup window


var portal = new Portal(); // Optionally, specify the url instead of the default
portal.authMode = "immediate"; // Setting authMode to immediate signs the user in once loaded

// Load portal
  // Do something once loaded

The portal object now has access to all the secure content for which the user has access rights and can be used to find out more information about the user, such as the user's name, instead of the account user name. Additionally, information about the organization such as the name, banner image, description, and so on, can be displayed in the OAuth sign-in window. Web applications often make use of this information when a user connects to a specific portal, to show the user organization branding and context.

To access secure content, a web application needs to provide a way to sign in to the platform, a process often known as authentication. The recommended approach for authenticating a user known to the platform is to use a user login and OAuth 2.0. Web applications that target users who are unknown to the ArcGIS platform can authenticate with the platform on behalf of the user by using an application login. OAuth 2.0 authentication is handled automatically by the IdentityManager class. If the IdentityManager has registered OAuthInfo and detects a secure resource, a challenge for authentication is issued. The user is shown a web form, allowing them to login using their platform credentials.

Typically, the portal object with the authenticated user is used throughout the session, to provide the web application with a view of a portal that is centered around a single user. A credential is generated once a user signs in and cached within their session for a default of two weeks. This can be updated by setting the OAuthInfo.expiration property. In addition, it is good practice to call IdentityManager.destroyCredentials() once finished.

If you do not wish to sign in each time the application launches, the OAuth login page provides an option to keep the user signed in. Doing this stores the token information in the browser's local storage.

ArcGIS Enterprise

ArcGIS Enterprise provides you with the same core capabilities as ArcGIS Online although it can be installed and hosted on your own premises and behind a firewall for controlled distribution of content.

Connect to ArcGIS Enterprise portal

Connecting to an instance of ArcGIS Enterprise portal is done in a very similar way to connecting to ArcGIS Online and is represented in the API by the same Portal class. Set the portalUrl to the Enterprise portal website, along with an appropriate credential or authentication valid on that portal, or no credential or authentication if accessing public content anonymously.

// Set the default portalUrl value to the hostname of the on-premise portal
esriConfig.portalUrl = "";
// Create the portal instance
var portal = new Portal(); // Takes the default set in the config

ArcGIS Server

ArcGIS Server is a component of ArcGIS Enterprise. It is a complete and integrated server-based GIS, which allows you to publish various types of GIS services. These services can be used by a variety of clients, including web applications written using the ArcGIS API for JavaScript. Some services provide similar functionality to that of ArcGIS Online. For example, you can create map layers based on map, feature, or WMS services, and perform geocoding, routing, or geoprocessing functions by using services hosted by ArcGIS Server.

Discover content and services on ArcGIS Server

Use the ArcGIS Services Directory to browse the available services on an ArcGIS Server site. Open the REST Services home page in a browser. For example, you can access an Esri-hosted server for various test services.

Please note, that these services are provided for testing and development purposes only. They should not be used on production environments.

Contact your ArcGIS Server system administrator if you're uncertain about the server URL or ArcGIS instance.

Connect to ArcGIS Server

Connecting to ArcGIS Server is a little different from connecting to portals. Instead of connecting to the portal itself, you pass the URL of the service you want to use to a class designed to work with that service type.

For example, you can create a map layer by passing in the URL to a dynamic map service:

var maplayer = new MapImageLayer();
maplayer.url = "";

If you need to get access to the individual layers within this map service, you can access them via the MapImageLayer.sublayers property.

// Only includes the first sublayer from the map service
var maplayer = new MapImageLayer({
  url: "",
  sublayers: [{
    id: 0 // This accesses the first layer in the service

You can also work with the individual FeatureLayer of the service.

var featurelayer = new FeatureLayer({
  url: ""

The above are just a couple ways to access ArcGIS Server services directly within the ArcGIS API for JavaScript. Various layer types and how to work with them can be accessed in the API Reference.

Similar to working with ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise hosted services, if the service is secured, valid credentials or authentication is required to access it.

Learn more about ArcGIS for Server


Your web application may need to access secured resources that are restricted to authorized users. For example, your organization may host private data layers or feature services that are only accessible by verified users. You may also need to take advantage of premium ArcGIS Online services, such as routing, that require secured user access. The ArcGIS platform provides many ways to secure access to your organization's content and services. The ArcGIS API for JavaScript provides full support for access to secured ArcGIS Server, ArcGIS Online, or ArcGIS Enterprise resources. For additional information on how to access secured resources in these environments, please refer to Access Secure Resources.

Additional Resources

The following are additional resources that provide information on the various topics discussed above.

A listing of samples working with some of the concepts discussed above.