Maps (2D)

A map can tell a story, present an idea, or showcase a situation. It can help you do hundreds of things, from finding the nearest hospital to viewing earthquake events in relation to high-population areas.

Unlike most maps, ArcGIS maps have many additional capabilities. They can contain data organized by layers and can contain analysis capabilities that let you reveal patterns and solve many types of problems. For example, an ArcGIS map can show your fleet of trucks as they move around an area and it can optimize their routes to maximize the fleet's efficiency.

A map is typically composed of a basemap that provides geographic context and operational layers that contain the salient content of the map. You can use your own data, Esri's data, or both in your app's map. In ArcGIS Runtime apps, a map can be used in conjunction with a map view to visualize this geographic data on a screen. In this context a map represents the model tier in an MVC architecture, and a map view represents the view tier:

  • A map specifies where the geographic content (data) comes from and how it's organized (what layers it has, what bookmarks, initial viewpoint, and so on). Content in the layers may come from a variety of map sources, including from online sources or from local data stores, such as a feature table in a mobile geodatabase or data from a mobile map package. For more information on the data and layer types you can include in a map, see Layers and tables.
  • A map view renders the map's content and controls how users navigate and interact with the map. Operations such as rotation, panning, and zooming allow the user to change their viewpoint of the map. A map view can have graphic overlays for displaying graphics over the map, such as the results from a query or analysis. A map view translates display coordinates to map coordinates so your app can associate user interactions with map coordinates.

ArcGIS Runtime provides map and map view objects that you can use to build new maps, display maps, save maps and share maps. Also see the API reference.


  • When you view or analyze spatial data from different layers or map sources in your map, you may need to consider their spatial reference. For details, see Spatial references.
  • Objects that can be symbolized on your map can come from persisted data (feature data, such as roads and parcels in a geodatabase) and transient data (graphics, such as data coming through a web socket). Military symbology can be symbolized as either of these. For details, see Features and graphics, Symbols and renderers, and Display military symbols with a dictionary renderer.

Online maps

ArcGIS includes a Living Atlas of the World with beautiful and authoritative maps on thousands of topics. Explore maps and data from Esri and thousands of other organizations and combine them with your own data to create new maps and applications.

A map you create in an ArcGIS Online's map viewer is an interactive map that displays geographic information to tell stories and answer questions. These online maps are available to a wide audience and include multi-scale basemaps, layers targeted to a specific audience, and information pop-ups that allow users to drill into specific features they are interested in. They also support visualization, editing, analysis, and time. Online maps can be viewed on a wide variety of clients, including mobile apps, desktop apps, and web browsers. To create an online map follow the How-to steps in ArcGIS Online Help's get started with maps topic.

You can create maps, share maps, and load maps into your app from ArcGIS Online or from any organization's portal.

Offline maps

To continue working with a map in a partially or fully disconnected environment users can take their map offline. There are two patterns that aim to cover your workflows; the Services pattern, where the API itself takes the map offline and the Desktop pattern where you use external tools such as ArcGIS Pro to create mobile map packages that you can take offline. For more details, see the Offline topic.

Services patterns

The services patterns allows you to build apps that can take a map offline as long as the map and its layers have been authored for offline use. If you wish to edit feature data and synchronise any changes when network connectivity is restored you also need to enable the sync capability on the feature layers. This API offers you two main services patterns

  • To generate an offline map ahead of time that your field workers can simply download then follow the preplanned offline workflow.
  • If your field worker wants to define the map’s area of interest then use the on-demand offline workflow to allow them to generate the offline map and then download it to their device.

Instead of taking a whole map offline you can also take individual layers and data offline and construct the map within the app itself. This is useful if you want the flexibility to control the combination of layers in the map and way the data is presented to the user. For more details, see create offline layers.

Desktop pattern

This pattern allows you to download a map into a mobile map package file and side load it onto your user's device. The advantage of this approach is that you can create one mobile map package file and distribute it to many devices. This is a 'view-only' option as any edits your users make cannot be synchronized back to the original data source.

With ArcGIS Pro you can create mobile map packages which combine your organization’s maps, assets, road networks, or locators into a single file. For details, see Mobile map package in the ArcGIS Pro help. You can also create packages for individual layers using ArcGIS Desktop. For details, see the desktop pattern section in Create an offline layer.


If you'd like a ready-to-use and regularly updated street map in your offline maps (that includes a locator and network dataset) see Add StreetMap Premium data.

Related topics

In this topic
  1. Online maps
  2. Offline maps