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Add layers and layer packages to a map

A layer references a dataset that is stored in a geodatabase, shapefile, raster, and so on. You can add an existing layer that is already defined from ArcGIS Online or your organization's portal, for example. You can also add a preset layer that can be connected to a dataset, create a new layer from a dataset, or create a new layer and dataset at once from a layer template.

Add an existing layer or layer package

The quickest way to get started is to add an existing layer to a map. With an existing layer, you don't have to know how to set the layer's properties or how to access the correct dataset. ArcGIS Online provides many high-quality layers that are ready to use. Existing layers may also be available from your organization's portal.

Existing layers can be provided as a file (.lyrx) with a connection to a public dataset or as a package (.lpkx) that includes the dataset. Layer files and layer packages are added to a map in the same manner. They are both collectively referred to as layers.

  1. Make sure a map or scene is your active view.
  2. On the Map tab, in the Layer group, click Add Data Add Data.
  3. Under Portal, click All Portal in the quick links panel.
  4. Type layer in the Search box and press Enter.

    To find layers defined by Esri, add the search term owner:esri in the Search box along with any other appropriate keywords.

  5. Click the layers in the search results that you want to add.
  6. Click OK.

New layers are created in the map using the original layer definitions. The layers draw exactly as designed by the person who created them.

Note:

Layer files (.lyrx) and layer packages (.lpkx) created with any supported version of ArcGIS Pro 1.x can be added to any map. However, layer files created using ArcGIS Pro 2.x cannot be added to a map using ArcGIS Pro 1.x. When a layer file created with ArcGIS Pro 2.2 is added to a map using version 2.0, the layer will be added but will be downgraded in a manner appropriate for the previous version of ArcGIS Pro. A layer package created using ArcGIS Pro 2.x contains both 1.x and 2.x versions of the layer, so the package can be added to any map; the appropriate layer for the version of ArcGIS Pro you are using will be added.

Your organization may have a collection of layers shared on the network or you may have layers on your local computer. You can access these layers from the Add Data dialog box instead of using online layers.

  • If you use these layers frequently, consider adding a folder connection to this location to the project. The layers index automatically, and you can search for the layer you want to use.
  • If the location is accessible from a mapped drive on your computer, browse to that location from the My Computer collection.
  • Paste the UNC path to the network location into the Location bar or the Name text box, and press Enter.

The next time you use the Add Data dialog box, it returns to your last location.

Several alternative methods can be used to add existing layers to a map as described below.

Tip:

You can drag a layer from Window Explorer and drop it on a map or scene.

Use the Catalog pane or the Catalog view

You can browse to or search for layers in the Catalog pane and add them directly to a map. In the Catalog view, you can learn more about an item before you add it to a map by reading its description in the Details pane.

  1. Make sure the Catalog pane or the Catalog view is open.
  2. In the Catalog pane or the Catalog view, browse to or search for the layers in your project or the active portal to add to your map.
  3. Right-click a layer or press Ctrl and click the layers you want to add.
  4. Add the selected layers to the map.
    • From the Catalog pane or view, drag the selected layers and drop them onto the active map or to a specific position in the map's Contents pane.
    • From the Catalog pane, right-click the selected layers and click Add to Current Map. This option is not available if the active view is not a map or a scene.
    • From the Catalog pane or view, right-click the selected layers. The context menu lists options that add the layers to any open map or scene. Click the option to add the layers to a specific map. For example, click Add to World to add the layers to the map named World.
    • From the Catalog pane or view, right-click the selected layers and click Add to New Map. This option creates a new map and immediately adds the layers to it.
Tip:

You can drag a layer file or package from a project in one instance of ArcGIS Pro and drop it on a map or scene in another instance of ArcGIS Pro.

Copy a layer from one map to another

A project can have many maps, each of which has its own set of layers. You can copy a layer from one map and paste it into another map.

  1. Make sure a map or scene is your active view.
  2. In the Contents pane, right-click the layer or press Ctrl and click the layers you want to copy.
  3. Open the map to which you want to copy the layers, and make sure this map view is active.
  4. In the Contents pane, right-click the map and click Paste.

New layers are created in the map with copies of the original layer definitions.

Add a preset layer

A preset layer has many layer properties already defined and can be particularly useful when adding layers to a map or scene. When a new layer is added to a map from the preset gallery, you must connect it to a dataset.

Create a new layer from an existing dataset

If the layer you need doesn't already exist but you have a dataset you want to add to your map, you can create a new layer from the dataset as long as the dataset is in a format supported by ArcGIS Pro. If your dataset isn't stored in a supported format, first use the data conversion geoprocessing tools to convert it to a supported format.

To create a new map layer in a map or scene from an existing dataset, you can browse to or search for a dataset or add one directly from a path. File-based data, portal items, and data from an enterprise database can be added directly from a path.

Tip:

You can drag datasets (for example, layer files or packages, shapefiles, images, tables, or TIN, LAS, and KML datasets) from your file system and drop them on a map or scene to create a new layer. Alternatively, you can drag a dataset into the Contents pane to specify exactly where in the layer draw order you want the new layer to appear.

Browse to or search for a dataset

  1. Make sure a map or scene is your active view.
  2. On the Map tab , in the Layer group, click Add Data Add Data.
  3. Browse to or search for the dataset you want to add to your map.

    By default, the Add Data dialog box provides access to the items in your project. Click one of the Portal collections in the quick links panel to use a dataset from ArcGIS Online or your organization's portal instead.

  4. Click the dataset or select many datasets to add to them to the map.
  5. Click OK.

New layers are created in the map that access the selected datasets. They use a default set of drawing properties appropriate for the dataset's format. The new layers are placed in the table of contents above others of the same type. For example, with a new line dataset, the new layer is placed above other line layers in the table of contents, and its lines draw on top of other lines in the map.

The next time you use the Add Data dialog box, it returns to your last location.

Add a dataset from a path

  1. Make sure a map or scene is your active view.
  2. On the Map tab, in the Layer group, in the Add Data Add Data menu, click Data From Path.
  3. Type the path or URL to the dataset.

    Entering a path to a table adds a stand-alone table to the project. Entering a path to an enterprise database requires an existing connection file. The following are examples:

    • \\mypath\testDB.sde\testDB.gisuser.USA\testDB.gisuser.states adds the states feature class from the USA feature dataset in an enterprise database.
    • http://sampleserver1.arcgisonline.com/ArcGIS/rest/services/Demographics/ESRI_Census_USA/MapServer adds the map service layer ESRI_Census_USA.
    • http://sampleserver6.arcgisonline.com/arcgis/rest/services/NapervilleShelters/FeatureServer/0 adds the Shelters feature layer from the NapervilleShelters feature service.
    • https://www.arcgis.com/home/item.html?id=a842e359856a4365b1ddf8cc34fde079 adds the World Boundaries and Places map image layer by referencing it by its item ID.

  4. Click Add.

After adding a dataset, you'll typically set the symbology, labeling, and other display properties, and organize the drawing order of the layers in your table of contents to refine the look of your map.

Several alternative methods can be used to add existing layers to a map as described below.

Use the Catalog pane or the Catalog view

You can browse to or search for datasets in the Catalog pane or the Catalog view and add them to a map. In the Catalog view, you can learn more about an item before you add it to a map by reading its description in the Details panel.

  1. Make sure the Catalog pane or the Catalog view is open.
  2. In the Catalog pane or the Catalog view, browse to or search for the layers in your project or online to your map.
  3. Click the dataset or press Ctrl and click multiple datasets to add to them to the map.
  4. Add the selected datasets to the map.
    • From the Catalog pane, drag the selected datasets onto the active map or to a specific position in the map's Contents pane.
    • From the Catalog pane, right-click the selected datasets and click Add to Current Map. This option is not available if the active view is not a map or a scene.
    • From the Catalog pane or the Catalog view, right-click the selected datasets. The context menu lists options that add the datasets to any open map or scene. Click the option to add the datasets to a specific map. For example, click Add to World to add the datasets to the map named World.
    • From the Catalog pane or the Catalog view, right-click the selected dataset and click Add to New Map. This option creates a new map and immediately adds the datasets to it.
Tip:

You can drag a dataset from a project in one instance of ArcGIS Pro and drop it on a map or scene in another instance of ArcGIS Pro.

Create a new layer and a new dataset from a template

You can use a layer template to add a new, editable layer to the active map. A layer template is a schema-only layer package; it defines the symbology and other display properties for the layer and the schema for the underlying dataset. When you add new features to the layer, they are stored in the new dataset.

  1. Make sure a map or scene is your active view.
  2. On the Insert tab, in the Layer Templates group, click one of the layer templates in the gallery.

New datasets are created in the project's default geodatabase as described by the layer template's schema. A new layer is created in the active map as defined by the layer definition. The new layer is connected to the new dataset in the default geodatabase.

When you browse or search for layers in your project or online, you may find schema-only layer packages. These packages work in the same manner as layer templates when you add them to a map.

Important things to know about layers and layer packages

Once a layer has been added to a map, the map layer is not directly tied to the underlying dataset. That is, removing the layer doesn't affect the dataset. Also, if the underlying dataset is moved to a new location or renamed, the layer may not be able to connect to it and draw the dataset.

Similarly, once a layer has been added to a map, the map layer is not directly tied to the original layer file. If you change the original layer's definition, those changes will not appear automatically in any maps containing layers previously added from the original layer file. The next time you add the layer to a map, the new map layer uses the new layer definition.

If a layer was defined using ArcGIS Desktop, the layer's definition must be imported to the ArcGIS Pro layer format before a new layer can be created with that definition. You will be notified if a property of the layer cannot be imported successfully or if the data referenced by the layer is not supported in ArcGIS Pro.

Online layer files and layer packages must be downloaded to the local computer before they can be used.

A layer package must be opened before the layer it contains is added to the map. The contents of a package are placed in the <User Documents>\ArcGIS\Packages folder. The layer created in the map accesses the data provided with the package.

If a package contains a schema-only layer, that layer is handled in the same manner as layer templates, which are described in the previous section of this topic.