Add layers to a map or scene

A layer references a dataset that is stored in a geodatabase or a service. The data can be in a local directory, on a network drive, in ArcGIS Online, or on your organization's portal.

When you add data to a map or scene, it is represented as a new layer. You can also add layers to a map by adding an existing layer or layer package. Layers provided as a file have an .lyrx extension. Layer files contain all the layer properties and a reference to the dataset. Layer packages have an .lpkx extension. They contain all the layer properties and the dataset together. Layer files and layer packages are added to a map in the same manner. They are both collectively referred to as layers.

Layers in a map reference the source dataset, but do not control the data. You can source the same data in many layers simultaneously. If the dataset is moved, deleted, or otherwise unavailable to the layer, the layer cannot connect to the data or draw its features.

You must download online layer files and layer packages to a local directory before you can use them. You must open a layer package before the layer it contains is added to the map. The layer created in the map accesses the data provided with the package. By default, the contents of a package are placed in the <User Documents>\ArcGIS\Packages folder when you open the package. You can change this location on the Share and Download Options dialog box.


If a layer was defined using ArcGIS Desktop, you must import the layer's definition to the ArcGIS Pro layer format before you can create a new layer with that definition. You are 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.

Browse to data to add to a map or scene

You can build maps and scenes from data originating in a variety of locations, both local and online. Browse to the data you want to see in your map. When you add it, a layer referencing that data is created.

Add data from the Add Data dialog box

The most common way to add data to a map or scene is to use the Add Data button. You can add data that is in a local directory, or you can access data online. ArcGIS Online provides many ready-to-use layers. Existing layers may also be available from your organization's portal.


If multiple layers are added at a time, they are ordered according to geometry type by default. Annotation is listed first, followed by point data, polyline data, polygon data, and raster data.

Follow these steps to add a layer or layer package to a map or scene:

  1. Make sure a map or scene is your active view.
  2. On the Map tab, in the Layer group, click the Add Data Add Data drop-down menu and click Browse Add Data.
  3. On the Add Data dialog box, browse to a layer at an online location or a local location:
    • To add a local layer on your computer or that your organization maintains on a network, on the Add Data dialog box, browse to the local directory. If you use these layers frequently, consider adding a folder connection to this location to the project to ensure the layers are indexed and to save time browsing to the location.


      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 layer. Drag them onto the Contents pane of the map or scene to specify exactly where in the layer draw order you want the new layer to appear.

    • To add an online layer, under Portal, click All Portal in the quick links panel. 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.

  4. Click the layers in the search results that you want to add and click OK.

Add data from the Catalog pane

As an alternative to the Add Data button, you can browse to or search for layers in the Catalog pane and add them directly to a map. In a 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. In the Catalog pane or a catalog view, browse to or search for the layers in your project or the active portal to add to your map.
  2. Right-click a layer or press Ctrl and click the layers you want to add.
  3. 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 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 Add To New to add the layers to a map named World.
    • From the Catalog pane or view, right-click the selected layers and click Add To New Map Add To New. This option creates a map and immediately adds the layers to it.

Add data from a path

To create a 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. You can add file-based data, portal items, and data from an enterprise database directly from a path.


Web Feature Services (WFS), Web Map Tile Services (WMTS), OGC API services, and geocode services and locators cannot be added to a map, scene, or project from a path. In these cases, you must connect to and add the layer from the Catalog pane.

You can add data to your maps from a path, such as a file directory or URL. To add a dataset from a path, complete the following steps:

  1. On the Map tab, in the Layer group, , click Add Data From Path Data From Path.
  2. 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 of acceptable path formats:

    • \\mypath\testDB.sde\testDB.gisuser.USA\testDB.gisuser.states
      • Adds the states feature class from the USA feature dataset in an enterprise database.

      • Adds the map service layer ESRI_Census_USA.

      • Adds the Shelters feature layer from the NapervilleShelters feature service.

      • Adds the World Boundaries and Places map image layer by referencing it by its item ID.

      • Adds a tile layer from OpenStreetMap or Waymarked Trails tile services. If the URL includes a {subdomain}, it must be specified (in this example, the letter a). Consult the service provider's documentation for available subdomains.

      • This example path is the expected format of a 3D tiles layer path. The layer paths always contain tileset.json.

      • Adds a vector tile layer of North American roads from Natural Earth from the TileJSON definition when the Vector Tile Service option is selected. The vector_layers array is used to define layers to draw with default symbols at their defined scales.

  3. When you add a service layer from a URL, a map service, a WMS service of a map service, a feature service, or an image service, an attempt is made to determine the service type. If you know the service type, choose it from the Service Type drop-down menu. If the service type cannot be determined, the service type is listed as Automatic. If you are adding a 3D tiles layer, specify whether the Layer Type is an integrated mesh or 3D object.

    When you are working with a service URL that is hosted on a third-party server and the URL is not deterministic, you must specify the service type from the list to add the data.

  4. Click Add to create a layer in the map or scene referencing the data.

Custom request parameters

When you add ArcGIS Server services, vector tile services, or WMS services, you can add custom request parameters. These are key-value pairs that can be appended to the URL for all resources and operations fetched by the service layer. These are often access keys to allow access to restricted data. In some cases, you must specify the access key-value pair to add the data. Contact the administrator of the service for the access keys if you are working with restricted access services.

To append custom request parameters to a URL when you add a service, expand the Custom request parameters heading. In the table, add the key or parameter name in the Parameter column of the table and add the corresponding value in the Value column. Add more rows to the table if there are additional key-value pairs to add.

Once a layer has been added to a map or scene, you can manage the layer's custom request parameters from the Custom Parameters tab on the Layer Properties dialog box. See Set layer properties to learn about other properties of layers.

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.

Follow these steps to copy layers between maps in a project:

  1. In the Contents pane of the source map or scene, highlight the layer.
  2. Right-click the layer and click Copy Copy.
  3. Open the target map. In the Contents pane, right-click the name of the map or scene (by default, it is called Map or Scene, respectively, but may have been renamed to something else) and click Paste Paste.

You can also 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.

Create a layer 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.

To add a layer from a template to an active map or scene, 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.