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Top 3 reasons to START using ArcGIS Pro now! Reason #1 revealed.

Drum roll… The #1 reason you should consider using ArcGIS Pro is: It’s tight integration with web GIS. ArcGIS Pro provides a unique experience to seamlessly update 2D and 3D web layers and easily share and collaborate within your organization and across organizations, using ArcGIS Online or Portal for ArcGIS.

Before I go in more details about what ArcGIS Pro can do better than ArcMap, let’s make sure everyone without any web GIS experience, understands some basic, but important terminology.

Web Layers – In Desktop GIS we work with layers of data and in web GIS we work with web layers. So far, this is straight forward.

Web Maps – Let’s use the same comparison. The map in Desktop GIS is the assembly of the layers and by using symbology, you make them visible to create the map. In web GIS, the web map is the result of the assembly of the different web layers.

Web Apps – The apps or applications can be compared to the layouts in Desktop GIS. The web app is the finished product that tells the story of your data.

Editing Web Layers

For the experienced ArcMap users familiar with the ArcMap sharing workflows, I want to point out that ArcGIS Pro offers a better experience because of the new types of web layer you can create and share and its ability to edit web layers without having to republish them after you’re done with the edits.

ArcMap does not edit web layers. It can only edit traditional layers. To modify a web layer from ArcMap, users must open an editing session, save their edits once completed, stop the editing session and republish the layer, to override the existing one. All those steps are things of the past in ArcGIS Pro with the direct edition of web layers!

Types of Web Layers

This brings me to discuss the types of web layers you can choose from and should consider carefully when creating web maps and apps. In 2019, no one has the patience to wait multiple seconds before a map renders all its layers when you zoom and pan around… you should always follow best practices to prioritize responsiveness if you want your app to be a success.

Inexperienced web GIS users will most likely use dynamic web layers to publish everything, but the purpose and performance impact of each layer should be considered before making that choice.

You could also risk burning extra credits in ArcGIS Online or using extra space on your servers, which translate into hardware and licensing cost.

To help you out, I want to review the various types of web layers, which ones are new with ArcGIS Pro and the reasons why you should choose them for various purposes.

Feature Layers

  • Choose them for editing workflow (to use with Collector for ArcGIS example) and to use on top of your basemaps. They are the layers you click on to open pop-up windows to see attribute details (photo, description, hyperlink, etc.). Their cost in credits for storage in ArcGIS Online is the highest compared to the other types of layers.

Vector Tile Layers - new and only available with ArcGIS Pro!

  • Use them for static vector data on your basemaps for visualization only. This new type of web layer offers real time symbology adjustment as you pan and zoom around the web map, it uses less storage space compared to the traditional tile layers and can be created quickly. Their cost in credits for storage in ArcGIS Online is lower than feature layers.

Tile Layers

  • Use them for raster data (including imagery) and for static vector data, if using ArcMap as basemaps for visualization only. You must create the tiles first, then create a tile package before publishing them to a Web GIS. Please note: ArcGIS Pro creates tiles much faster than ArcMap ever did. I am talking about saving hours of processing time by using ArcGIS Pro!

This video called “Uploading tile layers and tile packages to ArcGIS Online” steps you through different options to create a tile layer using tools found in ArcGIS Pro.

Map Image Layers

  • Available with ArcGIS Enterprise 10.4 and up only
  • Use them for data that changes regularly but not used for editing workflows.

Scene Layers - new and only available with ArcGIS Pro!

  • Use them for all 3D data for querying and visualizing. They can support 3D objects, points, point cloud and buildings.

Elevation Layers

  • Use them for displaying ground surface of a web scene.

Imagery Layers

  • Available with ArcGIS Enterprise 10.4 and up only
  • Use them for enabling dynamic visualization of raster data.

Training Solutions to learn sharing to Web GIS best practices

We can help you sort all this out with our instructor-led courses.

If you are new to ArcGIS Pro, consider taking Migrating from ArcMap to ArcGIS Pro. You will be introduced to the new sharing workflow of ArcGIS Pro and the Vector tile layers capabilities.

Once you have experience using ArcGIS Pro, you can take a deep dive into sharing best practices with our course Sharing GIS Content Using ArcGIS.

If you have questions or comments, leave us a note below or email us at

About the Author

Carole Arseneau is a Sales Representative at Esri Canada. She advises customers from all industries on how to use GIS technology to be more efficient in their daily workflows. Carole holds a GIS certificate from Florida State College in Jacksonville and a Bachelor degree in Kinesiology from Laval University in Québec City. Being by the water has always made her feel at home and has given her inspiration to keep a positive outlook in life.

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