I have one script (and one alternative) that I want to use to replace a broken data source. Neither is working outside of the ArcMap Python Window.

Has it something to do with the MapDocument object?

  • Tested with a few different IDEs; including PyScripter, Pythonwin, PyCharm and IDLE.

  • In both instances the scripts run without error and print the correct print statements, but nothing is changed in the map document.

  • Only tested using Python 2.7.13 because when working with the ArcPy module and ArcMap, Python 3.x is not supported. It's supported in ArcGIS Pro.

  • No difference with mxd.saveACopy() instead of mxd.save()

Script using replaceDataSource()

mxd = arcpy.mapping.MapDocument(r'\\gisfile\GISmaps\AtlasMaps\ATLAS_MAPS_18\Test 
for lyr in arcpy.mapping.ListLayers(mxd):
    if str(lyr.name) == "Test":
        lyr.replaceDataSource(r"\\gisfile\GISstaff\Jared\Hydro.gdb", "FILEGDB_WORKSPACE", "Hydro_WillCounty_Waterways")
del mxd

and using findAndReplaceWorkspacePaths()

mxd = arcpy.mapping.MapDocument(r'\\gisfile\GISmaps\AtlasMaps\ATLAS_MAPS_18\Test 
mxd.findAndReplaceWorkspacePaths(r"\\gisfile\GISmaps\GISstaff\Jared\WillCoGIS_DataSHP.gdb", r"\\gisfile\GISstaff\Jared\Hydro.gdb")
del mxd

On the other hand, these scripts work fine in the ArcMap Python window. For example,

import arcpy
mxd = arcpy.mapping.MapDocument("CURRENT")
for lyr in arcpy.mapping.ListLayers(mxd):
if str(lyr.name) == "Test":
   "FILEGDB_WORKSPACE", "Hydro_WillCounty_Waterways")
   print lyr.dataSource
del mxd

I've had a look at similar posts, but I couldn't find one helpful enough:

  • Is your script running as a user with write access to the location where the map documents are? Does it have the ability to read the location where the other file gdb is located? Is your IDE using the same python installation as arcpy? What error message are you getting from your script?
    – Fezter
    Nov 9, 2018 at 3:16
  • Yes, I have access to the workspace folder. It's on our server. Yes, as I said, both scripts run with no error and where there are print statements they work as they should. There is no error message anywhere.
    – Pfalbaum
    Nov 9, 2018 at 14:29

2 Answers 2


After creating an alternative script that unorthodoxically replaces the broken layer, I was able to find the problem in my original stand-alone script. It seems something is corrupt in the path to, or the FGDB itself. So, I replaced the parameters in the replaceDataSource() function to call a feature class in our SDE instead. And it worked.

lyr.replaceDataSource(r"Database Connections\example.sde", 
"SDE_WORKSPACE", "feature class example")

For curiosity's sake, here's that unorthodox script. It's a long workaround if you don't have many options as to where your data is stored, or you don't want to use the options from this page:


This script will:

Remove broken layer (has to be specified by exact map layer name)--> Adds a new layer--> Updates that layer's symbology by importing a .lyr file that's saved with the symbology settings you want--> Moves this layer above another layer (puts it where you want it in the TOC)

import arcpy

mxd = arcpy.mapping.MapDocument(r'path\to\.mxd')
df = arcpy.mapping.ListDataFrames(mxd, "name of dataframe")[0]
feature = arcpy.mapping.Layer(r"path\to\feature you want on map")

for lyr in arcpy.mapping.ListLayers(mxd, "featureclass", df): #the layer you're 
    arcpy.mapping.RemoveLayer(df, lyr) #because this layer is broke, it will be removed
    arcpy.mapping.AddLayer(df, feature, "AUTO_ARRANGE") #then 'feature' has to be re-added, but will be the wrong color
    #the 'feature' will be updated by the .lyr file you created
    updateLayer = arcpy.mapping.ListLayers(mxd, "name of feature", df)[0] 
    print("MXD: {} updated").format(mxd)#print statement to make sure it's working sofar
    sourceLayer = arcpy.mapping.Layer(r"path\to\your\.lyr")
    #update layer using the .lyr file's symbology
    arcpy.mapping.UpdateLayer(df, updateLayer, sourceLayer, True)

#move layer to where you want in the TOC
for lyr2 in arcpy.mapping.ListLayers(mxd, "", df):
    if lyr2.name == "feature name":
        moveLayer = lyr2
if lyr2.name == "some other feature in the TOC":
    refLayer = lyr2
arcpy.mapping.MoveLayer(df, refLayer, moveLayer, "BEFORE")
del mxd

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