I am embarking on a project in which users will author, save, and share their own maps over the web. We will provide them with a large number of feature classes, but users will effectively author their own maps, map symbologies, etc. Furthermore, they will create and edit their own feature classes, which they can both map and share with other users.

The model for AGS map services seems to be: author a map in ArcMap, save an MXD/MSD, publish. I'm struggling to understand how this can help us build a dynamic web mapping platform as described above. Can anyone offer some tips on how to go about it?

5 Answers 5


I've used a lot of the following open source technologies to actually host the map and edit them. I've used these technologies with shape files, and not directly with ArcGIS; So I'm sorry if it doesn't really meet your requirements a 100%.

To make your maps even prettier, and add more functionality, then GeoEXT is your friend. For data manipulation, Geoserver offers a lot of it, but if you want extra, check out gdal/ogr

I'm sure that I am missing many others, but you could start there.

  • Good list. We may well have to look beyond ArcGIS to do this.
    – nw1
    Commented Apr 13, 2010 at 16:01
  • if you check out some of the examples shipped with openlayers and featureserver, they showcase how a user can edit a map, create new layers, and so on.
    – dassouki
    Commented Apr 13, 2010 at 16:49
  • You might want to check out TileMill also. I don't have much experience with it but it might fit your needs. You'll need to decide what you plan on using to store your data though. If you're using SDE, you might want to check out the arcpy mapping module. You could use that to build maps behind the scenes based on user input captured with the arcgis javascript api. This sounds like an interesting project, good luck! Commented Apr 12, 2012 at 19:12

Take a look at the new ArcGIS Explorer online. It is tightly integrated into arcgis online. You could create a group allow users to join with access to your data, basemaps, webservices, etc....

ArcGIS Explorer Online
With ArcGIS Explorer Online, you can easily explore, visualize, and share GIS information. Use it to directly access basemaps and other content. You can even use it to create an interactive slideshow.

ArcGIS Explorer is a free application that runs in a browser. It is built using Microsoft Silverlight.

Open ArcGIS Explorer Online
What's New A more simplified user experience Features can be dragged and dropped onto maps Sharing information pop-ups and notes is easier. For example, you can make notes in a feature layer that can be shared across clients such as the ArcGIS.com map viewer and ArcGIS Explorer Desktop. Presentations can be shared via direct URL access to the presentation of a map, making it much simpler to share your presentation with a user who has never used the application before. Support for time-enabled web maps


Using one of ESRI's SDK's, you can retrieve a list of available maps from the ArcGIS Server. You could then provide a drop down of the available MXD/MSDs and allow the user to select what dynamic map they would like back.

  • But that would still require someone to author the MXDs behind the scenes, wouldn't it?
    – nw1
    Commented Apr 12, 2010 at 20:29
  • Yes, someone has to create the map(s). But ArcGIS Server allows users to publish to the server if they have the right credentials. If you want an open platform of publishing, than allowing this ease of access should be acceptable. Otherwise you could have someone administer the server to allow approved maps to be published and then consumed by your website. Commented Apr 12, 2010 at 20:31

Hi I am a bit late with my answer but I started on ArcGIS Server as well half a year ago. It is true that you create your BasicMaps yourself in ArcMap and than publish them as a webservice which in turn can be displayed in a web application. And that is the point, you have to create a strong web application that uses AGS Javascript API + Dojo + php + mysql + XXX in order to allow all the features that would make a "create-yoour-own-map" possible.

What I tried to say was that you should prepare for a lot more work than only relying on ArcGIS server alone.


If you want all of the features you describe then in the ESRI world you would have to give each user access to ArcGIS Desktop. Some of what you ask for is possible. If you want to allow users to select their own layer then all you would need to do is create some sort of admin page that lists all of your map services from which users could select the layers they want. If you are using the JS API this will then be a simple matter of retrieving a users saved data from some sort of store and then only requesting those layers.

In terms of editing and changing the actual map service this is a not really possible, and even it if were I think you would kill performance.

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