ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Online - How do they interact?

05-26-2016 10:22 AM
New Contributor

I'm fairly new to working with ArcGIS Online and I have a few questions. I'm a summer intern at a state agency and my duty is to produce a catalogue of contaminated properties in several counties in my state. I am creating this catalogue in ArcGIS Desktop, but the end product needs to be published on ArcGIS Online. As a college student, I am accustomed to working in ArcGIS desktop with shapefiles in my classes. So far, I am working with shapefiles for the state counties (polygons) and shapefiles of the various types of contamination (points). I have noticed that many types of data that are available from ArcGIS Online (as well as other data websites) are in layer format, not shapefile (such as state hydrological data). Is it fine to work with feature layer files instead of shapefiles? I have looked this up and I'm not finding a clear answer about the difference. My second question is about the interaction between ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Online. How should I transition my final product from the desktop setting to the online setting? I know that ArcGIS Online uses base maps, but my project so far has been based on the geographies I downloaded from the Census Bureau (TIGER/Line).

I realize that my questions are probably rudimentary. I'm still learning the basics of GIS. Thank you for any help.

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MVP Notable Contributor

Hi Lauren,

These are some good questions. Maybe you could provide a little more detail? I am assuming that you have ArcGIS for Desktop and that you have an organizational account for ArcGIS Online.

You may want to make a map in Desktop that shows what you want to see and then publish that map to your AGOL account. There are some tips and tricks regarding publishing, but for what you're doing, you will likely just want to have an empty MXD that only shows the counties and contamination points. Don't add a basemap and don't add other AGOL data.

Publish this data, then go to your AGOL account and create a web map from this feature service you created.

Publish hosted feature layers—ArcGIS Online Help | ArcGIS

Then you can add other data from AGOL on your web map (like the ones you are seeing from other websites).

I think this will be a good start. To answer your question about the difference, use Desktop to make the maps, print maps, perform any analysis, and use AGOL to deliver your maps to the public (or whoever needs them).

Here is some broad information on best practices regarding what you are doing:

Best practices for using layers in maps—ArcGIS Online Help | ArcGIS

I hope this helps!