HTML Popups vs. Hyperlinks

Discussion created by griner on Feb 19, 2020

Context: Windows 10, ArcGIS Desktop 10.7.1

Trying to figure out which ArcMap feature to use:

  • HTML Popups (configured in the HTML Popup tab of Layer Properties)
  • Hyperlinks (configured in the Display Properties tab of Layer Properties)

Searching the internet for usage of each option, it seems there is rampant confusion between these 2 features. Both of them allow a way for users to 'link' to other information that may be relevant at a point on the map that the user clicks on. However, I note the following key differences:

  • HTML Popups only provide information from the single 'topmost' feature at the point of click. If the layer's feature class has 2 features at the point of click, only the top-most feature's attributes are used to construct the HTML popup content.  The user is *not* presented with a list of features at the point of click and allowed to choose which feature they want the popup to 'come from'. The content of the popup is essentially HTML rendered in an ArcMap window that 'pops up'. The HTML is constructed via 'XSLT' - the 'T' stands for 'Template' but in fact XSLT is interpreted code that constructs the HTML that describes the content of the popup. Thus, depending on how much effort you want to put in to learn how to code in XSLT-speak, you can can create a 'popup' that can use a wide breadth of HTML features to describe a 'page' of HTML, including hyperlinks, images, tables, CSS, - not sure what HTML capabilities are not allowed in these 'popup' windows. These HTML popups are persistent, requiring the user to dismiss them. This allows a sort of absurd feature that if the user repeatedly clicks on the same point, ArcMap will happily open up an additional 'popup' for each click - each 'popup' containing the same content. The user is left to close them all.
  • Hyperlinks instantly 'link' from a feature to an other resource when the user clicks on a point. The 'other resource' can be a URL, a document accessible to the user in the filesystem (local or networked), anything that can be expressed as a single line. Unlike HTML popups, the Hyperlink tool scans through the layers at the point of click and if there is more than one feature belonging to a layer with hyperlinks configured, then ArcMap displays a 'popup' showing the user a list of choices of features with hyperlinked references. This 'popup' looks vaguely similar to what the HTML popup could generate - except that this popup is only presented if there is more than 1 features with hyperlinks configured. There is little in the way of control that a developer has to control the layout of this popup (with a few small exceptions). Once the user selects a link the 'popup' is closed and the linked resource is invoked.


Hence my situation - - we have a 'library' of scanned images of large paper documents that are available on our local file server. About 2,500 of them. These images have a geography and are scattered over much of northwest California. I can easily construct a feature class / layer that essentially provides a feature per document that represents the geographic location of that document. In many cases there are multiple documents (all different) that have the same geographic location. I want the user to be able to load this feature class into their map, and then use a tool to allow them to click on a point on the map and then a 'popup' showing them a list of what documents are available at that location (I think this is the main source of confusion between Hyperlinks and HTML popups) In this 'Hyperlink popup' window the user either clicks on one of the list items and the 'hyperlink' proceeds to load the document in their Windows session - or the user looks through the list and determines that none of the choices interest them in which case they can close this popup with no hyperlink invoked. I want this popup to appear even if there is only 1 document available at that point - as it is a reasonable expectation to not have to open a document for the user that the could tell by its reference they have no interest in.


Is there some other feature of ArcMap that I'm unaware of that would provide the functionality I'm looking for?