What I Love about ArcGIS 10 – Map Packages

As many frustrated ArcGIS users have discovered, sharing only an MXD file will open a blank map full of angry red exclamation marks indicating broken data links.  Even includin the data with the MXD file, the data links will be broken unless the sharer is extremely careful in preparing the map and data.  Now with ArcGIS 10, sharing your map is very easy.

Continuing with my What I Love about ArcGIS 10 series, today I write about map packages.

Bundle your map and data for easy sharing – prevent red exclamation marks

What is it? Map packages are easy-to-share files with an MPK extension that, when unpackaged, contain the MXD file and all of the referenced data and properties.  MPK files can be shared over networks, via email, flash drives, etc.  They can even be uploaded to ArcGIS.com to be shared with the ESRI community at large.

Why is it useful? First and foremost, map packages make it very easy to bundle up all of the necessary data and files to be shared with others.  No longer must you fret over relative or absolute data paths, data folder structures, and file size limits.  One tool does the work for you.

Second, because the MPK file creates a snapshot copy of your data, map packages are a great way to archive your data or project.  This offers an easy way to go back and view a particular state of your data as a project evolves.  Along these same lines, you can use map packages to create different editing scenarios – for example to show samples of how the results of using one editing tool vary from another.

How do I create and work with them? When you are ready to package up your MXD, simply click on File > Create Map Package to open the dialog.  If you haven’t already entered your map document properties, you will be prompted to do so before you can proceed.  Then you will see the create map package dialog box with two options – one to upload the package to your ArcGIS Online account, the other to save the package to file.  Use the first (default) option if you want to post your data and map to ArcGIS.com to share with the ESRI user community.  If you just want to share the data within your organization or with specific users, choose the second option then navigate to the location where you want to save the MPK file.

Create Map Package Dialog Box

Next, click Validate to check your data for any potential problems.  Once validation is successful, click the Share button to create the MPK file.  The file is now ready to share.

The recipient of the MPK file will need to extract it before viewing in ArcMap.  There are three ways to do this:

  • Drag and drop the MPK file into ArcMap.
  • Right-click the MPK file and choose Extract.
  • Use the Extract Package tool in the new geoprocessing Package toolset contained in the Data Management Toolbox.

A few things to keep in mind about map packages:

  • Upload your map package to your ArcGIS Online account to share your map and data with users who do not have access to ArcMap.
  • Schematic and tool layers are not supported by map packages.
  • Share an individual data layer instead of the entire map by creating a layer package (LPK) that stores the layer properties and a copy of the data.

For more information about upgrading or learning ArcGIS 10, please contact me at michele@geomattix.com.