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Geocode services

Geocode services support a wide range of applications, from business and customer management, to shipping and distribution to getting directions to where you need to go. Geocoding allows you to find and display addresses on a map and see how they relate to surrounding features. Sometimes you can see relationships by reviewing the map; other times, use spatial analysis tools to reveal information that can't be easily seen.

While there are many commercially available geocode services, these may not meet your organization's needs for several reasons: the address information is not up-to-date, your address formatting is different, or you want people to find address locations by the local or common name of a feature (for example, The White House). All these situations call for a specialized geocoding solution. By investing the time to build your own geocode service, you can ensure that your geocoding needs are met.

To make your geocode service available to clients, create an address locator in ArcGIS Desktop and publish it as a geocode service to ArcGIS Server. Once you have published the service, create a client application that uses the geocode service to display address locations on a map.

Creating the address locator

All geocode services begin as an address locator. The address locator is the main tool for geocoding in ArcGIS and contains all the necessary data to perform address matching. You can use ArcCatalog, the Catalog window in ArcGIS Desktop, or the Create Address Locator geoprocessing tool to create an address locator. For step-by-step instructions, refer to Creating an address locator in the ArcGIS Help.

Composite locators that combine many locators into one, can also be published to ArcGIS Server. Composite locators must be copied to the server. If the participating locators are stored in a folder that is registered with the server, only the composite locator, not the participating locators, will be copied to the server.

For more information about composite locators, see Creating a composite address locator.

Publishing the address locator


As of 10.5, you must license your ArcGIS Server as an ArcGIS GIS Server in order to publish geocode services.

After you create the address locator, publish it as a geocode service by following the steps in How to publish a service. Valid formats are locator files (.loc) in a file folder.


Locators should be stored in a file folder so you take advantage of new features that are not supported for locators stored in geodatabases, such as performance improvements, multithreading capabilities, and suggestions support. ArcGIS 10.4 was the last release to support storing locators in geodatabases.

Geocode service operations

Geocode services have built-in operations that allow you to perform geocoding and reverse geocoding, and to generate suggestions. Geocoding refers to the process of finding a geographic location from an address; reverse geocoding refers to the process of finding the nearest address to a geographic location; suggestions are auto-completed addresses generated for partial input strings. When publishing your address locator, the Geocode and Reverse Geocode operations are enabled by default. The Suggest operation is enabled by default, and is only available when suggestions are enabled for the source address locator. You can enable or disable any one of these operations by accessing the Capabilities tab of the Service Editor.

Using the geocode service

To use your geocode service, you need a client application, such as a web application to consume your service. The ArcGIS API for JavaScript and ArcGIS Runtime SDKs allow you to build applications that can consume your geocode service. You can also reference your geocode service in Portal for ArcGIS for use in maps and applications.

In its basic form, the geocode service is a web service that takes in an address and returns the corresponding location coordinates. You can see the geocode service's REST URL if you navigate to the service with the ArcGIS Server Services Directory. The URL looks like this: