Skip To Content

About creating web GIS applications

As you learn and use ArcGIS for Server, you'll probably reach the point where you want to build or customize your own applications to work with your GIS services. Esri offers several resources that you can use to create applications. The resource that you choose depends on your experience and skill level, as well as the requirements of the application.

Available applications include ready-to-use applications, configurable applications, and APIs. If you're interested in learning more about web GIS application design, deployment, content, and editing, see the Design concepts for web GIS applications book of this help section.

Ready-to-use apps

Ready-to-use apps do not require any customization on your part to use them—just connect to your services and take advantage of the functionality the apps provide.

ArcGIS for Desktop

ArcGIS for Desktop is the most sophisticated application in ArcGIS. It includes advanced capabilities to author, share, edit, and analyze spatial data. You can connect to your server from ArcGIS for Desktop to publish and consume services. For example, in ArcMap, you can drag a map service from the Catalog window into the map. These GIS services—such as map, geoprocessing, locator, and imagery—provide the foundation for much of the work performed using the ArcGIS platform.

ArcGIS for Desktop can also act as an administrative interface for an ArcGIS Server site, allowing you to do things like adding folders, adding and deleting services, and registering databases. To get this functionality, you need to enter an administrator name and password when you make the server connection.

ArcGIS for Desktop also includes ArcGIS Pro, which allows you to create and work with spatial data on your desktop. It provides tools to visualize, analyze, compile, and share your data in both 2D and 3D environments. If you've federated your ArcGIS Server site with Portal for ArcGIS, you can connect ArcGIS Pro to Portal for ArcGIS and publish services to your portal.

Portal for ArcGIS

Many members of your organization will only access your services through Portal for ArcGIS. You can configure the portal with your own look and feel, feature maps and apps on the front page, and organize the maps and apps into galleries and groups. Portal for ArcGIS includes a web map viewer that authenticated users can use to create and use maps. By configuring your Portal for ArcGIS with a hosting server, users will also be able to create feature layers from their own shapefiles and CSV files.

ArcGIS Online

ArcGIS Online allows you to make your own map on the web by adding GIS services from different sources. These could be your own services or services that you discover using ArcGIS Online's search capabilities. You can even make a map from a spreadsheet that you've saved in a CSV (comma-separated value) format.

For full instructions on how to create a web application using ArcGIS Online, see the topic Sharing your map in a web application. Additionally, the ArcGIS Online help provides instructions on how to reference your GIS services in the website, add them to the map viewer, and share them with others.

Collector for ArcGIS

Collector for ArcGIS is a field data collection and editing app for smartphones and tablets. With Collector, you can use your ArcGIS Server services to create new or edit existing features using a GPS or by tapping on a map, route to work locations, track your current location, and measure distance between locations. You can also share maps from ArcGIS Online or Portal for ArcGIS with Collector.

Your field workforce can download Collector for ArcGIS from the iTunes App Store (for iPhone) or Google play (for Android).

Esri Maps for Office

Esri Maps for Office provides mapping capabilities in Microsoft Office through a Microsoft Add-in. You can use this add-in with Microsoft Excel to mash up your services from ArcGIS Server and create web maps that show data from your spreadsheets in ArcGIS Online or Portal for ArcGIS. Additionally, an add-in for PowerPoint allows you to embed these web maps into your presentations.

You can download Esri Maps for Office from the Esri website.

Esri Maps for SharePoint

Esri Maps for SharePoint provides mapping capabilities in Microsoft SharePoint through a map Web Part for SharePoint pages. You can use this to display services from ArcGIS Server in your SharePoint pages. It also includes workflows that allow you to spatially-enable and Geoenrich SharePoint lists or external data through Business Connectivity Services (BCS).

You can download Esri Maps for SharePoint from the Esri website.

Explorer for ArcGIS

Explorer for ArcGIS lets everyone in your organization find and share services from ArcGIS Server on their devices. You can visualize data, search for places and features on your maps, sketch on the maps to highlight important features, share maps with other Explorer users, and tell stories with interactive map presentations.

Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS

Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS allows you to monitor your ArcGIS Server services to assess the status of activities, events, and daily operations. Using the Operations Dashboard, you can create and share operation views of your services using ArcGIS Online or Portal for ArcGIS. Operation views include maps, lists, charts, and other representations of real-time and static data.

Configurable apps

Configurable apps are templates or software developer kits (SDKs) you can use to help expand the use of your GIS services within or outside of your organization.

Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS

ArcGIS Online and Portal for ArcGIS include an embedded interactive application for designing and building web applications from your web maps. Applications you create with Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS require no programming knowledge and are HTML based, meaning they work on desktop browsers, tablets, and smart phones without needing a plugin. Web AppBuilder comes with a variety of themes you can customize and widgets that allow you to deliver advanced functionality, such as high-quality printing, geoprocessing, editing, and search.

Industry-specific applications

You will find many industry-specific templates and applications on the ArcGIS Solutions website that work with your services.

Mobile app developer toolkits

You can use the ArcGIS Runtime SDK for Android, iOS, or Windows Phone developer toolkits to create mobile applications to that work with your services.


For information about APIs that work with ArcGIS Server, visit the ArcGIS for Developers website. For example, Esri offers a web mapping API for JavaScript. You can use this API to build a web application from scratch. The API offers commonly used GIS functionality and is designed to be accessible to beginning programmers.