Introduction to ArcGIS Online

This tutorial provides an overview of the Online version of ArcGIS, one of ESRI's many mapping tools.

ArcGIS Online is a complete, scalable and secure software-as-a-service cloud-based mapping platform which can be used to make and share maps.

Introduction to ArcGIS Online Workshop


A. Set up
B. Log in to ArcGIS Online
C. Creating your First Map from Spreadsheet Data
D. Configuring your Map
E. Adding in Geospatial Data
     a) Adding geospatial data to a specific ArcGIS Online map
     b) Adding geospatial data to ArcGIS Online as a Hosted Feature Layer
     c) Publishing data from ArcGIS Desktop to ArcGIS Online
F. Data Analysis in ArcGIS Online
     a) Exploring data
     b) Selecting data
     c) Summarizing data
     d) GIS for decision-making
G. Editing Data
H. Sharing your Map


A. Set Up

First, we recommend you use Firefox to download all the files for this workshop. To have Firefox ask you where to save a file whenever you download something (to avoid having to find it in your Downloads directory and move it to your workshop folder):

1. Start up Firefox (if not already running).

2. Click on the menu icon (3 horizontal lines) on the top right. Select Options

Menu icon with Option highlighted.

3. From the General tab, under Downloads, select Always ask me where to save files and then close the tab.

Download section of the Option menu with Always ask you where to save files option highlighted.

4. Next, you should create a folder to store all your files. You are welcome to organize the files as you wish, but if you need some file management assistance, I recommend the following:

5. Right click on the desktop and select New and then Folder. Name this folder Workshop.

6. Finally, download all the files to this newly created directory.

7. Using Firefox, go to (case sensitive)

8. Right click on the file, and select Save Link As… Browse to the Workshop folder you just created on the Desktop. Then click on Save.

Right click options with Save Link As highlighted.

9. Go to the Workshop folder. Right click on the zip file called IntroToArcGISOnline and select
7-Zip->Extract Here

7-Zip options with Extract Here highlighted.

10. Now you should see another zip file within the Workshop folder called workshopdata (so a zip file within a zip file). You’ll need to also extract this file, by again right clicking on the file and selecting 7-Zip->Extract Here. This should create a folder called workshopdata that itself contains a number of files and folders. We will be using this data in the hands-on activities.

7-Zip file options with Extract Here highlighted.

11. Also, in the Workshop folder, you should see the Slides PDF file, which is a copy of the slides for your reference.

Slides file highlighted in Workshop folder.

12. Finally, you should also see in the Workshop folder, the Handout PDF file, which contains not only this first page, but all the steps we will be working through together in the workshop.

Handout file highlighted in the Workshop folder.


B. Log in to your ArcGIS Online Account

There are two “versions” of ArcGIS Online: ArcGIS Public (available from the Esri ArcGIS website) and the University of Toronto ArcGIS Online. The latter provides more features than the public site, and we will be using it for this workshop. If you already have a public ArcGIS account, you cannot use it with the University of Toronto ArcGIS Online system; you will use a separate account with your U of T email address.

To access University of Toronto ArcGIS Online, go to: Once at the landing page, please select "Enterprise login: ArcGIS Online (University of Toronto)," and then sign in with your UTORID and password.

Note that content you create in the University of Toronto ArcGIS Online system will be administered by staff at the Map & Data Library. You must agree to the following terms of use:







C. Creating your first map in ArcGIS Online

Click on Content from the main menu at the top of the screen. You will now be looking at the My Content tab. If this is a new account, you will have no items at the moment.

First, create a folder to put your map in. Click the Create New Folder icon. 

Create a new folder with Create New Folder icon highlighted.

Call your folder Toronto Schools.

Now create a new map in that folder: Click Map at the top of the webpage.

Map tab at the top of the webpage highlighted.

Click the Save icon.

Give your map a title, summary, and at least one tag (which are required). The tags and summary can be helpful to aid searching for the map later. For tags, simply type in one or more keywords associated with your project, hitting "Enter" after each word. Ensure that the map will be saved in your Toronto Schools folder.

Save Map menu/

Your new map appears on the screen. Right now the only thing you will see on the map is what we call a “basemap” – this is the background upon which your own data of interest will be overlaid. You can select from several pre-set basemap choices by clicking on the Basemap button.

Next we want to add the schools data onto the map. Before we do so, let’s take a look at the schools data. Browse your computer’s file system to the folder where you saved the workshop materials. Open the file SchoolsTO.csv in Excel.

Notice that the spreadsheet contains several forms of geographic information. It contains both the full address for each school, and it contains columns for latitude & longitude. Have a look at the other columns. What do you think the data in the column “METPANEID” is telling us?

Next, open the file SchoolsTO_readme.txt. This file is the data dictionary (also known as “metadata”) that tells us what each column in the spreadsheet represents. Make a note of what the values in the column “METPANEID” represent.

Now that you are familiar with your data, let’s map it. Go back to ArcGIS Online to your Toronto Schools map. Click Add, then Add Layer from File.

In the “Add Layer from File” dialog, browse to the file SchoolsTO.csv. Click Import Layer.

The Schools data is added to your map.

ASIDE: Mapping geographic information contained in spreadsheets

ArcGIS Online will first look for latitutde/longitude data in a spreadsheet and use it to determine the location of points whenever possible. If there is no latitude/longitude data contained in the spreadsheet, ArcGIS Online can use complete or partial addresses. It does this using a process called geocoding. Please note that geocoding uses up “credits” that are allocated to U of T each year within the ArcGIS Online system. While U of T has quite a large allocation and you rarely need to worry about credit use, geocoding is one of the only functions in ArcGIS Online that can potentially use up a lot of credits. If you need to geocode a spreadsheet which contains a very large number (i.e., hundreds of thousands) of addresses, we ask you to please get in touch with us first to discuss options for accomplishing this task.

Have a look at your map. By default, ArcGIS Online has attempted to colour code the schools by name. However, each school has a different name, and it can only show 10 unique colours on the map, therefore the vast majority of the schools appear as undifferentiated grey dots. Let’s colour code the map by school type instead, which we now know is represented by the  “METPANEID” column. Under Choose an attribute to show, choose METPANEID.











Under Select a drawing style, notice that Types (Unique symbols) is selected by default (it has a check mark on it). We will keep that drawing style, but customize it a bit. Select Options.

Here you can change the colours and labels for your map. Click on the “E” and change it to “Elementary”. Change the other labels to “Secondary” and “Elementary/Secondary”. When you’ve finished, click OK. Then, click Done.



Now you have created a map of Toronto schools, colour-coded by school type. The side panel has become the table of contents for the map (called “Contents”). There are two entries in the Contents: the basemap (called “Topographic” by default) and the SchoolsTO data layer.


Save the map so you don’t lose any work. Click Save > Save.


D. Configuring your map

Hover your cursor over the SchoolsTO entry in the Contents. A number of options appear. Click the icon of 3 dots, and choose Rename from the pop-up menu.

Change the name to Toronto Schools. This will give the layer a more descriptive name in the Contents.

Click on any school on the map. A pop-up box comes up which displays the data associated with this school.

You can configure this pop up window. In the Contents, for the Toronto Schools layer, click the icon of 3 dots, and choose Configure Pop-up.


Give the pop up a title (such as Toronto Schools). Half way down the Pop-up Contents section, click Configure Attributes.

Here you can use the check boxes to select which fields will show in the pop-up, and you can edit the “Field Alias” text to give more descriptive names. Make edits to match the image below. When you’re finished, click OK.

Click OK again at the bottom of the Configure pop-up panel. Now, click on any point on the map again and see the changes in your pop-up.

Next, we will add labels to the map. In the Contents, for the Toronto Schools layer, click the icon of 3 dots, and choose Create Labels.

A label showing the name of each school appears on the map. It looks quite cluttered. Let’s change the settings so the labels only show when you zoom in further. In the Label Features panel, drag the Visible Range slider to the right, so that it looks similar to the picture below.

The labels should have disappeared. Now zoom in until the labels appear again. You can zoom in several ways: using the + button; by double-clicking, or by using your mouse scroll button.

 Feel free to play around with the other label settings (fonts, size, and alignment). When you are finish, click OK on the Label Features panel.

In addition to setting a visible range for labels, you can set it for the entire data layer, so you won’t see the layer at all unless you zoom in to a certain point. In the Contents, for the Toronto Schools layer, click the icon of 3 dots, and choose Set Visibility Range. You will see that a slider pops up. This time, drag the Visible Range slider to the left. This will cause the schools to be visible when you zoom out further. The little black triangle marker indicates the zoom level your map is currently at (so yours may differ from the image depending on how zoomed in your map is).

Now zoom out. As you zoom you should see the labels disappear, and then eventually the school points will disappear. These features are useful in order to keep your map clean and readable, showing only the data that is relevant to the viewer at a particular scale. Zoom back in on Toronto. (Hint: if when you zoom in, Toronto is no longer in your map view, you can pan around by clicking and dragging on the map view, until you have dragged Toronto back into view).

Hover your cursor over the Toronto Schools layer in the Contents. Let’s explore some of the other options that pop up. Click on the first icon (called Show Legend). The legend appears in the Contents.

Next click on the second icon (called Show Table). The underlying data table appears on the screen. Have a look at the table, and then you can close it by clicking on the X in the top right-hand corner of the table.

Finally, click on the third icon (called Change Style). This takes you back into the options to edit the colours and symbols on your map. We won’t edit this further right now. Click Cancel on the Change Style panel.

Save your map so you don’t lose any of the changes you have made.


E. Adding in geospatial data (e.g., shapefiles)

So far we have been working with a spreadsheet that contained geographic information. You can also bring in data from file formats intended for use with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), such as shapefiles. There are a number of methods of bringing in geospatial data files. We will explore the following options:
     a) Adding geospatial data to a specific ArcGIS Online map
     b) Adding geospatial data to ArcGIS Online as a Hosted Feature Layer
     c) Publishing data from ArcGIS Desktop to ArcGIS Online

a) Adding geospatial data to a specific ArcGIS Online map

This follows the same process you used when you added your spreadsheet of school locations. Choose Add > Add Layer from File

Add dropdown menu with layer from file highlighted.

Click Choose File and browse to within the workshop materials.
Note: Shapefiles are actually made up of several different files, and so all of the component files must be zipped up before uploading to ArcGIS Online.  

Workshop data, with highlighted.

Choose Generalize features for web display and then click Import Layer.

Add layer from file, with Generalize features for web display highlighted.

In the Change Style panel, select Location (Single symbol). Click Done. You will now see the Toronto electoral wards on your map.

Change style menu, with Location (single symbol) highlighted.

ASIDE: Limitations when importing data into an ArcGIS Online map

Using this method, the data is managed within the map, and there is a limit to the number of features that can be efficiently managed. The suggested limit is 1,000 features in a shapefile or 1,000 rows in a spreadsheet.


Next we will explore another way of loading this same data, so we can remove this layer from our map for the moment. In the Contents, for the icitw wgs84 layer, click the icon of 3 dots, and choose Remove.


b) Adding geospatial data to ArcGIS Online as a Hosted Feature Layer

Save your map before proceeding.

From the Home menu in the top left-hand corner, choose Content.

This takes you out of the map viewer and back to your list of folders and maps. You should be viewing the Toronto Schools folder. Choose Add Item > From my computer.

Browse to the same file again, Ensure that Publish this file as a hosted layer is selected. Change the title to something more descriptive, such as Toronto Wards. Note: hosted layers must have a title that is unique across the entire University of Toronto ArcGIS Online system, so for this workshop you will need to append a word, such as your name, to your title, e.g., “Toronto Wards (yourname)”. Tags are required, so provide at least one tag.

ASIDE: What is a hosted feature layer?

A hosted feature layer is a more scalable way to publish data, which enables you to go beyond the 1,000 feature threshold. Feature layers are useful when you need to share data for display, query, and editing to an internet audience. You will be able to use your hosted feature layer in any ArcGIS Online web map you create.

You will now see an information page describing your newly created feature layer. It may take some time for the thumbnail preview to appear.

Have a look through the Data, Visualization, Usage, and Settings tabs to see all of the available information about this feature layer.

Next, click on Content from the top menu. Select your Toronto Schools folder if it is not selected by default. Notice that there are two entries for your Toronto Wards dataset; one is the original shapefile you uploaded, and the other is the hosted feature layer, which you can use in your ArcGIS Online web maps.

Hover over the lock symbol and notice that the feature layer is currently not shared. This means that only you can view this layer in ArcGIS Online web maps. Now click on the lock symbol. Your sharing options include Everyone (public) or University of Toronto. For now you can click Cancel and leave the file unshared.

ASIDE: A note on sharing

If you wish to use ArcGIS Online to make a web map that you can share with the world, then your feature layers must be set to be shared with Everyone (public). If you are using data that you did not create yourself, please verify that you have the rights to share the data publicly. You can contact the Map & Data Library for information on open access datasets that are appropriate for sharing publicly.


Now let’s open the Toronto Schools web map so that we can add the new feature layer to it. If you click on the title of the map, you will see the map information page. From there you can click Open in Map Viewer.

An alternate way to open the map is to click on the icon with 3 dots, and choose Open in Map Viewer from there instead.

Your map opens as it was the last time you saved it. We’re going to add the Wards again, but this time choose Add > Search for Layers.

The Search for Layers panel opens. By default, you will be searching within My Content which lists files that you yourself have uploaded to your Content space (where you just uploaded the Wards shapefile to). If you hit the dropdown and choose My Organization, you might discover that you are searching hosted feature layers that have been shared by anyone in the University of Toronto ArcGIS Online system. Your recently-uploaded layer will not be included there because you have not shared it yet. 

Your Toronto Wards layer is the only hosted feature layer you have, so it is the only item that appears in the results list. Click the "+" sign below the layer name.

In the Search for Layers panel, click the back arrow, returning you to the Contents window.

Search Layers - my content

Notice that the wards now appear to be floating on top of the school locations. In the Contents panel, hover your cursor near the check box for the Wards layer. You should notice the cursor changes its symbol. When the cursor changes you can then drag the Wards layer down below the Schools layer in the Contents. This will cause the schools to draw on top of the wards.


Are you happy with the way this map looks? Use the Change Style options to edit the colours, symbols, and transparency for the wards and schools until you are happy with them. Here is an example with the wards layer at 50% transparency, and darker colours selected for each of the three school types:

Hover your cursor over the Toronto Wards layer until the options appear. Click the Show Legend button. This is the symbol that ArcGIS uses to represent layers that contain shapes (known as “polygons” in GIS parlance) as opposed to dots (or “points”).

Save your map so you will not lose any of your changes.


c) Publishing data from ArcGIS Desktop to ArcGIS Online

From the workshop materials folder, open the file bikeways.mxd by double-clicking on it. This file is an ArcGIS Desktop Map Document file, and will cause the ArcGIS Desktop software to open on your computer. When ArcGIS Desktop opens, you will notice that the layout is somewhat similar to ArcGIS Online, with a contents panel on the left, a large map view on the right, and menu options along the top.

ASIDE: About ArcGIS Desktop

 ArcGIS Desktop is a powerful software package for analysis of geospatial data. There are many data processing and analysis tools available in ArcGIS Desktop that are not available in ArcGIS Online. If you are interested in learning ArcGIS Desktop, please contact the Map & Data Library to discover the learning options. This workshop will not cover ArcGIS Desktop in detail.

You are now looking at a dataset published by the City of Toronto known as “Centreline”. It contains lines representing streets, walkways, rivers, railways, and bike paths within the city. In the contents panel, right-click on Toronto Centerline and select Open Attribute Table.

A table pops up showing you the data available about each road segment in the dataset. Notice at the bottom of the window that it says “0 out of 64486 Selected”. This means there are 64,486 features in this dataset. This dataset has too many features to publish to ArcGIS Online; the web browser will not be able to show all of the data at once.










Luckily, for this activity we are specifically interested in bikeways (bicycle lanes, signed bicycle routes and paths), so we don’t actually need to publish the entire centerline dataset to ArcGIS Online. In the attribute table, scroll to the right until you are able to see the very last column, “CP_TYPE”. This column identifies the bikeways – any row with a value in that column is a bikeway, and any row that is blank is not. Close the attribute table.

In the contents panel, right-click where it says “Selected Features” and select Activate.

Now you will see a new map, which shows only the bikeways. This is the dataset we will publish to ArcGIS Online. We have prepared this dataset for you, by selecting the bikeways out of the full centerline layer, and customizing the map view, colours etc. It is beyond the scope of this workshop to cover how to accomplish these tasks, but we encourage you to learn more about ArcGIS Desktop through our other workshops and training opportunities. It is a common workflow to design a map in ArcGIS Desktop and then share it with the world by publishing it to ArcGIS Online.

In the contents panel, right-click on the Toronto Bikeways layer and choose Open Attribute Table. Notice that we now have only 6,875 features remaining that will be published to ArcGIS Online – a much more reasonable amount to successfully view in a web browser. Close the attribute table.

In the File menu, choose Sign in.

Select Enterprise Logon

ArcMap E-Login

Next, Input "utoronto" and select Continue, and then select "ArcGIS Online (University of Toronto)".

Enter your ArcGIS Online login information (UTORID and Password) and sign in. You won’t see any message indicating the login was successful, but you will notice there is now a “sign out” option in the File menu.

Next, choose File > Share As > Service

The “Share as Service” window opens. Choose Publish a service and click Next.

On the next screen, under “Choose a connection” select My Hosted Services (University of Toronto). Give your service a name. It must be a unique name across the entire University of Toronto ArcGIS Online system, so you may need to append your name or choose some title that is unique from what is shown in the illustration here. Note also that service names cannot include spaces. Click Continue.

The “Service Editor” window appears. Choose Capabilities. Ensure that Feature Access is selected (and Tiled Mapping is not).

Next, choose Feature Access. Check Create, Delete, Query, and Update.

Next, choose Item Description. This information is pulled automatically from the geospatial data file if it is available. In this case, the item description has been filled in automatically. However, if you are publishing a service you should check this. If these fields are blank, you should fill them in. This will facilitate search and discovery in ArcGIS Online if you will be sharing your data publicly.

Next, choose Sharing. Select University of Toronto and Everyone (public). Note: be sure you are within your rights to share your data publicly. This Bikeways dataset is from the City of Toronto Open Data Portal and can be reused and shared without restriction.