Join me for a look at the new features in ArcGIS Online

One of my colleagues took a customer through ArcGIS Online last week and they were amazed by how many GIS tools it now has and how many different ways there are to present maps and data to users. And it keeps on getting better. The December update has brought some great features and I’ll take you through some of them. 

User levels

If you are an organisation administrator the first thing you might have noticed are the blue numbers in the Organisation view...  Existing named users in your organisation are now classed as level 2 users and the release brings the option to add an allocation of Level 1 users. Level 1 users provide a new way to manage access within your organisation for users that don’t need any content management functions:

A Level 1 user is primarily a view only role. If you create a Level 1 custom role the privileges will be restricted to joining organizational groups and using some of the premium content (to support the inclusion of functions like routing and elevation profiles in apps). 

New analysis tools

Join Features has been added to the Summarize Data group. The ability to enrich the attributes of your features by joining to other data is one of the most powerful tools in a GIS and you can now do it in ArcGIS Online. If you’ve already used joins in ArcGIS Desktop you’ll know how much flexibility this adds for exploring data in ArcGIS Online. For those of you that haven’t used joins there are two kinds: a spatial join connects features based on their location and a table join makes the connection based on a common field. Whichever you chose, there are options for defining the relationship and the result of the join is a new feature layer with the added attribution.

For the example above I started with point features for hydro power sites and regional offices. I used the Create Drive Time tool to create 60 minute drivetime polygons. Since these have the origin feature as an attribute I used the Join Features tool to add this as an attribute to the hydro sites. The result is a map of the hydro sites coloured by the local office.

There is also a new tool in Analyze Patterns - Find Outliers identifies any statistically significant clusters and spatial outliers in your data. 

Layer views

You have a data set that you want to present in a different way to two different audiences. Create two web maps? Supposing you want to have more than one web map that has each of your different layer styles… Just have two (or more) ArcGIS Online layers that reference the same data.

One way to do this is to use the Visualization tab in the item details to configure the new layer style and save as a layer. This creates a Feature Layer that uses the same url, and therefore the same data, as the layer you created it from. You can make it look different but you can’t change the layer settings for things like editing.

But I want to be able to present the data differently and make it editable for my department and read only for other staff and/or the public. The December release just made that easy too. For hosted feature layers (the data is hosted in ArcGIS Online) you can create a view of the layer which has its own url and is labelled as Feature Layer (hosted, view). By default a feature layer view will be view only and data export and sync options will also be off.

This is a great way to have a team that mange changes to a hosted dataset that you can then share with public for view only use – with the option to apply filters and limit the pop-up contents for the public view. The Create View  button is only available on hosted feature layer items. 

So that just leaves the case where you want the public to be see the data in a map, let's say pothole reports, and submit new report features via an app like GeoForm. Oh, and your team need to be able to edit any report feature as part of reviewing them. We'll make the original hosted feature layer the internal one and we now know we can create a view that is read only. If we then create a second view, we can use new layer settings options to make the data editable but only let users add features and prevent them from viewing the data.

Just a couple of examples of the kind of workflows that can now be covered with the new features. 

OGC compliant feature layers

If you need to provide OGC-compliant feature layers you can now publish hosted WFS layers in a couple of clicks. Go to the details page for an existing hosted feature layer, click on the Publish dropdown and choose WFS layer. Fill in the details and you now have a WFS layer alongside your feature layer.

Label expressions

Label expressions – which allow you to configure the way your label texts are displayed - are now available. They use Arcade, a new expression language that has been added to the ArcGIS Platform. To add an expression scroll to the bottom of the field list in the Label Features dialog and choose Custom (Expression). This launches the expression builder – which also lets you name your expression. 


I've only created a simple text expression but there is an impressive library of functions. Once created, the expression becomes an option in the drop down.

Scene Viewer

It’s amazing how quickly you get used to things and something as cool as the smart mapping tools in ArcGIS Online maps become normal. These have now been added to Scene Viewer, making it really easy to use 3D symbols to show the pattern of a numeric value. Here’s a representation of the installed capacity of windfarms in Scotland:

There is also a new way to symbolise points using a library of pre-built models. The first release includes trees, street furniture and vehicles.

Two additional layer types can now be used with Scenes: vector tile layers and point cloud layers.

The rest of the changes are listed in the what’s new page, along with links to further details.