Sync from the field with ArcPad and ArcGIS Online using a File Geodatabase

Posted On: November 20

This workflow allows you to check out File Geodatabase data to the field with ArcPad and synchronize your field edits over the air. Synchronization can occur from the field as often as desired, when internet connectivity is available.

Minimum requirements:

  • ArcPad 10.2
  • ArcGIS 10.1
  • ArcGIS Online named user account and a few credits

Advantages to this workflow:

  1. Existing customized ArcPad projects can be used without extra office check in / check out procedures.
  2. ArcGIS Online handles all the feature service storage, hosting, and synchronization – no extra pieces or administration is needed.
  3. The default mode is offline and internet connectivity can be utilized when available.

This workflow consists of 5 easy steps:

Step 1: Open your existing ArcPad checkout MXD in ArcMap and perform an ArcPad checkout.

In ArcMap:

  1. Open the MXD that contains your ArcPad project data (file Geodatabase and background layers).
  2. Set the map extent to the extent that you want to take to the field.
  3. Run the Get Data for ArcPad tool and step through your standard ArcPad checkout, applying any custom layer templates.

This creates an ArcPad checkout folder with your .APM, AXF, and any background layers (e.g., DataForArcPad1). This is the folder that you will deploy to your mobile device at the beginning of the project.

Step 1: ArcPad Checkout

Step 2: Share your checkout MXD as a feature service.

While still in ArcMap, connect to your ArcGIS Online account (if not connected already). Then:

  1. Click File->Share As->Service
  2. In the Share as Service dialog, select Publish a service, then click Next.
  3. In the Publish a Service dialog, select your connection and type a service name, then click Continue.
  4. In the Service Editor dialog, click Capabilities, check Feature Access and uncheck Tiled Mapping.
  5. Click Feature Access, and check all checkboxes under Operations allowed:
  6. Click Sharing, and select the appropriate groups to grant access to the service.
  7. Click Analyze, fix any errors, then click Publish.
  8. Wait for the feature service publishing process to finish.

Step 2: Share as a service

Step 3: Link the feature service URL to your ArcPad AXF.

In ArcCatalog:

  • A. Create a LYR file for your feature service:
    1. Browse to the feature service that you just created.
    2. Right-click and select Create Layer.
    3. Name the feature service layer file the same name as your feature service (but with the .LYR extension).

Step 3a: Save service to LYR

  • B. Run the Add Feature Service URL to AXF GP tool:
    1. In the ArcPad Toolbox Tools, run the Add Feature Service URL to AXF tool.
    2. Select the AXF file from your checkout folder and the feature service layer (.LYR) as inputs.
    3. Execute the tool.

Step 3b: Link FS URL to AXF

Step 4: Deploy your project to ArcPad and collect data.

One time configuration:

  1. Go to ArcPad Options, Server page, and enter your ArcGIS Online or Portal username and password.
  2. Check the Suppress Synchronization Downloads checkbox (*see IMPORTANT NOTES below).
  3. Tap OK in the ArcPad Options dialog box.

ArcPad Server Settings for Sync

Each time:

  1. Provision your mobile device running ArcPad by copying the ArcPad checkout folder from Step 1 to your Maps & Data folder and open the APM in ArcPad.
  2. Work in ArcPad, making edits and capturing features as with any other project.
  3. When you have a data connection and are ready to sync your edits, tap the Synchronize Data with ArcGIS Server Tool (found in the Add Layer dropdown or it can be added to a custom toolbar).

Step 4: Deploy and Collect

Step 5: View your field edits in ArcMap.

ArcPad will synchronize directly with the feature service – you can view or edit the feature service in ArcMap.

  1. In ArcMap, start a new, blank map.
  2. Click Add Data.
  3. Browse to the .LYR file that you created in Step 3 and click Add.

You can now watch your field edits come in as users in the field synchronize.


  • Incremental downloads are only supported in ArcGIS Server with editor tracking enabled.
    So, when using ArcGIS Online as your host, all features are downloaded to ArcPad from the server whenever you synchronize. Therefore, keep the Suppress Synchronization Downloads checkbox checked until you are ready to sync down edits from the server (from other ArcPad users or other clients editing the feature service).
  • Once the local Geodatabase data is published as a feature service, any edits to the data need to occur via the feature service.
    ArcPad will synchronize directly with the feature service via the workflow described above.
    If you need to make edits from ArcMap, make a local copy of the service, apply your edits, then synchronize the local edits with the server.

See this Esri resource for more details:
About editing data from feature services

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