What I Love about ArcGIS 10 – Map Packages

As many frustrated ArcGIS users have discovered, sharing only an MXD file will open a blank map full of angry red exclamation marks indicating broken data links.  Even includin the data with the MXD file, the data links will be broken unless the sharer is extremely careful in preparing the map and data.  Now with ArcGIS 10, sharing your map is very easy.

Continuing with my What I Love about ArcGIS 10 series, today I write about map packages.

Bundle your map and data for easy sharing – prevent red exclamation marks

What is it? Map packages are easy-to-share files with an MPK extension that, when unpackaged, contain the MXD file and all of the referenced data and properties.  MPK files can be shared over networks, via email, flash drives, etc.  They can even be uploaded to ArcGIS.com to be shared with the ESRI community at large.

Why is it useful? First and foremost, map packages make it very easy to bundle up all of the necessary data and files to be shared with others.  No longer must you fret over relative or absolute data paths, data folder structures, and file size limits.  One tool does the work for you.

Second, because the MPK file creates a snapshot copy of your data, map packages are a great way to archive your data or project.  This offers an easy way to go back and view a particular state of your data as a project evolves.  Along these same lines, you can use map packages to create different editing scenarios – for example to show samples of how the results of using one editing tool vary from another.

How do I create and work with them? When you are ready to package up your MXD, simply click on File > Create Map Package to open the dialog.  If you haven’t already entered your map document properties, you will be prompted to do so before you can proceed.  Then you will see the create map package dialog box with two options – one to upload the package to your ArcGIS Online account, the other to save the package to file.  Use the first (default) option if you want to post your data and map to ArcGIS.com to share with the ESRI user community.  If you just want to share the data within your organization or with specific users, choose the second option then navigate to the location where you want to save the MPK file.

Create Map Package Dialog Box

Next, click Validate to check your data for any potential problems.  Once validation is successful, click the Share button to create the MPK file.  The file is now ready to share.

The recipient of the MPK file will need to extract it before viewing in ArcMap.  There are three ways to do this:

  • Drag and drop the MPK file into ArcMap.
  • Right-click the MPK file and choose Extract.
  • Use the Extract Package tool in the new geoprocessing Package toolset contained in the Data Management Toolbox.

A few things to keep in mind about map packages:

  • Upload your map package to your ArcGIS Online account to share your map and data with users who do not have access to ArcMap.
  • Schematic and tool layers are not supported by map packages.
  • Share an individual data layer instead of the entire map by creating a layer package (LPK) that stores the layer properties and a copy of the data.

For more information about upgrading or learning ArcGIS 10, please contact me at michele@geomattix.com.

Leave A Reply (7 comments So Far)

  1. Greg Lumpkin
    6 months ago

    I just completed an online GIS course through UC Davis via Coursera and during peer review, I noticed one person’s map package had garbled text in layout view when I opened it in ArcMap. The PDF she submitted looked great and I noticed how nice looking the font was.

    The only thing I could guess happened is that she used a font on the map that was installed on her system from a third party installation.

    I remember back in my CAD days, we had to really be careful when we transferred AutoCAD drawing to contractors and others who wanted the DWG files. We had to make sure we gave them our proprietary font to install on their computers in order to read the text.

  2. Liz
    2 years ago

    Hey thanks! Someone mentioned this to me and I couldn’t find it described anywhere else. Much appreciated!

  3. Auri
    4 years ago

    Bien!!! gracias!

  4. Ojaybee
    4 years ago

    I think I’ve found a way to make these backwards compatible. If you go to file>save a copy and save as whatever version you need, that map will be compatible with the version. Let’s say 9.3 for this experiment. You then need to open the newly saved copy which should look the same a the original. Once that map is open in Arc follow the instructions as above for creating the map pack. A 9.3 user can then unpack the mappack using 7-zip or equivalent. A folder called v.10 will be created and in there should be the backward compatible 9.3 map. I can’t test this as I’m running 10 but the mxd file created for 9.3 was about half the size of the v.10 one. having unzipped the mappack the .mxd created is still half the size. I have a friend with 9.3 checking this and I’ll let you know.

  5. Warren Roberts
    6 years ago

    the initial steps of most projects (after making a folder with no spaces) the student sets the ‘working directory’ using the arcgisfilehandler.exe so the arcgis.com data (map and layer packages) are automatically sent to the folder indicated with the arcgisfiilehandler .. this function shoudl be made easier to find 🙂

  6. Michele Mattix
    6 years ago

    Hi Joseph –

    Thank you for your input and the warning about the Documents and Settings folder. Does anyone ever really use that folder?! I know I don’t.


  7. Joseph Kerski
    6 years ago


    I love map packages too! We used them today at our GIS workshop at the Geological Society of America conference. Makes things SO much easier to work with and share and use! The only thing is that you need to be aware that the data is going to your c:documents and settings folder when it unpacks, so definitely keep an eye on that folder, or move the data elsewhere at some point. But yes… amazing… it downloads, unpacks… and everything works beautifully, all symbolized how you set it up.