Saving layers and layer packages

Saving a layer file

A layer can exist outside your map as a layer file (.lyr). This makes it easy for others to access the layers you've built.

You can share layers over the network and by e-mail.

When users add a layer file to their maps, it will draw exactly as it was saved as long as they can get access to the data referenced by the layer. A common way that users help support this is to use relative paths to each layer's data source.

Using full paths, relative paths, or UNC paths in the layer's data reference

The layer file that is created will reference its data source using the Data Source Options setting that are specified for the map document. By default, this setting specifies that data sources will be referenced with their full paths. However, you can also use other conventions to record paths. See Referencing data in the map for more information.

Set this property before you save your layer.

Saving a layer to a previous version of ArcGIS

You can save a layer and work with it in a previous version of ArcGIS. For example, you can save to ArcGIS 9.3.

When saving a layer to a previous version, keep in mind that older versions of ArcGIS may be unable to access newer data sources in the current release. For example, a layer that points to an ArcGIS 10 geodatabase will not work in earlier versions of ArcGIS.

Learn more about saving to previous versions of ArcGIS

Steps for saving a map layer

  1. Right-click the layer name and click Save as Layer File.
  2. Type in the name of your new layer file.
  3. Optionally, you can choose to save a layer to a previous version of ArcMap using Save as type.
    Save Layer file
  4. Click Save.

Saving a layer package

A layer can also be saved with its data as a layer package (.lpk). A layer package includes both the layer properties and the dataset referenced by the layer. With a layer package, you can save and share everything about the layer—its symbolization, labeling, table properties, and the data.

Other users will be able to add layer packages directly into their maps without having to know how to access the database or classify the data. Layer packages can be created in ArcMap, ArcGlobe, and ArcScene and can be shared between these applications, including ArcGIS Explorer. When using ArcGlobe or ArcScene, 3D properties can be added to a map layer and included in a layer package.

While a layer package will be larger in size than a layer file (because it includes the data), your users will not need to worry about access to your same data sources.

Layer packages support multiple versions of ArcGIS; therefore, consider the layers and data sources you are choosing to package to ensure they are available in previous versions of the software. Packaging unsupported layers and datasets for previous versions will simply result in those items not opening when used by previous versions of the software. You will recieve a warning for content that will not be avaiable in previous versions of ArcGIS when packaging your layer.

Steps for saving a layer package

  1. Right-click the layer and select Create Layer Package. The Create Layer Package dialog box will appear.
    Create Layer Package

    You can share multiple layers in your map by selecting several layers and clicking Create Layer Package.

  2. Name your new layer package.
  3. Specify where to save your layer package—either as a file on disk or in your ArcGIS online account for sharing.
  4. You can choose to include data from ArcSDE (Include ArcSDE geodatabase data). Also, you can choose to only include an empty geodatabase schema with your layer package (that is, not to save any data). Including a schema is a way to share your layer design and your corresponding geodatabase design.
  5. You must Validate your layer before you can save it to disk or share it at ArcGIS online. When you run validate, it will analyze your layer for any errors or issues. If any issues are discovered, a Prepare window will appear with a list of the issues.

    Right-click each Prepare message to get more information, read help for the error, and click suggested fixes.

    The Prepare window with creating layer packages
    When you run Validate on a layer to create a layer package, your layer will be analyzed for any issues. If any are found, they will appear in this dialog box.
  6. Once validated, the Share button will be enabled. Click Share to create your layer package.

Using the Package schema only option allows you to share layers without its data. When the layer is unpacked, you will be prompted to create the new datasets for the layers in a geodatabase.

Steps for packaging 3D map layer properties

Enabling 3D properties for a layer package will be important for using that layer package effectively between the different 3D visualization environments (ArcGlobe, ArcScene, and ArcGIS Explorer). The properties must be set first, then saved to a local layer file.

For more information on using layers and layer packages in ArcGIS Explorer, see the Web help topic Work with ArcGIS layers and layer packages.

  1. Start ArcGlobe or ArcScene and add the map layer (or layer package) that you created in ArcMap.
  2. Set the desired 3D properties. For example, setting the height properties to extrude features in 3D, setting the distance range for a map layer's visibility in 3D, and so on.
  3. Right-click the layer in ArcGlobe or ArcScene and choose Create Layer Package.
  4. Follow the steps outlined above to complete the creation of a layer package.

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