About using ArcIMS services

An ArcIMS service layer can be based on any of the three service types supported by ArcIMS.

Types of ArcIMS services used in ArcGIS Desktop

Service type

The data source used in the service


ArcIMS image services

ArcIMS .axl files

An ArcIMS image service layer is a map service. It is the most common service type published with ArcIMS. The map is rendered on an ArcIMS server; a snapshot of the image is produced, along with its georeferenced map extent; and the image is served to various clients that consume this image service as a map layer.

ArcIMS feature services

ArcIMS .axl files

An ArcIMS feature service is one in which actual features are served for the data layer (for example, collections of points, lines, or polygons). The feature data is served from the ArcIMS service and is used as the data source for a map layer in ArcMap.

ArcMap image services

ArcMap .mxd files

An ArcMap image service serves a tiled image of an ArcMap document (in other words, it serves georeferenced pictures of MXDs). This allows you to serve high-quality cartography using ArcIMS.

ArcIMS services used in ArcGIS Desktop

An ArcIMS feature service streams the actual data features to you over a network, enabling you to work with feature geometry and attributes; apply your own symbology and labeling within ArcMap, ArcScene, and ArcGlobe; and so on. You specify the feature service as the data source for a feature layer in ArcMap.

By contrast, ArcIMS image services and ArcMap image services take pictures of map views on the ArcIMS server and deliver them to you over the network as georeferenced images that are used as map layers.

Map documents, authored using ArcMap, can be published and served using ArcMap Server, which is included with ArcIMS. In the case of ArcIMS feature and image services, they are created on the server by defining an ArcXML map configuration file. ArcXML is the ArcIMS Extensible Markup Language (XML) specification for publishing maps, data, and metadata.


Map configuration files in ArcXML contain information regarding map properties, such as a list of layers, spatial information, and layer-rendering instructions. ArcMap services in ArcIMS use ArcXML for communication between ArcMap Server and the client application, as well.

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