ArcGIS Online


Name: ArcGIS Online
$: Varies
Examples: US Drone Strikes in Pakistan (featured image), Enforced Disappearances in Syria, Civilians Under Attack in South Sudan
Level: Beginners
Use For: Visually representing research; Telling a story with a geographic component


ArcGIS Online allows the user to create interactive online maps. It is free for individual users, though all content generated will be public and cannot be for commercial use. Online subscription plans start at $2,500 per year for 5 users. Maps can be viewed on desktops and mobile devices and can be shared through links or embedded in websites. If the user wants to have more interactive content or tell a story ArcGIS Online has many templates to choose from. Those with advanced knowledge can build custom web and mobile applications that include the user’s maps.


ArcGIS online allows the user to zoom into the area of interest and choose what kind of basemap they would like to use. Basemap options include:

  • Satellite Imagery with or without labels
  • OpenStreetMap
  • Terrain
  • Topographic Maps

The user can upload layers from their computer or add layers from the web. The user can also add map notes. Map notes allow the user to add features, such as points, text, lines, and areas. These features can have pop ups associated with them that display text, images and charts.


The interface is easy to use and does not require prior knowledge of mapping. Adding features is a simple matter of pointing and clicking. There is also a tool to measure distances and areas, as well as find the latitude and longitude of points.


ArcGIS Online has a variety of templates and each has its own unique settings. US Drone Strikes in Pakistan is an example of a Story Map Journal, while  Enforced Disappearances in Syria and Civilians Under Attack in South Sudan are examples of Story Map Tours. Story Map Tours only allows ArcGIS basemaps and the content associated with each location is designed to highlight photographs and videos. Story Map Journals allow the user to better present text associated with a location, while still including photographs and videos. Story Map Journals also allow the basemap to be set to a user created map, which means the user can create a map using ArcGIS Online that highlights certain features and set it as their basemap.

Other types of templates include:

  • Story Map Tabbed
  • Story Map Side Accordion
  • Story Map Bulleted
  • Story Map Swipe
  • Story Map Spyglass

The templates are easy to use and most walk the user through the steps to create a map using the template.