ArcGIS Online

Swapping Layers: A great way to build and maintain your feature layer

Do you have layers that occasionally need an update? An easy pattern that we use on the environment team for our ArcGIS Living Atlas layers incorporates layer views to make updates quick, easy, and an efficient way to manage your important feature layers.

What is a Layer View?

A hosted feature layer view looks and acts much like a hosted feature layer. However, layer views don’t have data of their own. As the name implies, layer views are simply a second view of a hosted feature layer that enables you to maintain a public facing layer view while keeping the feature layer behind it hidden.

This simple architecture of a shared layer view and a hidden feature layer enables us to do updates out of sight from our users and make updates with minimal impacts. ArcGIS Online provides a simple process to switch which feature layer a layer view uses. This layer swap is a powerful tool that will make your work easier.

Benefits of layer swap

Layer swap architecture is particularly useful when working with large layers. Updating a very large feature service can take minutes to hours, using a layer swap enables you to hide your big layer while it publishes. This lets you take your time and check your work before sharing it with your users.


Performing a layer swap is quick and easy

Start with a view layer. If you need help creating a view layer this blog will get you started. Note that you must be the owner or administrator of a hosted feature layer to create and manage layer views from it.


The item page tells us that this is a view layer


To swap layers, first click the settings tab, on the upper right of the layer view’s item page


Then scroll down and click “Update View”


The Update View window will open. Select “Swap source” at the bottom of the window.


The window will remind you of the basic requirements for a layer swap to work. Click “Browse for a layer”.


Find your replacement layer and click the arrows to swap layers.


You can confirm that the layers swapped on the layer view’s page Details section where it shows the source layer. Note that you must be logged in as the owner of the item to see the created from information.

Things to know

While the layer swap is straightforward, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. The most important is that the schemas of the new and old feature layers should match. If you run into issues make sure these things are the same in both layers:

Use layer swaps in your work!

Taking the time to set up a layer view will allow you to work behind the scenes and give your maps the professional edge that users expect from a top-quality product. Keep your data up-to-date with seamless transitions to give your users the confidence that your layer will be there when they need it.

About the authors

Rich was a member of Esri’s ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World environment team.


With over two decades of GIS experience Emily has mapped elephants in Thailand, wildlife poachers in the Republic of Palau, land use related issues around Yosemite National Park, and active wildfire incidents for the State of California. Presently she is a Senior Product Engineer and Cartographer with the ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World where she styles and designs layers, maps, and apps with the Environment Team. When not making maps, she is a true geographer and loves traveling with her family.

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