How to use Geospatial Services

Geospatial services makes one or more spatial datasets (e.g. roads, land use, aerial photos), or geospatial functionality (e.g., geocoding) available directly over the Internet. Services can be used by GIS clients on the desktop in web applications. This page provides brief information about how some of the service types available on the Commons can be used.


Web Map Services allow you to display air photos and other maps on your computer without having to download all the data. WMS is an open standard. There are many ways to access a WMS, including free software and in web applications. See below for list of compatible software and links on how to use them to access WMS.

Free Software

Both ArcGIS Explorer and Google Earth can be used to view data presented via a WMS, such as the air photos delivered through the Minnesota Geospatial Image Service. After downloading and installing the software, follow the step-by-step instructions below to add a mapping service.

  • ESRI ArcGIS Explorer Desktop
    1. Open up ArcGIS Explorer
    2. If the Home Tab is not active on the Ribbon, click to activate it.
    3. From the Ribbon, navigate to Map > Add Content > GIS Services > New Server Connection (only needed if the Add GIS Service dialog does not appear initially)
    4. Select Server type > WMS
    5. Enter the WMS URL in the Server box and Click Next
    6. Select the layer(s) you wish to view, click Add Service.
  • Google Earth
    1. Open up Google Earth and zoom to Minnesota or area of interest.
    2. Click on the Add > Image Overlay command in the menu bar at the top of the screen.
    3. Type a descriptive title in the Name field and then click the Refresh tab.
    4. Click the WMS Parameters button.
    5. Click the Add button at the top of the dialog box.
    6. Type the WMS URL in the pop-up dialog box and Click OK.
    7. Select the layer(s) you wish to view, click Add, Apply, and OK.
    8. Set Transparency slider at the top of the dialog box to the desired level and click OK.

GIS Software

A number of geographic information systems software packages can connect directly with the service. Once connected, you can view and use the images just as you would if they were on your computer.

Check your software manual or help files for specific instructions on how to add a mapping service.

Here are software clients known to be able to connect with WMS services (please let us know if you find others:

Web Browser

Although you can connect to a WMS with only a web browser, it's much easier to use it effectively with a website application that already has a connection set up and that provides a user-friendly interface. Here is an example request from our Composite Service. Some example applications that use MnGeo's Geospatial Image Service WMS include:

Create Your Own Web Application

Programmers and web developers can add WMS services to their website applications. For example, see the technical specifications for MnGeo's Geospatial Image Service.

Use without an Internet Connection

DNR Export to Image tool for ArcGIS 10:  Use WMS in the field without an internet connection.

**** This will likely by added as a resource to the Geocommons. ****


Adding a Web Coverage Service (WCS) to ArcMap

Esri ArcGIS for Server Map Service

Esri map services are described with the "esrirest" format tag in the Geospatial Commons. More help will be created here soon, but for now, consider visiting this help from Esri: Adding ArcGIS for Server map service to ArcMap

Esri ArcGIS Server Feature Service

Additional information on the capabilities of ArcGIS Feature Services.

Esri ArcGIS Server Geocoding Service

Adding an ArcGIS for Server geocode service

Esri ArcGIS Server Geometry Service

Esri ArcGIS Server Geoprocessing Service

A quick tour of using a geoprocessing service in ArcGIS for Desktop