Creating and sharing map packages

By Caitlin Scopel, Esri Cartographic Product Engineer

Map Packages Thumb

In our last blog post, we talked about map packages and answered some of your questions about them. Now, you might be ready to use and share map packages. Here is a quick guide to help you get you started.

Creating a map package

Before packaging a map, you must first enter descriptive information about it in the File > Map Document Properties dialog box. This information is built into the package and is used when you upload your map package to To create a Map Package, open your ArcMap document, click File on the top bar menu, and from the dropdown list click Create Map Package.

Map Packages - Create

Follow the prompts in the dialog boxes to first Validate, and then create your package. (Note that your map will not validate unless the map document description is filled in.)

Alternatively, you can use the Package Map tool in the Package Toolset, in the Data Management toolbox. For example, if you want to build a model that includes packaging the map, you can use this tool in your model. This tool also gives you a couple of options that the Create Map Package option does not (e.g., setting an extent and converting data to a file geodatabase).

Sharing a map package

You can share map packages the way you share other digital files, e.g., on an FTP site or as an email attachment. But you can also share your packages on You have the option to upload the package to the website during the packaging process, or you can upload it later to using your Esri global login.

Map Packages - ArcGIS Online

Opening a map package

There are a few ways to open a map package:

  1. If you have a particular MPK file in mind, attached to an email or saved on your computer, you can simply double-click the file to unpack the contents. Alternatively, you can drag and drop the map package into an ArcMap document.
  2. If you are working in ArcCatalog, you can right click the map package, and select Unpack from the dropdown.Map Packages - Unpack
  3. If you are working in ArcMap, you can search for map packages published on ArcGIS Online by selecting File > ArcGIS Online. This will open up the ArcGIS Online dialog, where you can search for map packages that other users have shared. You can add the data to your map by simply clicking the Open button.
  4. If you are on the website, you can search for map packages and open them in ArcGIS Desktop by clicking the Open dropdown.
  5. If you are including an unpack step in a model or script, you can use the Extract Package tool in the Package Toolset.Map Packages - Extract

All of the options above—except for the Extract Package tool—will save the extracted map contents to your user profile under C:Documents and Settings[username]My DocumentsArcGISPackages. The Extract Package tool will prompt you for a location where you want the package contents to be saved.

Note: More information on using the tools in the Package Toolset can be found in the Package Toolset Online Help.

Map Packages allow you to easily bundle your digital maps and share them with others. We hope you will find Map Packages useful tools for sharing your mapping projects and ideas!

Thanks to Ty Fitzpatrick, Rupert Essinger, and Aileen Buckley for their help with this blog entry.

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Leave a Reply


  1. dclapp62 says:

    When I right click the map package, and select Unpack from the dropdown in ArcCatalog, nothing happens.

  2. abuckley says:

    This should work for you — I just tested it. Since there may be an unknown variable involved, we suggest you contact Esri Technical Support to help you through this problem. Here is a link from Mapping Center:

  3. edi1511 says:

    Well it would indeed be nice if it worked like you say above, but of course it doesn’t.

    I had the relevant layers in the ArcMap Table of Contents activated, viewer in template mode and had created my map, clicked on File, Create Map Package, filled in the Description dialogue details, changed the “Save package to file” to where I could find it and pressed “Validate”. (Side note: Is validate really Save or does it mean something else here?).

    What resulted was a new folder at my destination location with subfolders called common data and V10. These in turn had more sub folders in them called Data 0, data 1, _____ etc and data0.gdb, data1.gdb ____etc. This of course is nothing like what you describe above.

    Checked the destination folder in ArcCatalog and there was No Map Package and nothing that allowed me to “Unpack”.

    Any ideas or advice on how to use this tool or is it just another thing I arc gismo I crossoff trying to use.

    Thank you for any thought or suggestions,

    • perfectd3 says:

      Sounds like it quit out in the interim. Try it again. After it creates the odd ball common data, V10, etc folders, it will/should compres it to *map’s name*.mpk in the same directory folder. If you have alot of data referenced in the map, it will take a long time (depending on your workstation) to complete the process.

    • goldford23 says:

      If you’re still at this – try checking all the layer names for dashes or other abnormal characters. When I removed them it worked.

  4. erath says:

    I have a map with 7 layers and 5 data sources. They are all small files. Do you know why I would be getting this error?

    Executing: PackageMap Z:PGLSLP_with_120m.mxd
    Start Time: Tue Aug 07 15:41:04 2012
    ERROR 999999: Error executing function.
    Failed to execute (PackageMap).
    Failed at Tue Aug 07 15:42:17 2012 (Elapsed Time: 1 minutes 13 seconds)

    • goldford23 says:

      Perhaps – it’s the same error I was getting.

      ArcMap does not like file names with dashes or abnormal characters in the name. I found when I changes a particular shapefile’s name by removing the dashes, that the MPK then worked.

  5. olssonk says:

    Okay, I did get this to work (I think — my clients haven’t tried unpacking yet to make sure it worked), but I think the above instructions could benefit from a little expansion from “Follow the prompts in the dialog boxes to first Validate, and then create your package.” I didn’t really know what to do after clicking “validate.” Nothing seemed to happen. Then I thought, “I’ll try clicking ‘Share,’” and yes, that was the one to click that actually creates the map package. So, the procedure is to make sure to put in a description in the Map Document Properties, then Create Map Package. Save map package to a file. Then click “validate.” If there are no errors, click “share,” this will create your package.