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Connecting to GIS servers

Release 9.2
Last modified August 2, 2010
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About connecting to GIS servers

To access services provided by an ArcIMS, ArcGIS, or Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc (OGC) Web Map Service (WMS) server, you make a connection to it in the ArcCatalog GIS Servers folder. To connect to either server over the Internet, you must provide the Universal Resource Locator (URL) that uniquely identifies the server on the Internet. For ArcGIS Servers, you can also connect over your local network; to connect, you must provide a local area network (LAN) address, such as the name of the computer.

In the case of connections to ArcGIS or ArcIMS servers, your connection can either access all the services provided, or you can choose the specific services in which you are interested. In addition to services that are freely available, you may have permission to access secure services. For ArcIMS servers, to include secure services in the list you must provide a user name and password before clicking Get List.

Upon starting ArcCatalog, all GIS servers are disconnected; a little red x will appear on the icon, indicating that it is unavailable. The first time a GIS server is selected, the Catalog connects to it. If your login information isn't saved with the connection, you will be prompted for that information. If the connection attempt is successful, the x disappears and you can access the available services.

Learn more about GIS servers and services

Your GIS Servers folder may already contain a connection to a GIS server, called Geography Network services hosted by ESRI. The Geography Network has been replaced with ArcGIS Online. If you have a connection to the Geography Network ArcIMS server in your Catalog, it will no longer work, so you should delete it. To access the key ArcGIS Online basemaps in 9.2, go to the website.

You can alternately make a connection to the ArcGIS Online ArcGIS Server from inside your Catalog to access the key basemaps: In the Add ArcGIS Server connection dialog, paste this URL into the Server URL field: "". You can then browse the services it contains. Not all of these services work in 9.2. Look for the services that don't start with the words 'World' or 'USA'. This connection only gives you access to the ArcGIS Online basemap services published by ESRI, it doesn't give you access to all of the content available on

How to connect to GIS servers

Connecting to an ArcIMS Server

  1. In the ArcCatalog GIS Servers folder, double-click Add ArcIMS Server.
  2. In the dialog box that appears, type in the URL of the Internet Server to which you want to connect.
  3. If you only want to access particular services on this server, click Get List.
  4. A list of all services that are available on the server appears.
  5. Check the services you want to be able to access from this server.
  6. Click OK.

Accessing secure ArcIMS services

  1. Double-click ArcIMS Servers in the Catalog tree and double-click Add ArcIMS Server.
  2. Type the URL of the ArcIMS Server to which you want to connect.
  3. Check Show secure services.
  4. Type the user name and password for accessing the available secure services.
  5. If you don't want to connect to all services, click Just the following service(s) and click Get List.
  6. The list of services that appears includes all free services provided by the ArcIMS Server as well as the secure services that you have permission to access.
  7. Check the services you want to use. Uncheck the services you don't want to use.
  8. Click OK.
  9. Type a new name for the ArcIMS Server.
  10. Press Enter.

Connecting to an ArcGIS Server

  1. Double-click the ArcGIS Servers folder in the Catalog tree and double-click Add ArcGIS Server.
  2. Click Use GIS Service.
  3. Click either Local or Internet, depending on the type of connection you want to make.
  4. Type the name of the ArcGIS Server or URL of the ArcGIS Server to which you want to connect.
  5. If required, type your user name and password for accessing the server, then uncheck Save Name/Password if you don't want this information saved with the connection.
  6. Click Finsh.
  7. If you want to rename the ArcGIS Server, right-click the ArcGIS Server name, click Rename, then enter a new name.

Connecting to a WMS Server

  1. Double-click the ArcGIS Servers folder in the Catalog tree and double-click the Add WMS Server.
  2. In the dialog box that appears, type the URL to the WMS service. This will create a connection to the server on which the service is running.
  3. The URL you specify for a WMS service needs to be the complete URL, not just the server domain as when you make a connection to an ArcIMS server. All WMS URLs end either with a ? or & character, and this character needs to be included in the URL. Here are two common formats for WMS URLs:
    If you enter a URL without the required character at the end, ArcCatalog automatically adds it for you when you make the connection.
  4. Double-click the server connection to see the WMS service it contains.
  5. When you look inside a WMS server in ArcCatalog, you'll only see one service. You don't see multiple services as you do with ArcIMS or ArcGIS servers. With OGC WMS, the server and the service are really the same thing, but separate server and service objects are provided to match how ArcCatalog handles other GIS servers.
  6. Add the WMS service into ArcMap either by dragging and dropping from ArcCatalog or from the ArcMap Add Data dialog box.


  • A WMS service doesn't define which of its layers appear turned on when you initially access it. ArcGIS automatically turns on the first 20 layers in any WMS service you add to a map or preview in ArcCatalog. In this way, you are likely to see something useful when you first add the service to a map.

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