Helpful tips on using search in ArcGIS

Help and tips on searching

Click a search result's title to add it to your map (data) or launch it (maps, tools). Hover over the search result's title to see more about it in a pop-up window.

Click the summary text for a search result to open its item description in a window. You can leave that window open and click the summary for another search result and its item description will appear in the window.

Click the green path under a search result for a local search to go to that item in the Catalog window.

ArcGIS Search is simple—start the search by typing in what you are looking for. Search incorporates natural keywords representing your GIS data and uses a loosely coupled hierarchy to narrow down your search results.

For example:

Search string



Returns all items that contain the term parcels anywhere in their item information

Parcels feature class

Narrows down the search to return only feature classes with the term parcels in their item information

Parcels shapefile

Returns only shapefiles that have the term parcels in their item information

Parcels shapefile polygon

Returns only shapefiles of type polygon with the term parcels in their item information

And so on...

Wildcard searches

Use the * symbol to perform wildcard searches.

For example, to search for landuse or landbase and other results starting with land, you can use the search:


The * symbol on its own is an invalid query. The * symbol followed by another term is valid (example: *base is a valid query).

You can also use the wildcard searches in the middle of the term like this:


To perform a single-character wildcard substitute, use the ? symbol. For example, to search for "text" or "test" you can use the following query:


Path-based searches

Most of the time you know where your data is located on your disk. However, you may not remember specific names or other item information about your data. You can use path-based searches to narrow it down.

To search for all items that contain the word Yellowstone and the data is located under the folder c:\arcgis\arctutor you can use the following query. Make sure the path is enclosed in double quotes:

"c:\arcgis\arctutor" yellowstone*

Boolean operators

Boolean operators allow terms to be combined with logic operators. The following operators are supported: AND, OR, NOT, +, -

The AND operator is the default operator. This means that if there is no operator between two search terms, the AND operator is used.


The AND operator matches items where both terms exist anywhere in the fields of the index. To search for items that must contain landuse AND planning, use the following query. The AND operator is not used in the following query because AND is the default operand:

landuse planning

In general, the AND operator narrows down your search results as you add more words to your search. You can use natural GIS-specific terms like feature class or shapefile to narrow down your results. The following query returns only feature classes with the name "parcels" in the item information:

parcels feature class

In the above query, a feature class is a generic keyword that represents all feature classes including enterprise, file, and personal geodatabase feature classes, shapefiles, CAD, VPF, SDC, and all other feature classes.

If you are looking for a specific type of feature class, type the keyword that makes sense to you. For example, the query below returns only shapefile feature classes of type polygon that have the term "parcels" in their item information:

parcels shapefile polygon


The OR operator links two terms and finds a matching record if either of the terms exists in a record.

To search for items that contains either landuse or landbase, use the following query:

landuse OR landbase


The + (also known as required operator) requires that the term after the + symbol exists somewhere in the item information. To search for items that must contain the word Esri and may contain the term data, use the following query:

+Esri data


The - (also known as prohibit operator) excludes documents that contain the word after the - symbol.

To search for items that contain the term USA, but exclude raster data, you can use the following query:

USA* -raster

Field-based queries

Search stores the index in a set of fields. We index a small set of fields that describe the data, also known as the Item Description. The following is a subset of fields that you can use in your queries to narrow down your search results:

When you search for terms, by default we search all fields in the index (using the AND operator) to find your results. Most of the time you'll find the results you are looking for. However, sometimes you may want to fine-tune the query to get the exact results that you are looking for. You can search any field by typing in the field name followed by a colon (:) and the search keywords you are looking for.

When you type the following words:

Census Demographics

Search returns all items that contain both words Census and Demographics anywhere in their item description (the AND operator is implied between the words).

If you want to find all documents that contain either the word Census or the word Demographics anywhere in their item description, then you must explicitly type in the OR as below:

Census OR Demographics

As mentioned earlier, the search attempts to find the words anywhere in the item description. If you want to narrow it down to specific fields, use the following syntax, which searches for the two words only in the title:

Title:Census OR Demographics

Or the following, which searches for either of these tags only:

Tags:Census OR Demographics

Or the following, which searches for the word landuse in the title and the word Demographics in its tags:

Title:landuse AND Tags:Demographics

And so on.

For ArcGIS Online searches only

In addition to the above fields, ArcGIS Online content can be searched using a special field owner. The following are some examples that may be useful in searching ArcGIS Online content:

To search for ArcGIS Online content published by Esri:


To search for all basemaps published by Esri:

Owner:Esri AND tags:ArcMap_base