Geocode services

Geocode services support a wide range of applications, from business and customer management to shipping and distribution to simply getting directions to where you need to go. Geocoding allows you to find and display addresses on a map and see how they relate to surrounding features. Sometimes you can see relationships by just looking at the map; other times, you can use spatial analysis tools to reveal information that can't be easily seen.

While there are many commercially available geocode services, these may not meet your organization's needs for several reasons: the address information is not up-to-date, your address formatting is different, or you want people to find address locations by the local or common name of a feature (for example, "The White House"). All these situations call for a specialized geocoding solution. By investing the time to build your own geocode service, you can ensure that your geocoding needs are met.

To make your geocode service available to clients, you need to create an address locator in ArcGIS for Desktop and then publish it as a geocode service to ArcGIS Server. Once you have published the service, you can create a client application that uses the geocode service to display address locations on a map.

Creating the address locator

All geocode services begin as an address locator. The address locator is the main tool for geocoding in ArcGIS and contains all the data necessary to perform address matching. You can use ArcCatalog, the Catalog window in ArcGIS for Desktop, or the Create Address Locator geoprocessing tool to create an address locator. For step-by-step instructions, refer to Creating an address locator in the ArcGIS Help.

Composite locators, which combine many locators into one, can also be published to ArcGIS Server. For more information, see Creating a composite address locator.

Publishing the address locator

After you have created the address locator, you can publish it as a geocode service by following the steps in How to publish a service. Valid formats are locator files (.loc) in a file folder or locators in a geodatabase.

Geocode service operations

Geocode services have built-in operations that allow you to perform geocoding and reverse geocoding. Geocoding refers to the process of finding a geographic location from an address, and reverse geocoding refers to the process of finding the nearest address to a geographic location. When publishing your address locator, the Geocode and Reverse Geocode operations are enabled by default. You can disable any one of these operations by accessing the Capabilities tab of the Service Editor.

Using the geocode service

To use your geocode service, you'll need to create a client application, such as a web application, to consume your service. The ArcGIS Viewer for Flex, ArcGIS Viewer for Silverlight, the ArcGIS web APIs, and the ArcGIS Runtime SDKs allow you to build applications that can consume your geocode service.

In its simplest form, the geocode service is a web service that takes in an address and returns the corresponding location coordinates. You can see the geocode service's REST URL if you navigate to the service with the ArcGIS Server Services Directory. The URL looks like this:

http://myserver:6080/arcgis/rest/services/<folder name (if applicable)>/MyGeocodeService

To use the geocode service, you can simply copy and paste the REST URL into the code of your application.

The Geocoding Community in the ArcGIS Resource Center contains detailed documentation and samples of how to configure applications to work with the geocode service. To view a live sample of a geocode service in action within an application, see the Find an Address sample in the ArcGIS API for Silverlight samples page.