MS RFC 67: Enable/Disable Layers in OGC Web Services




Alan Boudreault (aboudreault at


Daniel Morissette (dmorissette at


Yewondwossen Assefa

Last Edited:



Adopted on 2010-02-25 and implemented in MapServer 6.0


MapServer 6.0


At the moment, it is not possible to hide/disable a layer in OGC Web Services. Everybody recognizes the need to be able to hide layers from a given mapfile from some or all OGC Web Service (OWS) requests.

This is a proposal to add the ability to enable/disable layers in OGC Web Services in MapServer.

There was also a discussion on this topic in the wiki at

Use Cases

Here are some use cases to demonstrate the need of hiding layers:

  • One needs the ability to hide tileindex layers to all OGC services

  • In a WMS mapfile where multiple scale-dependent layers are in a common group, we want only the group to appear in GetCapabilities? and not the individual layers. However the layers should not be completely turned off since we want them to be visible in GetMap and queryable with GetFeatureInfo when the group is selected. This use case is common for WMS and may (or may not) apply to other OGC services.

  • One may want to offer a given layer via WMS but not via WFS (or any combination of services). In other words, we need the ability to select in which OGC services a given layer is exposed.

  • The copyright notice (i.e. layer with STATUS DEFAULT) shall not appear in the GetCapabilities output and shall not be queryable.

  • Not about hiding a full layer, but setting the ability to say that one wants a certain layer to return the geometry as gml in a wms-getfeatureinfo-response (at this moment it is never returned)

  • Handle wms_group_layers as real layers (relevant for INSPIRE), but move the rendering part into hidden layers in order to avoid redundant style configurations in the group layer and the sub layer.

Proposed Solution

The main concern was to minimalize user’s changes in their mapfiles. It seems that the easier way to go would be to use metadata, as we already do currently for some ows settings.

All OWS services will be disabled by default unless enabled at map or layer level. The OWS services can be enabled using the following metadata:

  • ows_enable_request: Apply to all OGC Web Services

  • wms_enable_request: Apply to Web Map Service (WMS)

  • wfs_enable_request: Apply to Web Feature Service (WFS)

  • sos_enable_request: Apply to Sensor Observation Service (SOS)

  • wcs_enable_request: Apply to Web Coverage Service (WCS)

The value of the metadata is a list of the requests to enable:

"GetMap GetFeature GetFeatureInfo"

The possible values are the request names for each service type as defined in the corresponding OGC specification.

For convenience, there are also two special characters we can use in the requests list:

  • *: Used alone, means all requests

  • !: Placed before a request name, means disable this request

  • !*: Means disable all requests


Fully enable WMS:

wms_enable_request "*"

Enable WMS, all requests except GetFeatureInfo:

wms_enable_request "* !GetFeatureInfo"

Enable WMS with only GetMap and GetFeatureInfo:

wms_enable_request "GetMap GetFeatureInfo"

Enable any/all OGC Web Service request types:

ows_enable_request "*"

Disable any/all OGC Web Service request types, mostly useful at the layer level to hide a specific layer:

ows_enable_request "!*"


A particularity of the proposed solution is the inheritance of settings between the map and the layer level. The settings at the map level apply to all layers unless they are overridden at the layer level. Example:

Fully enable WFS for all layers at the map level:

wfs_enable_request "*"

Disable WFS GetFeature request in a specific layer (All other requests will remain enabled):

wfs_enable_request "!GetFeature"

Implementation notes

  • Don’t forget to also update the list of supported operations in the GetCapabilities (e.g. don’t write out GetFeatureInfo as an operation if “wms_enable_request” “!GetFeatureInfo”)

Improved handling of wms_layer_group as real layers

The current behavior of the wms_layer_group is to provide hierarchy of layers and expose it through the capabilities document. The parent layers do not contain a <Name> tag, thus are not accessible through the GetMap and GetFeatureInfo requests. With an upgrade of wms_layer_group functionality to use Group parameter to indicate the level of the XPath expression that can be requested (refer to, and the addition of the functionality discussed in this RFC, the user will have flexibility to configure the map file to show/hide low level layers and to allow or not WMS requests at different levels of the tree hierarchy. This is especially important to be able to support the INSPIRE requirements.


This section of the RFC was not implemented and will be done as part of future INSPIRE related enhancements, likely in 6.2.

Backwards Compatibility Issues

All OWS services will be disabled by default. This implies that all users will have to modify their mapfiles and add the following line to get their ogc services working as before.

ows_enable_request "*"


Main ticket:

Related tickets:

Voting history

Adopted on 2010-02-25 with +1 from FrankW, PericlesN SteveW, DanielM, AssefaY, JeffM, TamasS