You are trying to finish up a project with a deadline, haven’t saved your edits all day, and then, poof, ArcMap closes unexpectedly. Esri strives to produce stable, quality software, but occasionally bad things happen and you see: “ArcGIS has encountered a serious application error and is unable to continue.”
ArcGIS for Desktop and ArcGIS for Server include semiautomated error reporting capabilities that allow you to tell Esri about problems like this. When the application closes that way, an error report file (.dmp) is generated on your hard drive. We just need you to click the Send Error Report button to submit it to Esri so we can identify the issue and when possible, fix it. Optionally, you can choose to include your e-mail address and a description of what you were doing when the error occurred. If you do not have an Internet connection at the time, you can e-mail the .dmp file to ArcGISErrorReport@esri.com.
After you send the report, Esri reviews it and works toward resolving the problem in a service pack. Please make sure that you have installed the most recent service pack for the ArcGIS release you are using so your software will have the error report fixes (as well as all other software updates that are part of the service pack). ArcGIS 10.1 Service Pack 1 is in progress and expected later this year. For ArcGIS 10 users, ArcGIS 10 Service Pack 5 is available. For ArcGIS 9.3.1 users, Service Pack 2 is the latest, plus, Esri has released a Quality Improvement Patch containing mostly error reporting fixes.
What happens when you submit an error report
When you submit an error report, it is initially reviewed by a computer to determine if it has enough usable information in it, and if so, whether there is an existing report with this same issue. If there are no reports of the problem, a new record is created automatically in Esri’s bug tracking system. If there is a previous record, then the running tally of errors is incremented to indicate another one has occurred.
The bug report has a list of the parts of the ArcGIS software you used immediately prior to the problem—pinpointing where the error occurred to the exact line in the code. Esri engineers can then walk through the software code and figure out why the error occurred. Their analyses determine if an issue is reproducible and how to change the code to prevent the issue.
Although there is a box for you to enter your e-mail address when you submit the report, Esri engineers normally do not contact you. Because the reports are initially reviewed automatically, please do not anticipate a response when you submit this form. At the moment, unfortunately, there is not a way to let you know when an automated error report you sent gets resolved. You should contact Esri Support Services (or your international distributor outside the United States) to log a bug when you have reproducible steps. Your issue can then be tracked and you can receive feedback to learn exactly when your issue is fixed.
How error reports are fixed
Error reports are usually addressed in a service pack, but sometimes, a fix must wait until a major release because it is deep-rooted. Error report fixes are not included on Esri’s public list of issues fixed in service packs. When Esri resolves an issue, including errors, the fix is often installed into the current release and the service pack of the previous release. For example, an issue resolved in ArcGIS 10 Service Pack 5 is also fixed in ArcGIS 10.1 when appropriate. This improves the stability of both releases.
Sometimes we cannot fix the problem because Esri’s code did not cause the error. To reduce the likelihood of these kinds of issues, make sure that any add-ins or custom utilities you have installed are compatible with your ArcGIS release. For example, a script that is designed for ArcGIS 10 may cause instability if you attempt to use it in ArcGIS 10.1. You should also check that your video card driver is updated to the most current version. It works best if you obtain the driver directly from the hardware manufacturer, rather than from Windows. In addition, save your work regularly to minimize loss.
We recently went through our database of error reports and found that there are still many coming in for issues that have already been resolved in later service packs. Sometimes you may not be aware that a new service pack is available, while other times, there is a delay because your organization requires system administrators to install ArcGIS software updates. (You can use this blog entry to justify a request to your IT staff to obtain a service pack.) Keep in mind that service packs are cumulative, so all fixes that are part of ArcGIS 10 service packs 1 through 4 and patches are also included in service pack 5. This means that you only need to install Service Pack 5 to get all the updates.
An example of error reporting in action
During the 2012 Esri User Conference in San Diego, I was giving an attendee a demonstration of ArcGIS 10.1. Things were going smoothly until ArcMap hesitated and shut down. I was perplexed (and embarrassed) when I saw the serious application error dialog box appear during my demo. I filled in my e-mail address and entered as much as I could recall doing immediately before ArcMap closed. As I was doing this, the user told me that she never submits error reports because she did not think they were actually used. I took this opportunity to explain how we review the reports and the steps we go through to fix these issues. After that, she said she would start sending them to Esri.
The programmer for this part of the software happened to be looking over my shoulder when the error occurred. After the user left, we spent a few minutes attempting to replicate the issue, but were unable to duplicate the steps and could not get ArcMap to close unexpectedly again.
The next day, back in the development office in Redlands, the programmer had already searched our bug tracking system, found the error report I’d submitted from the UC, debugged it enough to determine reproducible steps, and provided me with a software update to test. We now have this fix marked for installation into ArcGIS 10.1 service pack 1. Working backward from a simple list of the functions in the code I had performed, the error report allowed us to find and address the software problem.
Esri User Experience Improvement (EUEI) program
ArcGIS 10.1 has another way for you to help us improve the software, although in the longer term. When you install ArcGIS 10.1, you have the option to participate in the Esri User Experience Improvement Program, which you can enable or disable at any time by running the ArcGIS Administrator application and clicking the Advanced button. As you use the software, ArcGIS anonymously collects data about which tools you use and the items you click on the user interface, as well as hardware and operating system information. No personal information is recorded.
Based on the aggregated statistics of which parts of ArcGIS are used most and how they are accessed, Esri can develop ways to make your interaction and navigation within the software easier in the future. For example, we have found that setting layer symbology is a commonly performed task in ArcMap, but its position on the Layer Properties dialog box and the way the tab is organized requires you to go through many mouse clicks. Esri is using EUEI information to streamline the software experience as we design upcoming releases, so we encourage you to participate.