My Road to Pro: A guide to getting up and running with ArcGIS Pro in a ‘Redlands Minute’

Learning any new software can be a daunting task, especially in a field as technical as GIS – “With great power comes…. a certain level of complication.” After years of practice perfecting your workflows in ArcMap, initially hearing about Esri’s latest in GIS tech, ArcGIS Pro, may not have piqued your interest. However, over the past few years as more and more people have started using and evangelizing this new and improved desktop GIS, you may have found yourself, like many others, with a slightly altered opinion!

This blog post is meant for anyone wanting to get a jump start on their ‘migration to ArcGIS Pro.’ As you will soon realize upon embarking on this journey, ArcGIS Pro is intuitive and really easy to learn. Its context-driven UI (User Interface) is designed to streamline workflows and lower learning curves. Esri has also created a ton of tutorials and other training materials to enable you to take advantage of the benefits of Pro in no time.

Below is a summary of the steps I took to make the transition to ArcGIS Pro and some advice and resources I have accumulated over that time.

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My Background

When I began my internship here at Esri, on the ArcGIS Pro team, I had never actually used Pro before! As counterintuitive as that may seem, it was by design. As a Civil and Environmental Engineering student, I had quite a bit of experience with ArcMap – running geoprocessing tools and making, at least for a non-cartographer, relatively aesthetic maps. The team wanted me to come in and experience ‘the migration’ from ArcMap to ArcGIS Pro first-hand in order to gain insight on how to best help others make the transition.

You may not have the time to set a game plan on how to most efficiently convert your workflows but its ok, I did it for you! My experience was a little different because I didn’t have to postpone current work that clients depend on in order to learn the new program. However, I firmly believe that it is possible to set aside a couple hours a day (or week) to learn ArcGIS Pro and begin using this amazing software every day! You’d be surprised at how fast you can get into the groove of things if you do it the right way.

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It’s all About the Mindset!! 

As I stated above, before my internship I had done all of my coursework in ArcMap (and had my own struggles there), but I was super excited to start exploring this new and cutting edge software!  I couldn’t wait to begin.

A good attitude goes a long way when learning any new skill. If you are excited about the prospect of using Esri’s new technology to enable your work to reach new heights, you’ll make quick work of mastering Pro.

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At a Glance

Right when you open ArcGIS Pro, it looks like progress! It looks like a program that is technologically advanced and ready to greatly improve the quality of your work and optimize your workflows. And even though the UI is fairly different than ArcMap, it is familiar and intuitive with its context-driven tab and pane format, similar to other modern software that we all use and depend on. (I personally like the ‘Dark’ theme, which can be accessed through Options->General->Personalize)

Not letting the new layout scare you and damper your spirits is important! Don’t think too hard about it; let ArcGIS Pro do some of the thinking for you. Like I said, it really is intuitive and easy to figure out.

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Find the Balance

The method that I chose to ‘make the migration’ was a mixture of doing some basic tutorials and trial and error. My strategy with the basic tutorials was to quickly familiarize myself with the new layout and simple workflows, then use my own knowledge of ArcMap and general GIS to do the rest of the work. This to me seemed like the fastest way to get back to full GIS mode in ArcGIS Pro.

The hardest thing is finding a balance of the two. If you spend more time than you need on tutorials when you could have managed quicker on your own, you’re wasting time. On the other hand, spinning your wheels trying to figure out Pro all on your own isn’t effective either. That being said, I believe there is still great value in learning through experience – trial and error.

Taking a minute to evaluate your own ArcMap/GIS skills and general aptitude for technology and then making a plan on how to balance your learning will save you a lot of time and effort on your road to Pro.

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Start Simple

When you are first making the migration to Pro, especially if your main job is GIS and your employment depends upon your efficiency, start with the basics.  Most professionals that use GIS at least semi-regularly deal with a range of workflows. Some may be extremely complicated geoprocessing, and others simple data visualization.

Choose a few of your more simple workflows and replicate them in Pro. In no time you will quickly realize the power of Pro and transitioning to your more complicated workflows will be even easier.

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Resources

The ‘Get Started‘ tab from the ArcGIS Pro reference site is basically a one stop shop if you are using Pro for the first time.

Within the tab, I’d like to highlight:

  • About ArcGIS Pro (a quick overview of terminology and the UI)
  • For ArcMap users (includes adding mxds and common workflows)
  • ArcGIS Pro quick-start tutorials (I recommend going through at least a few of these. Most tutorials have a summary video at the beginning. Watching these short videos can often be enough to learn the material contained within the tutorial. Watch the videos in 1.5x and 2x the speed to go through them even faster!)
  • Frequently asked questions

The site offers even more than what is listed here. Take a few minutes to look through the learning tools and find out what would be most useful to your work specifically.

Besides these listed above, here are some other useful resources:

Instructor-led courses (in person or web courses), such as Migrating from ArcMap to ArcGIS Pro, can also be found in the Esri Training catalog. If you are having a hard time following/learning from other tutorials or you really enjoy an interactive classroom type learning environment, Instructor-led courses are a great option. These classes go step-by-step through similar tutorials and workflows with an experienced GIS Instructor (either in person or online). You can ask them questions if you are stuck on a certain part or if you want deeper understanding for certain concepts. You can also network with other’s like yourself who are migrating to Pro and using the software in their particular field of work.

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For Your Consideration

  • I would advise anyone to do at least one ‘ArcGIS Pro quick-start tutorial‘ before learning Pro with a ‘trial and error’ plan. Due to the new Project->Maps organization, even the most basic task, ‘adding a basemap,’ is different. Doing one of the tutorials will insure that you don’t frustrate yourself with the simplest tasks.
  • ArcGIS Pro is available to anyone on current maintenance.
  • Mxds are readable by ArcGIS Pro but aprx files are not compatible with ArcMap. A good workaround for this is sharing a web map to AGOL, which is super easy to do in ArcGIS Pro, so your ‘non-Pro’ colleges and clients can still view your maps.
  • 95% of the ArcMap tools are in ArcGIS Pro already (get the full list here). However, there are a lot of new and exciting tools in ArcGIS Pro that are not in ArcMap.
  • The ArcGIS Pro ‘Catalog View‘ is very similar to ‘ArcCatalog.’ With multiple instances of Pro and the ability to drag panes and views to other monitors you can already get a more traditional Catalog feel. Esri has been making improvements to the catalog pane and catalog view and will continue to do so to fulfill the traditional ArcCatalog workflow requirements.
  • The Going Pro: ArcGIS Pro Essentials for ArcMap Users live training seminar is also a great and free resource for quickly gaining your bearings in Pro.

With the 2.0 release of ArcGIS Pro we are even more confident that most, if not all, of your workflows are not only possible in ArcGIS Pro, but will be better and easier. Make sure to stay current with your version of Pro in order to get the best performance and functionality. Check the ‘ArcGIS Pro Roadmap‘ for functionality that will soon be implemented.

If you are considering starting the migration to ArcGIS Pro or transferring even more of your workflows, do it! And if you run into any problems that you can’t figure out, leave a comment below, or contact Esri Technical Support.

There are so many new possibilities enabled by ArcGIS Pro’s awesome technology. Continue to explore them and let us know about the cool things you are doing via any of our social media channels and the comments below.

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You’ll be a ‘Pro’ in no time – Happy Mapping!

-Tylor the ArcGIS Pro Intern

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