Understanding ArcGIS Pro

Esri’s ArcGIS Pro has reinvented desktop GIS. That may seem like a bold statement, but when you understand why it was built, you see that it is true. It was designed and built from the ground up to fit the needs of the modern GIS professional based on input from the GIS community. In order to meet the requirements that were put forth by the worldwide community, Esri had to start fresh with a completely new architecture and lay a solid foundation that would allow performance and experience to be the guide. This is why a new application was needed, a reinvention based on your ideas and needs, and this is why ArcGIS Pro exists.

ArcGIS Pro is a truly 64-bit desktop application that takes advantage of your modern hardware for maximum performance and smooth map and 3D scene displays. It has a vibrant, contextual interface that serves you with the right tools at the right time, and anyone who has spent time looking for tools knows, this is fantastic. You can now do exciting new things like design and edit in 2D and 3D in one place, work with multiple displays and layout designs, and publish finished web maps directly to ArcGIS Online or Portal for ArcGIS.

ArcGIS Pro can work side-by-side with ArcMap so there is no need to pick one over the other. The fundamental principle is you do the heavy work with the power of desktop software yet you can easily connect to people within your organization or throughout the world. This way, your work, co-workers, stakeholders, clients and the public are all at your fingertips. Lastly, because ArcGIS Pro is a central and integrated part of the ArcGIS platform, you get the scalability you need to be individually successful and drive success for your organization.

So come explore your new GIS maker-space! There are a ton of new features and capabilities that have been engineered into ArcGIS Pro, if you haven’t had a chance to learn about the nuts and bolts, there is a wealth of knowledge to be found at pro.arcgis.com.

Here are some excerpts (with links) from the site:

Build GIS projects

ArcGIS Pro organizes the resources that you use to do your work into projects. A project contains maps, layouts, layers, tables, tasks, tools, and connections to servers, databases, folders, and styles. Projects can also incorporate content from your organization’s portal or ArcGIS Online.

You can automate everything.

You can build your own project from scratch or start by opening a project template created by Esri or others in the community. You can find and add content from a folder, a portal, or ArcGIS Online by browsing or searching by keywords. Use basic item descriptions or standards-based metadata to make it easier to find information. When you want to share your project, you can create project templates for others to use as a starting point or package the project and its data.

Visualize your data

Maps and scenes are the canvases on which you display your spatial data—maps display 2D data, and scenes are a type of map that displays 3D data. You can store as many maps as you need in the same project, and you can open multiple maps at once and view them side by side. This means you can look at the same data in 2D and 3D simultaneously. ArcGIS Pro has built-in navigation functions and keyboard and mouse shortcuts that allow you to explore.

Visualize data in unique ways.

To author a map or a scene in a project, you add layers to it. You can add a layer to multiple maps; for example, you might use the same imagery basemap as the underlying backdrop for many maps. Layers have properties that allow you to set how their content is displayed, including the symbols used to draw the data. To display your data in a printable or exportable format, you can create layouts in your project.

Edit geographic data

You can visualize the layers you are editing in both 2D and 3D so you can see your features from all perspectives. Editing involves creating, updating, and maintaining geospatial information that is stored and organized in layers. You can create new features in a layer by drawing them in a map and assigning attributes to define their characteristics, and update existing features to reflect their current condition based on newly acquired data or information that comes from the field. Use snapping and specified constraints to guarantee that features are precisely connected to each other and are created at the proper dimensions.

Create 2D maps and 3D scenes together.

Perform analysis and geoprocessing

Geoprocessing provides a suite of tools for performing spatial analysis and managing GIS data in an automated way. A typical tool performs an operation on a dataset and creates a resulting output dataset. When you find the right geoprocessing tool, you specify input and output dataset locations, adjust additional parameters that affect the process, and run the tool. In addition to the tools that are built into ArcGIS Pro, you can create custom tools.

ModelBuilder is a visual language that allows you to create a diagram or model of your spatial analysis or data management process. This model is composed of graphical elements representing geoprocessing tools, data layers, and other variables and functions. Python is the scripting language of ArcGIS. ArcGIS includes a Python API known as ArcPy, which gives you access to all geoprocessing tools as well as an exhaustive suite of scripting functions that help you automate GIS tasks.

Tools are easy to find.

You can view the geoprocessing and spatial analysis history of your project so that you can easily run tools that were previously run in the project with the same or modified settings and better understand the process that created a layer in your map. Geoprocessing history is key to sharing a geoprocessing tool, as you can share any tool that has been run successfully and entered into the project geoprocessing history.

Share your work

Sharing your work is an important part of ArcGIS Pro. You can share everything from entire projects to maps, layers, and other components of your work. You can share maps from your project as web maps. Web maps can be reused within ArcGIS Pro as well as across the ArcGIS platform, and they can be viewed in browsers and on mobile devices.

Create global views.

Sharing by packaging creates a compressed file containing GIS data. Packaging is how you share complete projects or layers with others.

Get started today

ArcGIS Pro is a new part of ArcGIS for Desktop and as such is available as a part of your current maintenance subscription. The licensing for ArcGIS Pro is managed via your ArcGIS Online or Portal for ArcGIS account.  If you would like to give it a try, a 60-day free trial is available. ArcGIS Pro is also included as a part of the ArcGIS for Home Use program.

About Woody Hynes

I am a former intelligence analyst, a former water resource professional and have always been a technophile. I consider myself a lifelong student and I currently work to help others understand how technology can help them with the work they do.
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Leave a Reply


  1. danbear says:

    I am working on introducing people who don’t know about GIS to what it is, and I like what you are saying what GIS software can do.

    However, my question is that if someone buys a basic version of ArcGIS, how do they get Support other than for Installation? Are there any options other than posting to one of the Boards?

  2. smith.jason@epa.gov says:

    I have no problem with ArcGIS Pro except for the lack of layout tools! No ruler, no guides or grids, no option to Distribute to Margins. How is anyone supposed to make a print map when they don’t even know how to properly align it on a page? I hope this functionality is added very soon. Thank you.

  3. wrig8701 says:

    What is the DIFFERENCE between ArcGIS Desktop vs ArcGIS Pro ?

    • wrig8701,

      ArcGIS Desktop is a suite of products that includes ArcMap, ArcCatalog, ArcGlobe, ArcScene, and (new at 10.3.1) ArcGIS Pro.

      I like to think of ArcGIS Pro as a “re-mastered greatest hits album” of ArcGIS Desktop technology, combining the best of the existing Desktop applications’ capabilities, with some “bonus tracks” of new functionality, such as Tasks.

      There’s a great FAQ at http://www.esri.com/software/arcgis-pro/common-questions that goes over many of these types of common questions. Give it a look, and let us know if you have any further questions.

  4. matt.wilkie says:

    {{Reposting, without links this time, because my first post is still sitting in moderation queue after 2 days. Search the community forum for the subjects marked in bold, below.}}

    ArcGIS Pro’s feature set is very interesting, and many many of the sub-optimal user interface issues we have with ArcMap have been ameliorated or outright solved. No more 15 click up and down dialog traversals just to change symbol size or colours! Search at your fingertips, and fast! Great stuff.

    However, I’m deeply concerned about it’s licensing model and am strongly restraining it’s use and adoption in our organization. The subscription model means than when or if the subscription is halted or put to bed for whatever reason all those ArcGIS Pro project files are locked up and unavailable.

    Yes I don’t use ArcInfo Workstation as a matter of course any more, only twice in last …6? years in fact. However, I could use it on both of those occasions, and the ability to do so saved me days of work reconstructing the same business logic data results in current ArcGIS desktop. These represent tens of thousands of dollars saved for my employer.

    Some more conversation on this at: [ArcGIS Pro License : Subscription license – will expire when maintenance stops] and [Are you in favour of ArcGIS Pro as Temporary use, subscription license that expires when maintenance stops?]

    ArcGIS Pro is good, but don’t transition to it wholesale without carefully thinking through what the new model means for you, your organization and the ability in future to refer to and use what you are creating right now, today.

    • woody57 says:

      Thank you for your comments, Matt. It is certainly very important to consider the work that you are doing today for the future. ArcGIS Pro is a part of ArcGIS for Desktop and is provided at no extra cost to ArcGIS for Desktop customers that have a current maintenance subscription. A maintenance subscription also provides you access to additional software beyond ArcGIS Pro, including ArcGIS Online and Esri’s ready-to-use apps. These extra pieces allow you to expand upon the work you are doing and create and share in powerful and novel ways. Importantly, your maintenance subscription also gives you access to software updates and Esri’s tech support. It is true that if you choose to end your maintenance subscription your access to these extra pieces no longer applies. If for some reason you no longer wish to have a maintenance subscription that provides you access to all of these extra elements, you can definitely continue to use ArcMap to be successful in the work you do.

  5. alexroma says:

    I know Esri is saying that both product are designed to complement one another, but I suspect that eventually ArcMap will be discontinued and Pro will replace it. Before that, all the shortcomings of the new product must be resolved. And there are more than a few of them. I feel that Pro is still a very raw product (unlike ArcMap 8.1 was in ~ 2001). Absence of the concurrent licensing model is clearly a wrong decision.

    • 6by9is42 says:

      Agree on both counts – I bet with some colleagues that ArcMap/Catalog/etc. would be entirely phased out by May 27th, 2019 (5 years from when I said it in an email), which hopefully will be when all of the functionality from ArcMap has been ported and everyone has gotten over their grief from losing ArcObjects. The licensing is asinine – access by “named user” is hard to frame as a benefit for the Desktop userbase. Microsoft abandoned the mandatory-internet stipulation of the Xbox One prior to launch, hopefully ESRI allows for a concurrent licensing scheme as well. I want to use Tasks in Pro as much as, if not much more than, the next person, but the juice ain’t worth the squeeze yet.

  6. itdparsj says:

    I personally do not care for ArcPro. ArcMap is difficult enough to learn and I frankly did not see what was wrong with this software or the need to change it so much. As an everyday user of ArcMap I find ArcPro more complicated and difficult to navigate and find where features and tools are located and less intuitive, since most everyting is hidden. Bottom line: Did not see a need to change from ArcMap and ArcPro is more difficult to use.

  7. davidaw2 says:

    I have a free trial of ArcPro but it won’t let me complete the “Create LAS Dataset” function in Geoprocessing????