In this post we look at a new application in the ArcGIS suite – Pro.

Like most behemoth software applications, ArcGIS is ever changing.  There’s a new horse in the ArcGIS stable and it’s probably one that’s worth getting to grips with, especially as the tea leaves seem to point to this as the direction the software’s going in (hmmm, just need one more cliche in that sentence…).  So in this post I’ll give you a bit of an overview of what it’s like and how it works.  There are a few gory details around getting it open, which I’ll spare you, but once you do get it going, here’s what you’ll see:


For those of you used to working with ArcMap, this is quite a different look.  There’s much more of a Microsoft ribbon feel to it, which will either be comfortable or completely put you off.  Of note are all the tabs across the top – here’s a quick overview of what you’ll get within the tabs:

  • Project – manage projects and set options
  • Map – navigation, adding data and selections
  • Insert – insert maps and 3D scenes and add connections to GIS servers
  • Analysis – access to geoprocessing tools
  • View – access to different windows
  • Edit – editing tools
  • Share – tools for sharing to ArcGIS Online and beyond

As it is now we’ve got a blank slate; to get started mapping we need to go to the Insert tab and add a new map.  Below I’ve switched over to the Map tab where we can see some similar buttons, such as Add Data and Basemaps:


By default a topographic map is added as a basemap and note the coordinates at bottom.  This map uses latitude and longitude measures, which can be changed to something more local, such as New Zealand Transverse Mercator (NZTM).  I’ll add some data for Quail Island to allow us to delve into Pro a bit more:


That Table of Contents is looking a bit familiar now.  As with ArcMap we can get at various properties and tools by right-clicking on a layer name, though now that we’ve got some layers on the map, we  also have Appearance, Labelling and Data tabs that allow us to get at some of the same functions.  Here’s what the Appearance tab shows:


You can see from this that we can get to Symbology (which opens as new pane to the right of the map), adjust transparency, use the Swipe tool (like peeking underneath a layer to see what’s below) and setting the display scales.  The Data tab allows us to work more directly with the attribute tables:


A right-click on the layer name will still let us open the table.  If we click over to the Analysis tab we’ll see some more familiar sights:


Here we’ve got an expanded greatest hits of spatial analysis tools as well as access to the toolbox (which also opens as a pane at right) that should look pretty familiar, as well as the Python and ModelBuilder windows.  History is a nice addition – it keeps track of the tools you’ve been using (akin to the Results window in ArcMap).  Below is the Tools window:


As you work the Favorites (sic) section builds up a record of tools that you commonly use.  So that’s a lot of the furniture.  Does it do anything special?  Well, yes!  A few things in fact!

Mulitiple Windows

One of the limitations of ArcMap was that you have to open a separate map document for every map you want to produce, even if they use the same layers.  Back in the old days of ArcView 3.2 (from the Paleozoic Era) you used to be able to do everything in one place along with multiple layouts.  That’s back with Pro and very welcome indeed:


This is a pretty simple example with two map windows and one layout window but you’d be surprised at how much of a difference that makes.  Maps can be arranged vertically, horizontally or stacked, whatever suits your whims.

3D Scenes

Another big plus with Pro is how geared it is towards 3D modelling.  Below I’ve got two windows open – a Scene at left with LiDAR data from Portland, Oregon, colour coded by elevation.  At right is an aerial photo of the same area.  The two windows can be linked so as I pan and zoom in one window, the other shifts to match.


So you can see that the bridge over the river, for instance, is nicely visualised (in red).  If one looks closely they might even see that the LiDAR points have captured birds in the air!  The LiDAR dataset contains close to 13 million points and Pro handles all that pretty nicely and evenly.  If you wanted to do something similar with ArcMap you’d also have to have either ArcScene or ArcGlobe open separately and be switching back and forth, so being able to do 3D work in one place is a real plus.  As well, using Pro with ArcGIS Online makes it possible to do stuff like this (click on the image to go to an online 3D scene that you can move around in.  Go on!  You know you want to):


So dealing with 3D data becomes a lot easier with Pro which is great because 3D data are certainly becoming of huge interest to local and national government (think horizontal infrastructure post-earthquake and SCIRT).

But it’s not all wine and roses…  There are a few key tools that haven’t been incorporated into Pro yet, such as georeferencing, but those will come in the fullness of time, I’m sure.

Another not so great aspect is data management.  Pro doesn’t currently give you a good way to handle data management so for the time being, ArcCatalog will still be the way to go.

So that’s a very quick tour of how Pro looks and works.  It takes a bit of getting used to but so far I’ve found it to be worth the effort.  If you’d like to have a go, get in touch and I’ll give you the gory details.

This post nicely set us up for the next post or two – extracting 3D buildings from LiDAR data