10 things I like about ArcGIS Pro

September 20, 2017 Chris North

ArcGIS Pro is Esri’s next-generation desktop geographic information system (GIS). It features innovations not available in any other desktop GIS that can help you complete projects and share results more easily than before. With its modern interface and integrated 2D and 3D capabilities, ArcGIS Pro will streamline the way you do your GIS work.

By now, most of you may have seen ArcGIS Pro in a demo, even if you haven’t started using it. Also, it’s no secret now that while ArcMap will continue to be supported for some time, ArcGIS Pro is the future of Esri’s desktop GIS. Eventually, we will all be using Pro as our day-to-day desktop GIS.

While we all make that transition, there are several interesting new capabilities in ArcGIS Pro that are worth exploring. Below are 10 things that I really like about Pro. I’ll do this in the classic “Top Ten” list – Letterman style!

10. AWESOME maps made EASY

ArcGIS Pro has fully integrated two great technologies, Smart Mapping and Arcade, both of which make it easy to produce great maps.

Beyond Smart Mapping, the way you can interact and tweak your symbology in Pro is incredible. One thing really jumps out – scale dependency can be set not only for the entire layer, but also class-by-class within a layer. Also, some capabilities that used to be limited to cartographic representations in ArcGIS Pro are now properties you can set for symbology on a layer.

My favourite is being able to see multiple attributes symbolized at the same time on one layer!  For example, a single layer of weather station data simultaneously shows not only the location, but the temperature (colour), wind direction (rotation), wind speed (size of symbol) and relative humidity (transparency).

9. A user interface that ANTICIPATES my needs

It took a few days to get used to, but now I really appreciate the new ribbon UI in ArcGIS Pro.  It’s kind of intuitive and responds to what I’m doing. That means you don’t have to try and remember the location of tools and which panel some property is on.  For the most part, as you work with your data and elements in ArcGIS Pro, you get a dynamic, context-sensitive user interface that in some ways, anticipates what you may need next.

For example, if I select a feature layer in the Table of Contents, my ribbon looks like this.

If I then select a basemap layer, the options that don’t make sense go away.

8. MUCH better editing  

In ArcGIS Pro, the entire editing experience has been rethought. But I like the little things that are present in ArcGIS Pro.  For example, the new alignment grid gives you a flexible way to ensure orthogonal construction even if you don’t have features to snap to.

What you can edit in ArcGIS Pro has also improved. You can edit both simple features (points, lines, polygons) and complex features like Annotation. In Pro, the experience in editing a Feature service or hosted web layers is incredibly simple.

My favourite?  You can now simply and quickly rename and reorder fields, edit field aliases and delete fields from your attribute tables.

7. It makes me an IMAGE ANALYSIS EXPERT.

Too often, GIS professionals see imagery as expensive wallpaper for maps.

The image processing tools in ArcGIS Pro allow you to go beyond visualizing image data and lets you classify images and create orthoimagery and georeference imagery.

6. Integrated 2D & 3D visualization RIGHT THERE

In ArcGIS Pro, I can move seamlessly between 2D maps and 3D scenes, all within the same application. This not only applies to visualization and mapping.  Features can be edited simultaneously in both 2D and 3D.  Imagine editing building footprints in the 2D map, and then simply moving over and pulling the walls up, and generating the roofline.

5. It keeps me ORGANIZED: The Project Paradigm

ArcGIS Pro reintroduces the concept of a project for a GIS desktop.

For those who have been around GIS for quite some time, the concept of a GIS project was part of what made ArcView 3.x so great. With ArcMap introduced in 1999, we moved to a map-centric view. That is, the MXD file was just that, a “map document”.  While map documents were conceptually simple, they were a bit limiting. Any GIS workflows that required many maps and layouts imposed the challenge of managing several disconnected files, with duplication of data frames and layers.

I think a project is a more natural way to work. A project can contain any number of components – many maps, many data connections and, importantly, many layouts.

4.  I look SMART with better charting.

ArcGIS Pro has several charting characteristics that I really like. Charts displaying your data are an effective way of communicating, especially when you combine them with maps on layouts.

For example, when I make a chart from a map layer, the map symbology is automatically carried over onto the chart.  If I make a scatter plot from two attributes in the layer, each point in the chart uses the current symbol of the feature on the map.

3. Geoprocessing is not the same. It is BETTER.

This is quite nerdy, but ArcGIS Pro is a full 64-bit application.  Among other things, this means your geoprocessing tools and models will just run faster. Period.

The geoprocessing framework you know from ArcMap is still part of ArcGIS Pro. Pro has all the same tools and toolboxes (some ArcMap-specific tools are no longer needed), as well as  ModelBuilder. Python is also fully integrated with ArcGIS Pro, and your toolbox contains tools, models and scripts as always.

ArcGIS Pro maintains a useful history of your geoprocessing tools, and re-running a tool is simple: just open up the tool, tweak any parameters and re-run.

2. Tasks make it EASIER for me to do the HARD STUFF.

ArcGIS Pro introduces the idea of Tasks to help automate and simplify your work.  It’s a kind of wizard that guides the user interactively through a series of steps in a workflow for things that need to get done in a certain order. At each step, user input is typically required.

A task can be built step by step in the task framework and then ‘recorded’.  Start the ‘record’, do the step once, and it’s recorded in the task. You can even edit each step and add documentation.

A completed task can be shared with other users, so it’s a great tool which allows everyone to share the right workflow.

1. ArcGIS Pro is a CONNECTED desktop.

ArcGIS Pro is a fully connected desktop. It's connected to your enterprise geodatabase in the same way that ArcGIS Desktop has always been, and you can continue to use a versioned enterprise geodatabase. However, with Pro, you're connected to so much more.

  • Easy search and access for resources in my ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise (or both at the same time!), or searching other organizations.

  • Having access to the Living Atlas immediately gives you an incredible array of data from Esri and from other users.

  • The many ready-to-use tools in ArcGIS Online allow you to create a simple view shed or drainage area without needing a desktop extension or even a digital elevation model (DEM). That’s just one example of the possible uses.

  • Leverage the GeoEnrichment and Geocoding tools from ArcGIS Online. GeoEnrichment is particularly powerful, allowing you to aggregate demographic data from Environics Analytics.

  • Easily share web maps. With Pro, you can publish web maps, web layers, processing tools and 3D scenes to your ArcGIS Online organization or ArcGIS Enterprise portal.

So, explore ArcGIS Pro. Discover the new capabilities it has to offer, and start using them in your day-to-day GIS work. Learn more about ArcGIS Pro and register for a free trial today.

If you’ve already decided to make the switch to Pro, consider taking the Migrating from ArcMap to ArcGIS Pro course to ensure that you’re productive right away.

About the Author

Chris North

Chris North is the Director of Industry Solutions for Esri Canada. With over 20 years of experience in geomatics, Chris is an accomplished GIS professional who brings an in-depth understanding of enterprise GIS and technology trends to the company. He was previously the principal at 43 North GIS Consulting. Prior to starting his firm, Chris was an executive with DMTI Spatial responsible for product strategy and customer advocacy. He has a master's degree in GIS from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and an undergraduate degree in Geography from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Chris is also a graduate of the Cartography Program at Sir Sandford Fleming College, Ontario. He is the recipient of several industry awards and continues to be involved with many industry groups. Chris is currently chair of the GIS and Cartography Advisory Board at Sir Sandford Fleming College.

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