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10 most common myths about ArcGIS Pro

In a previous blog post, I described the top 10 things that I really like about ArcGIS Pro. I have received lots of great feedback from that blog – it’s nice to know people actually read my posts! (… *sniff* … tear up for dramatic effect…) Reading that feedback, and in discussion with many users about ArcGIS Pro, it’s apparent to me that there is still quite a bit of misinformation out there about ArcGIS Pro. I also read all the User Conference surveys (yes, all of them), so I know there is interest in ArcGIS Pro, but there is also some concern. 

So, as a follow up to the “Top 10 things I like about ArcGIS Pro”, I will share with you the 10 most common myths about ArcGIS Pro. This time, instead of doing a countdown, I’ll start with the most common myth first and work my way down.

Myth #1 – I can’t afford to install Pro.

This is the most common myth I hear about Pro. ArcGIS Pro is not a new product. It’s a brand-new application that is included with ArcGIS Desktop. ArcGIS Pro is part of your existing ArcGIS Desktop license. No matter if you have a basic, standard or advanced level of ArcGIS Desktop, and no matter if you’re on the latest version of ArcGIS Desktop, or still back at version 10.3 – ArcGIS Pro is included as part of ArcGIS Desktop. 

Think of it this way: ArcGIS Desktop includes ArcMap, ArcCatalog, ArcScene and ArcGlobe, as well as ArcGIS Pro.  It is not an additional license.

Myth #2 – I can’t move to ArcGIS Pro because we’re locked into an old version of Desktop.

While ArcGIS Pro is included in your existing ArcGIS Desktop license, I should point out that Pro is not tied to a specific version of ArcGIS Desktop. ArcGIS Pro is a separate code base from ArcMap and ArcCatalog. You can install the latest (or any) version of ArcGIS Pro on the same machine as any version of ArcMap.  Even if you are locked into a specific version of ArcMap because of database dependencies or third-party solutions, you can still install the latest version of ArcGIS Pro on the same machine.

Myth #3 – I can’t use ArcGIS Pro because it doesn’t publish to ArcGIS Server.

Let me be clear. ArcGIS Pro can publish web maps, web layers and cached services to ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise. In addition, ArcGIS Pro can publish services (dynamic map, feature, image, geocoding, geoprocessing, etc.) to ArcGIS Enterprise (which is what Server is now called). If you think about it, ArcGIS Pro publishes more types of information products and layer types to ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online than does ArcMap.

ArcGIS Pro can share maps and layers to ArcGIS Online as features, tiles or vector tiles. Layers can be shared to ArcGIS Enterprise as features or dynamic map services, and can be configured with options such as WMS support.

However, the way services are secured in ArcGIS Enterprise has changed. In ArcGIS Enterprise, organizations are strongly encouraged to implement the Portal component of ArcGIS Enterprise, and federate their authentication with the Server component.

In the ‘old’ world, most users simply created a server admin user and published with that. There are many security issues associated with that, not the least of which is multiple people using the same username and password. It’s also problematic because with that approach, you don’t have access to the other great features of the new ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online world including Collector apps, groups, content management and so on.

So, both ArcMap and Pro can publish services, and both ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro require a user login to do so. ArcGIS Pro has been designed to adhere to the more modern ArcGIS Enterprise security model, so it’s mandatory that you have the Portal component installed, and have your security of the Server component federated with Portal. This is already the case in ArcGIS Online.

Myth #4 – ArcGIS Pro doesn’t support existing licenses and extensions.

It does. As I mentioned, ArcGIS Pro is part of your existing ArcGIS Desktop license.

ArcGIS Pro can be configured to use your existing Concurrent Use (CU) license manager. It can be configured to use your existing Single Use (SU) license on a machine. In addition, ArcGIS Pro’s default licensing method is to leverage the benefits of your Esri Identity (ArcGIS Named User) – which, by the way, is included with your ArcGIS Desktop seat – and allow administrators to assign and manage licensing for ArcGIS Pro levels (basic, standard or advanced) and extensions (3D, Spatial Analyst, Network Analyst, etc.). The licensing mechanism you have today, the licensing level you have today, and the same extensions you have today are all available to you in ArcGIS Pro. 

ArcGIS Pro can be licensed by the default named user model, or can be configured to use your existing Single Use license, or existing Concurrent Use License Manager.

Now, I would encourage everyone to start exploring the benefits of using Esri Identity to manage who in your organization has access to which tools and capabilities. Soon, you’ll see that it’s much easier and simpler to manage the level of functionality for your desktop users in the same way you manage who has access to premium apps like Insights, Drone2Map, GeoPlanner and so on.

Myth #5 – ArcGIS Pro isn’t as feature complete as ArcMap.

Well, this is a tricky one. I can see where this myth comes from. Not every tool in ArcMap is needed in ArcGIS Pro, and some things are done differently. 

A good example is managing utility networks. Independent from ArcGIS Pro, Esri is evolving the way we edit and manage utility networks. ArcGIS Pro will be the tool for building and managing the new ‘Utility Network’ model. ArcMap will be the tool for managing the old ‘Geometric Network’.  We’re not moving Geometric Network tools to ArcGIS Pro – there is no point. Having said that, I’m only talking about editing a Geometric Network. ArcGIS Pro can visualize the old Geometric Network, you can only edit them in ArcMap.

Also keep in mind, ArcGIS Pro does more than ArcMap. For example, ArcGIS Pro supports multiple layouts, direct editing of feature services, publishing vector tile layers, integrated 2D and 3D – the list goes on.  ArcGIS Pro does more than ArcMap, so to say it’s not equivalent to ArcMap does not make sense.

What is true is that some capabilities in ArcMap have not yet been moved to ArcGIS Pro. For example, at the time of writing, the parcel fabric tools and the creation of dimensions found in ArcMap haven’t been ported to ArcGIS Pro, but these are being worked on and are expected in the near future. There is a small number of things like these; however, for most users, you more than likely can do in ArcGIS Pro what you do in ArcMap today, and then some.

Myth #6 – ArcGIS Pro use consumes credits.

I admit when I first heard this from customers, I was baffled. Using ArcMap does not consume credits. Using ArcGIS Pro does not consume credits. I dug a little deeper and I think I found the source of this myth.

What is available to you with ArcGIS Pro are some optionalReady-to-Use tools” that (with your Identity) connect to ArcGIS Online.

The idea behind these tools is to provide access to some more advanced GIS capabilities – think drainage areas, enrichment and service areas – for those users who (a) only need these tools on occasion, and (b) don’t have access to Desktop extensions and datasets needed. These optional Ready-to-Use tools are not a replacement for extensions. They are a lower cost option for casual users and do consume credits if (and only if) they are used. Moreover, you can disable access to these tools by managing your Identity roles in Online. And, like any credit-consuming capability in the ArcGIS ecosystem, credits can be budgeted and managed on a user-by-user basis by the administrator.

Myth #7 – ArcGIS Pro must be connected to ArcGIS Online.

Nope. You can use ArcGIS Pro on a stand-alone PC, in the middle of the tundra, 2,000 kms from the nearest Internet access point.

The difference between being connected to ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise in ArcGIS Pro is exactly the same as it is with ArcMap. Obviously, if you cannot reach your servers or the Internet, you can’t access ArcGIS Online basemaps, you can’t publish services, you can’t use your enterprise geodatabase.  But, as with ArcMap, you can continue to use shapefiles, file geodatabases – all your local data.

ArcGIS Pro has a really cool feature that lets you take an offline copy of your map and work on it with Pro when disconnected. There’s an additional benefit to using the Identity or named user licensing model here. It’s much easier to check out your ArcGIS Pro license using Online or Enterprise for total offline use – including extensions. You can also do this with Concurrent Use licensing. It’s not needed for Single Use.

Myth #8 – ArcGIS Pro has much higher machine specifications than ArcMap.

For day-to-day 2D GIS, ArcGIS Pro can be run on the same machine where you’re running ArcMap.  The minimum and recommended machine specs are pretty much the same for ArcGIS Pro as they are for ArcMap. When it comes to 3D, you will want a decent graphics card to get acceptable performance. However, the same was true in Desktop for users who were using ArcScene or ArcGlobe. 

One other thing to keep in mind is that ArcGIS Pro is a native 64-bit application, so it won’t install on 32-bit Windows.

In fact, given the same hardware and a decent video card, you're likely to see ArcGIS Pro perform better in some tasks like geoprocessing and drawing large datasets due to the fact ArcGIS Pro is a native, multithreaded 64-bit application.

There are, however, some differences in virtualized environments. The same multithreading and efficient resource allocations in ArcGIS Pro that make it run faster on your stand-alone PC mean that ArcGIS Pro will not work in non-optimal virtualized environments. If you’re going to run Pro in a virtualized environment, you need to consider some of the unique requirements.

Myth #9 – ArcGIS Pro doesn’t support enterprise geodatabases, including versioning.

ArcGIS Pro supports all the same data types that ArcMap does: shapefiles, file geodatabases, CAD files, imagery. All of it plus the Data Interoperability extension works in ArcGIS Pro. In addition, ArcGIS Pro can connect to your existing enterprise geodatabase. You can even use the same .sde connection files you already have. You can connect to and edit all your existing versions. ArcGIS Pro also supports your geodatabase features like domains, subtypes and topology. Plus, you can directly connect to database systems not configured with the geodatabase.

ArcGIS Pro supports full versioned editing and existing geodatabase capabilities such as topology.

On top of all that, as I pointed out in my earlier blog, the editing tools in ArcGIS Pro quite frankly blow ArcMap away. So, not only can you edit versioned enterprise geodatabases in ArcGIS Pro, the tools at your disposal to do so have improved dramatically from ArcMap.

Add to these the task framework in ArcGIS Pro, and the fact that you can use workflow extensions like Data Reviewer and Workflow Manager. With ArcGIS Pro, you have a very modern and efficient environment for data editing and management. Pro also supports all the same projections and coordinate systems and datum that ArcMap does. So, it’s as accurate and effective for data editing and analysis as ArcMap.

Myth #10 – ArcGIS Pro will be hard to use.

I guess on this one, all I can say is “try it”. From my experience, I can tell you, it took me a little while to get used to the ribbon interface (it helped that I’d already moved to the current version of MS Office).  But once I moved to Pro, I have not moved back. Again, check out my earlier blog for the things I think make ArcGIS Pro more than ready for prime time.

There really isn’t any reason to not try ArcGIS Pro and start testing it out in your organizations. Obviously, I can’t answer all the questions you may have in a blog post, so you may also want to check out the ArcGIS Pro Getting Started FAQ. We also offer several training courses on Pro.

About the Author

Chris North is the Director of Technology Adoption 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 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.

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