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All systems go! Answering your questions about ArcGIS Pro 2.8

Blasting off into orbit to answer all your questions about ArcGIS Pro 2.8.

Each release of ArcGIS Pro offers new capabilities to help users be more efficient and accomplish more with our desktop GIS software. As part of the ArcGIS 2021 Q2 release, Pro 2.8 focuses on performance and productivity enhancements that will benefit all GIS professionals.

On June 22, my colleague Maggie Samson from Support Services and I blasted off to deliver an out of this world webinar that highlighted many of these new capabilities. We really enjoyed getting into the details on topics that included data engineering, charts, geoprocessing, scripting, big data and accessibility.

For a recap, access the webinar recording and presentation slides

During the webinar we were asked many questions on all aspects of ArcGIS Pro by our keen audience. Maggie and I didn’t get a chance to address all the questions, so upon re-entry from our voyage, we put together these Q&As to cover the group’s questions.


Soon after liftoff there were many questions that focused on enhancements to productivity tools and tools that are commonly used in ArcGIS Pro. This wasn’t surprising since there is so much new in ArcGIS Pro 2.8.  

Q: How do you enable software updates in ArcGIS Pro? I noticed during the webinar that I was not able to update ArcGIS Pro.

A: You can ensure ArcGIS Pro is up-to-date by enabling Check for updates on startup in the About section under the Project tab. During our webinar on June 22, the software update showed as unavailable because Pro 2.8.1 was in the process of being rolled out to the software update service. The 2.8.1 update was available shortly after this was completed.

ArcGIS Pro configuration options showing how to check for software updates on startup of the application.

Check for updates on startup up can be enabled in the About section under the Project tab.

Q: Are the Data Engineering tools available with a Basic license?

A: Yes, all license levels, including a Basic license, can use the Data Engineering tools. 

Q: When using the Command Search, why are some tools greyed out?

A: This is because the tools listed in the Command Search are context sensitive. Items in the list are enabled or disabled based on the current state of ArcGIS Pro. In our Data Engineering example, the Data Engineering tool is only enabled in the Command Search if you have a layer with an attribute table selected in the Contents pane.

Q: In the Basemap dropdown, I don’t have the Esri Canada basemaps that are being used in the demonstrations. How do I add these to ArcGIS Pro?

A:  In the webinar we used the Community Map of Canada maps as our basemaps. There are a few reasons why you may not have them in your ArcGIS Pro basemap selector.

The first reason could be that you do not have Use Esri vector basemaps in supported ArcGIS Apps selected in your organization’s ArcGIS Online administrative map settings. By default, ArcGIS Pro uses a license type called Named User. With a Named User license, you sign into Pro with credentials. These credentials—a username and password—are provided through your membership in an ArcGIS Online organization.

Since the Community Map of Canada maps are vector based, this setting needs to be enabled in your ArcGIS Online organization to access them in ArcGIS Pro. My colleague, Alia Kotb, explains how to enable vector basemaps.

The other reasons could be that you are connecting to ArcGIS Pro through an ArcGIS Enterprise login or you are a non-Canadian customer using Pro. Either way, this can be solved by following these steps by another colleague of mine, Amanda De Medeiros.

Q: Will functionality be added so that the folders in the Contents window expand when navigating the folder structure in the Catalog view?

A: The Catalog view provides access to items in, and available to the project. As noted in the question, items do not expand when you click on them in the Catalog view. This does happen when browsing to items in the Catalog pane and users are likely familiar with this behaviour in Microsoft Windows File Explorer.

Other users have noted this, and a request has been submitted for this functionality in the ArcGIS Pro Ideas community. Add your voice to the submitted idea and provide additional context to how this enhancement would help improve your workflows in Pro.

Q: Is there a way to have attribute tables default to pop out as a floating window when they are opened? ­­

A: Yes, you can set tables to pop out by default. This is accomplished in the ArcGIS Pro User Interface parameters by setting the position of the first view opened in the project to a separate floating window. These settings can also be applied to affect the position of the first chart, video, ModelBuilder and notebook view that you open in a project.

ArcGIS Pro User Interface options showing how tables can be set to open as a separate floating window.

Tables can be set to open as a separate floating window in the User Interface settings.

Q: Do the accessibility options added in a layout carry over to web maps published to ArcGIS Enterprise or ArcGIS Online? ­­­­

A: The accessibility tab we demonstrated contains options for writing a tagged PDF file, which can be read by screen readers or other assistive technology. The tagged PDF file includes alt text—a text description of a graphic element that a screen reader uses to describe the element—for map frames, pictures and chart frames. Since this information is contained in the PDF, it is not carried over to web maps published to ArcGIS Enterprise or ArcGIS Online.

However, if you upload the PDF of the layout to ArcGIS Online the file will still contain the accessibility information. These blog posts offer more information on how Esri is making our software increasingly accessible.

ArcGIS Pro layout showing the locations of NHL arenas in Canada and the USA along with the map frame accessibility properties.

Alt Text can now be added to the map frame properties to make the map more accessible to those that use assistive technology.

Q: Is spell checking enabled in the accessibility feature in ArcGIS Pro?

A: There is spell checking in ArcGIS Pro in areas such as layout text elements and metadata of datasets. These proofing options aren’t currently available in the accessibility text in layouts. Further spell checking is being considered in Pro. To help prioritize these areas please consider adding this suggestion to the ArcGIS Pro Ideas.

As a workaround, you may consider typing your accessibility text initially into an application like Microsoft Word, perform the spell check there, and then copy the text into the accessibility textbox in ArcGIS Pro.


Once we entered a stable orbit, our demonstrations focused on new functionality in geoprocessing, analysis and charts. It became clear that this was an important topic to our attendees since many probing questions were asked.

Q: What charts are available in the arcpy.charts module?­

A: The arcpy.charts module allows you to visualize and explore your data to help uncover patterns, relationships and structure that might not be apparent when looking at a table or map. The charts available in the arcpy.charts module are:

  • Bar
  • Box
  • Calendar Heat
  • Data Clock
  • Histogram
  • Line
  • Matrix Heat
  • Quantile-quantile (QQ) Plot
  • Scatter
  • Scatter Matrix

Read more about the details of each chart in the charts module.

Q: In the bar chart properties, is the moving average option a one week moving average and can the time interval be modified?

A:The moving average option is set by number of days and you can change this in the tool properties. Seven days is the default value.

ArcGIS Pro crime map and chart of Toronto showing the comparison of crime counts by reported date.

Crime map and chart of Toronto showing the comparison of crime counts by reported date with a seven day moving average.

Q: ­Can you explain how the Pairwise Clip geoprocessing tool differs from the traditional Clip geoprocessing tool?

A: The Pairwise Clip tool has parallel processing enabled by default which allows for maximized performance. The Clip tool does have this setting available but it is disabled by default and can be configured in the environment settings. See the complete list of differences between the classic overlay tools and the pairwise overlay tools.

Q: Do the ArcGIS Business Analyst extension tools work with a Community Analyst license?

A: No, Community Analyst is a cloud-based mapping solution and includes access to the ArcGIS Online Community Analyst web app. This application is similar to the ArcGIS Business Analyst web app but does not include the Business Analyst functionality for ArcGIS Pro. The Business Analyst tools in Pro require the Business Analyst extension.

Q: Can you recommend tools to analyze trends in water quality point samples? ­­

A: Yes, there are tools that we can recommend. First, there is a lesson on Learn ArcGIS that shows how to model water quality using interpolation. Additionally, there is a technical paper that discusses ArcGIS Pro project startup best practices using Arc Hydro. Arc Hydro consists of a data model, toolset and workflows developed over the years to support specific geographic information system implementations in water resources. 

Q: Can the Copy Python command used in geoprocessing tools be used to copy to a Notebook?

A: Yes, in the demonstrations we used the Copy Python command to copy the Python code to a Python window in ArcGIS Pro. But the command can actually be used to copy the code anywhere that accepts text, so copying to a Notebook also works.


Part of the payload that fueled our webinar mission was data, and more specifically, big data. The Big Data Connection was introduced at ArcGIS Pro 2.6 and then at Pro 2.8 the New Big Data Connection wizard blasted onto the horizon to streamline the connection building process. Here’s what you wanted to know about these big data workflows and other questions related to data.  

Q: Can you provide more information about Big Data Connections? What datatypes does it work with and can you mix data types?

A: Big Data Connections support the following formats:

  • Delimited files (such as .csv, .tsv, and .txt)
  • Shapefiles (.shp)
  • Parquet files (.gz.parquet)
  • ORC files (orc.crc)

Yes, you can mix data types in a connection. For instance, one connection could use both data in .csv and .shp files. Read more about setting up a Big Data Connection and working with these datasets.

ArcGIS Pro map showing data from a big data connection depicting earthquake density in Canada in 2018.

Data from a big data connection showing earthquake density in Canada in 2018.

Q: What about file geodatabases? Can I use those in a big data connection?

A: Big Data Connections do not support file geodatabases. If you have data already in file geodatabase format you can easily work with it in ArcGIS Pro. Keep in mind one of the benefits of the big data connections is it quickly allows you to connect to multiple data sources to visualize and analyze, without having to load your data into a single feature class.

Q: Do Big Data Connections support connections to XML files?­

A: Big Data Connections do not support XML files. XML files can actually be used in ArcGIS Pro in several ways depending on their contents. One of the ways is through an XML workspace document which can be imported into a geodatabase with the Import XML Workspace Document Tool.

Q: Do the big data connections work with Microsoft SQL Server databases or is there a better tool to work with SQL Server databases­? ­­

A: Since the Big Data Connections are structured to work with file-based data sources, they do not connect to SQL Server databases. ArcGIS Pro can connect to tables in SQL Server databases through an ODBC driver on the Pro machine. Additionally, Pro connects to enterprise geodatabases that are stored in Microsoft SQL Server.

Q: Can ArcGIS Pro connect to data stored in Google BigQuery? ­­

A: Google BigQuery is a serverless, highly scalable and cost-effective multi-cloud data warehouse. It is possible for ArcGIS Pro to connect to data stored in BigQuery. This is accomplished by using the Data Interoperability extension.

Q:  In one demonstration the date format was changed in a table to use a different format. Do these changes transfer to the web when the data is published to ArcGIS Online? ­­

A: Yes, in the demonstration we changed the date format for a field that showed when the data point was captured. Changing the date field format is a new feature in ArcGIS Pro 2.8. We changed the format to only show the month, day, year since the time wasn’t relevant for our data. When this layer is published to ArcGIS Online the month, day, year format is maintained.

Q: I am having a problem creating unique value symbology for a raster dataset. Could you provide details on how to troubleshoot this?

A: If your raster dataset does not have unique values, you may get the warning message “Unique Values do not exist. Do you want to compute Unique Values?” In this case you can select yes to calculate the unique values for your raster dataset. If that dialogue fails with the message “Failed to display the raster layer as Unique Values” you may need to calculate statistics for your dataset and then build the raster attribute table.

Once you have completed those steps, you should be able to select the unique values option in the symbology dialogue.

After a successful return from orbit and subsequent touchdown, we wrapped up the webinar by sharing the What's New in ArcGIS Pro 2.8 blog post which has more details about the functionality we demonstrated and some of the areas that we didn’t get a chance to cover.

Thanks again for joining us on the webinar, please consider registering for one of our future webinars.

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here.

About the Author

Mike Gregotski is a Technical Marketing Manager at Esri Canada. He leads the development and delivery of demonstration resources that highlight the benefits of implementing Esri’s core technology. Mike has attained Desktop and Enterprise-level Esri Technical Certifications and previously worked in client support, where he assisted clients in implementing ArcGIS software. In his spare time, you'll find Mike at a baseball diamond, curling rink or hockey arena where he enjoys coaching youth sports.

Profile Photo of Mike Gregotski