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Getting to know ArcGIS Pro: Terminology 101

The second post in our Getting to Know ArcGIS Pro blog series will take a look at terminology. I'll compare some of the ArcGIS Pro terminology with existing ArcGIS Desktop applications as well as introduce new terminology.

The second blog post in our Getting to Know ArcGIS Pro blog series will take a look at terminology. While ArcGIS Pro is part of ArcGIS Desktop, there are some new terms that we should get used to before we start digging deeper into the application. Below are some of the terms you should familiarize yourself with while working with ArcGIS Pro:

User Interface


The rectangular area across the top of the application composed of tabs that contain software functionality.

Example of a ribbon.

Tab (Core, Contextual, Modal)

A region on a ribbon that contains related software commands. There are three types tabs.

  • Core: A tab that is always displayed on the ribbon at all times.
  • Contextual: A tab that appears and disappears on the ribbon under certain circumstances.
  • Modal: A tab displayed on the ribbon only in a particular temporay mode.

Examples of tabs.


A subset of related commands on a tab that have been categorized together

Example of a group.


A rectangular window or menu that presents an array or grid of visual choices.

Example of a gallery.



An ArcGIS Pro project is similar to an ArcMap \ ArcScene \ ArcGlobe document (.mxd, .sxd, .3dd). It's a collection of related geographic datasets, maps, layouts, tools, settings and resources. Projects can be stored on ArcGIS Online or saved on disk as an .aprx file. I'll take a closer look at projects in an upcoming blog post.


An ArcGIS Pro map is an item within a project that is used to display and work with geographic data in two dimensions.


An ArcGIS Pro scene is an item within a project that is used to display and work with geographic data in three dimensions.


The window representing the primary work area of the application. You can have multiple views open at the same time and display them side by side. For example, you could have a map view and a scene view open side by side within the main view of the application.

Active View

The view that currently has keyboard focus. The active view controls the contents of the ribbon—for example, if a map is the active view, you see commands for working with maps; when a table is the active view, the ribbon contains tools for tables.

ArcGIS Pro view with one map view and one scene view open.

Activated Map

A map in a layout view that can be navigated and updated as if it were opened as a separate map view.

Comparing Terminology

Lastly, below is a quick comparison chart showing ArcGIS Pro terminology with current ArcGIS Desktop terminology for ArcMap, ArcCatalog, ArcScene and ArcGlobe.

You can find a complete list of documented ArcGIS Pro terminology here.

Now that we are all up to speed on ArcGIS Pro terminology, my next posts in the series will take a deeper look at some of the exciting new functionality that ArcGIS Pro offers. Stay tuned.

About the Author

Jonathan Nowlan is a Senior Support Consultant for Esri Canada. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Mount Allison University and a GIS Application Specialist diploma from Fleming College. With over 12 years of experience in GIS, Jonathan has expertise in ArcGIS for Desktop and Extensions, ArcGIS Online and ArcPad. Aside from offering support to Esri Canada clients, he also occasionally instructs Esri Canada training courses and contributes technical articles for the Esri Canada Web site and publications. Jonathan also serves as a mentor to participants of Esri Canada’s GIS Associate Program. Jonathan is fully bilingual in French and English.

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