ArcView began (around 1995) as free software for viewing GIS data. With the release of ArcView 2 in 1995, followed over the next five years by a series of updates culminating in ArcView 3.3, this software emerged as the leading desktop (stand-alone) product for managing, viewing, and analyzing geographic data.
By means of GUI-creation software licensed from NeuronData, ArcView 2.x and 3.x ran on multiple platforms, including Unix and Windows.
In 2000, ESRI abandoned this architecture in favor of a completely rewritten Windows-oriented one. Its successor to ArcView 3.3 was a restricted version of ArcGIS 8.0, also called ArcView 8.0. ArcView (or "ArcMap") now refers to similarly restricted versions of the ArcGIS software.