I have a simple question. How can I open several MXD files at the same time in Arcgis 10? Whenever I try to open the second MXD file Arcgis asks me to save the first MXD file and then it closes it and opens the second one. How can I have these two MXD files open at the same time?

  • Are you trying to open from ArcMap or Explorer? I had a similar problem once where whenever I tried to open an existing MXD it tried to open into the already open document... I think there was a problem with the file associations, it was set to ArcMap.exe instead of ArcGis File Handler (found in C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\ArcGIS\bin). Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 2:25
  • 2
    This is because the ArcMap container application is designed to be a Single Document Interface (SDI).
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 2:31
  • That was it @PolyGeo, by trying to open a second (or subsequent) document by double clicking in explorer it wanted to replace the existing open document rather than opening in a new window. Changing it to the ArcGis file handler meant that I could have more than one ArcMap session active... I think that was when I upgraded from 9.3.1 to 10.1. Mike, why do you want to open more than one in the same document? Is it because you want to use another maps' data frame? Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 3:35
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    @MichaelMiles-Stimson ArcView 2/3 was a Multiple Document Interface (MDI) and my understanding is that MapInfo is/was too. Maybe Mike is new to ArcGIS for Desktop and comes from one or other of those products that enabled more than one map in the mapping container at a time. ArcGIS Pro seems to be an SDI with only one project (but multiple maps, multiple layouts, etc) open at a time.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 3:53

2 Answers 2


If you are referring to opening multiple mxd's within the same window, this isn't possible. You can open multiple mxds at once thought the windows explorer though. (This is what I would usually do if I needed multiple sessions)

  1. Select the mxds you require within the folder (ie Folder, Desktop, My Computer, etc.)
  2. Then the Enter Key

This should boot up all the mxds at once.


When I want two .mxd files open at the same time, I launch ArcGIS for a second time. I do this by right clicking on the ArcGIS icon shortcut in my task bar and choosing the option to open ArcMap. Once it is launched I can open a second .mxd file and I now have two ArcMap windows going. I can even drag and drop features between them.

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