After looking through all the stuff that was released or talked about at the Esri UC 2013 I am still genuinely confused by what ArcGIS for Professionals is. I will admit that it looks pretty cool, and has some sweet features, but I just do not know how it is different from ArcMap or ArcGIS Online.

Does anybody have any clearer answers beyond the flashy video and homepage?


5 Answers 5


This Q&A was pointed out to me and I thought I could assist by providing a little transparency about ArcGIS Professional. I look after the teams responsible for ArcMap, ArcGlobe, ArcScene, ArcGIS Engine, and the new ArcGIS Professional application. Firstly, it’s an active development project and many important decisions both technical and business related are yet to be made. And, you can help make them, our team spoke with many folks at the Esri 2013 User Conference who got hands on with ArcGIS Pro, and gave us great feedback – if you were one of them, thanks! But providing your ideas, thoughts / feedback through ideas.arcgis.com, your Esri account reps, by participating in our Early Adaptor or beta programs and forums like this all are good ways to give us guidance as we progress.

Is ArcGIS Professional a replacement for ArcMap, ArcGlobe and ArcScene? No. ArcGIS Pro is a brand new application, with brand new opportunity to help users solve real problems, that can benefit from multiple 2D and 3D views allowing visualization and editing in both environments, for example. Apparently my choice of words in my demo of the software during the plenary was unclear about it “running with Desktop,” sorry for that confusion, I should have been more clear about the side by side capability of existing Desktop applications and ArcGIS Pro. They simply can run side by side on the same machine, not sharing registry keys...etc.

Our vision was to take the most commonly used functionality from these three separate Desktop applications (ArcMap/Globe/Scene) and merge it into one application – support for both 2D and 3D views is the obvious benefit and example here. But ArcMap/Globe/Scene will stay current and maintained, with new functionality to be delivered through these applications for the long term. I think ArcGIS 10.2 was a good example of this, read the what’s new document carefully, a lot of great new capability went into 10.2. When ArcGIS Professional is released, the current Desktop applications will be updated and ship too. Will there be a day when someone will only use ArcGIS Professional, and not ArcMap – maybe – but it’s up to that person, and their workflows to make that decision based on the capability of ArcGIS Professional. It won’t be because our team stops shipping ArcMap/ArcGlobe/ArcScene in the foreseeable future. We are hard at work with the 10.2.1 release now for these applications.

ArcGIS Pro is a completely new WPF based application, it’s not java anything, it’s not based on ArcGIS Runtime either. The important thing is has great performance, and the application remains responsive all the time, it does not block the UI as can happen in single threaded applications. This of course is achieved through a multi-threaded (64 bit) application framework that can take advance of large memory address space and GPU’s for display performance. The 2D parts of the graphics engine have been shipping in several releases of ArcGIS, the 3D capability has not been released previously, and is new and very fast. Our Graphics team has many years invested in this engine, and we’re excited to be getting close to shipping it soon. This 3D graphics engine is not based on CityEngine, but the CityEngine runtime is utilized in the application for 3D representations, for example, and will continue to be used for 3D innovation going forward, a good example of this is our Solution for 3D Cities and Campuses. Licensing levels is another topic that questions are being asked about.

As I said in the road ahead sessions at the 2013 UC, we have not made all final (business) decisions here. But our goal is to simplify licensing where we can, and make sure it’s in alignment with ArcGIS.com and new simpler subscription models we are releasing now for the ArcGIS Platform. Also simplifying the access and update of software, through web downloads is what we are working on. We will provide status as we make progress on these important decisions. I hope this helps you understand not just some higher level motivation and vision, but also a bit of the technical architecture of ArcGIS Professional we have implemented so far.

ArcGIS Professional Extensibility. Here are our current thoughts about extensibility for ArcGIS Pro. You can write and run Python scripts in ArcGIS that call geoprocessing tools and use an exhaustive suite of scripting functions available in the ArcGIS Python API, ArcPy, to automate your GIS tasks. Your scripts can also use a diverse array of functions provided through Python’s standard and 3rd party libraries.

You can leverage the considerable capabilities of the .NET framework and WPF to extend the application with functionality involving interactive scenarios and rich user interface aspects. Both of these types of customizations are accomplished using the well-known Add-In model.

.NET Developers can code against a simplified object model that’s easier to understand and use than the COM based interfaces in the ArcObjects API. The .NET API is modern, language specific.

ArcGIS Professional will run “stand alone” like current Desktop applications and ArcGIS Runtime Apps. But we are also really trying to invite the Desktop users to leverage the ArcGIS Platform as a whole if it makes sense for them. We created this Professional GIS site with this in mind http://pro.arcgis.com/

We see this site as a consolidated wealth of information for GIS Professionals, but also an opportunity to be exposed to brand new capability in the ArcGIS Platform in an integrated way, with the goal of helping you leverage the Platform better to solve the real problems.

  • I am assuming we'll hear more about it at the Dev Summit but can you provide any insight into what sort of extensibility ArcGIS Pro has and whether standalone applications can be built using the same framework?
    – blah238
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 12:25
  • I think the use of a new, non-WMF based display pipeline is a big deal and will eventually deprecate ArcMap. It's a shame the new app is based on WPF - tying us to the Windows platform - but if you want raw performance and Windows app interoperability, Esri really has no choice. You'd think Esri would have learned by now. ArcGIS for Professionals website and a ArcGIS Pro desktop WPF application rolled out to the community at the same time... really? Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 16:23

As an update to my original speculation (below the line), I just came across an Esri answer to What is ArcGIS Pro?. The same link has answers to a number of Common Questions about this new application and implies that it will be called ArcGIS Pro rather than ArcGIS Professional.

ArcGIS Pro is a new application that will be released as part of ArcGIS for Desktop at version 10.3. It is designed to be the premier application for visualizing, editing, and performing analysis using local content, or content from your ArcGIS Online or Portal for ArcGIS organization. Using ArcGIS Pro, you can author content in both 2D and 3D and publish it as feature, map, and analysis services, 3D Web Scenes, and Web Maps. It is a 64-bit, multi-threaded application with a modern user experience that runs on the Windows platform.

My take, and I've only viewed the video and visited the page you cite once each, is that ArcGIS for Professionals is simply a website of resources for GIS Professionals who currently work with the ArcGIS Platform.

On the other hand ArcGIS Professional (since renamed to ArcGIS Pro) is a new and much enhanced 64bit application which I think will eventually (perhaps 5-10 years time but maybe less) totally replace ArcGIS for Desktop applications (ArcMap, ArcCatalog, ArcGlobe, ArcScene) as the component of the ArcGIS Platform targeted to meet the requirements of GIS Professionals. You can think of it as "ArcGIS for Desktop for the Next Generation of GIS Professionals" but whether or not it becomes a separate product or part of the upgrade under maintenance has, I think, not yet been announced. I'm confident that the latter will be the case because to do otherwise would, I think, be very unpopular and stifle its adoption while on the other hand throwing in 3D Analyst, Spatial Analyst and Network Analyst capabilities for the same core licensing (they are after all part of the ArcGIS Desktop Professional Certification) would absolutely drive it.

Consequently, I will now be targeting my many enhancement requests towards ArcGIS Pro rather than ArcMap etc because I suspect the R&D dollars will be highly prioritizing the former, as evidenced by the relative paucity of Desktop enhancements in ArcGIS 10.2.

The relationship to ArcGIS Online is, I think, that ArcGIS Professional will be the component of the ArcGIS Platform designed to author data, maps, tools, etc, etc and publish them there (or on ArcGIS for Portal) as services.

  • 1
    It's an upgrade under maintenance. The real question is what maintenance level you will have to be to get it and/or will maintenance cost increase to cover it. The app has native 3d to replace arcscene/arcglobe. The core objects are no longer ArcObjects, and I am reasonably certain it is actually based on the java core used in ArcGIS Server 10.1. Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 22:42
  • Hopefully my idea for dispensing with Basic and just differentiating Standard and Advanced by whether they allow write access to enterprise geodatabases will get some airplay as that question gets answered.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 22:48
  • Thanks, I guess what had me more confused is the 'Free Trial' link just linked to a 60 day trial version of ArcMap...
    – Craig
    Commented Jul 19, 2013 at 12:08
  • 7
    I was at the UC and sat thru the 1 hour + Road Ahead session where they talked about it in more detail. They wouldn't come out and say it but it's very clear this is eventual complete replacement for ArcMap and we should all be thankful for this.
    – wilbev
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 23:18
  • Also saw the Road Ahead demo at the UC. ANyone with a maintanance will also have access to ArcGIS Pro at no additional cost. Now that it's clear that We will never see a multi-threaded (64 bit) ArcMap, ArcScene and ArcGlobe applications (sigh) it is safe to assume that once we (the users) help ESRI with "Beta" testing of this initial release and help them to make it production ready they will eventually replace the core desktop apps with it. Personally, I was not very impressed with the demo. 5 - 10 years sounds about right before it will be ready. By then QGIS will take over the market. Commented May 7, 2014 at 15:23

I was actually able to spend a couple of hours over the week at the Test/Demo pylon and play with the software.

What you see is the new version/direction the desktop software is going. With the rewrite of the server back-end to be 64bit they have started to write a new desktop front-end to use all the new/improved/refactored code from the server to make the desktop perform as well. As the existing applications have such a dependency on COM/DCOM they are not able to just migrate to the newer architecture.

Major items to see...

  • Windows RibbonBar Interface
  • No Seperaration of ArcCatalog/ArcDesktop - Fully Integrated
  • Newer workflows for ArcToolbox, based on new RibbonBar
  • Newer workflows for Data Editing functionality, based on new RibbonBar

    There were major performance improvements in screen rendering and navigation based on the map display logic being rebuilt using the rendering logic from ArcGIS Server.
  • 1
    Thumbs-up for integration between Catalog and Map, but thumbs-down to the Ribbon Bar!
    – user3461
    Commented Jul 19, 2013 at 14:30
  • 4
    I agree; but Autodesk has done a good job moving to the Ribbon, so I can see complex apps with the it; it all depends on how well they organize it. They had a lot of work to do when I was at the pylon; searching for tools since they didn't exist in the Ribbon yet.
    – D.E.Wright
    Commented Jul 19, 2013 at 15:41

Here is my take on it (partly in the comments up above).

  • 11.0 release. That probably means Q3 2014.
  • 64-bit native, and only 64-bit.
  • No ArcObjects.
  • Likely Java based, in particular based on the current core for ArcGIS Server 10.1
  • Part of maintenance rather than a separate product. If you get ArcGIS Pro, you also get ArcGIS for Desktop Advanced.
  • Integrated 3D (probably CityEngine).
  • Eventually available for Linux and Mac. Maybe even available for Linux at full release.
  • Uses "projects" instead of mxd files. Mxd files can be imported into projects as both maps and layouts. A project can hold multiple maps and multiple layouts. A layout can hold multiple maps and a map can be used in multiple layouts. Not sure how interchangeable maps are between projects. This is effectively multiple map windows in one app instance.

ArcGIS for Desktop Advanced will be around a long time still though.

  • I think it's actually built on .NET rather than Java since in the Road Ahead session on Desktop, they discussed both a .NET extension model for extending it as well as python, no mention of Java. Probably WPF based would be my guess. They are expecting a beta release in Q4 of this year.
    – wilbev
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 23:08
  • 2
    Those might just be wrappers. Java development is almost never covered at the UC; maybe the dev summit will give more insight into the code base. I'll start poking around through my usual channels some more :) Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 2:36

I got a couple of things from Jack's closing at UC that (seemed) to relate to arcgispro. IMO
They can't complete 64 bit integration on legacy code in desktop (to the level they want).
So they have started a new code set.
They want to develop SAS. not to mention the desire to integrate AGOL more tightly.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.