Skip To Content

About ArcGIS Pro

ArcGIS Pro is the latest professional desktop GIS from Esri. With ArcGIS Pro, you can view, explore, analyze, edit, and share your maps and data. An ArcGIS Pro project can contain many maps and layouts as well as tables, charts, and other items. 3D capabilities are native to ArcGIS Pro; any 2D map can be converted to a 3D scene. The sections below introduce basic elements of the user interface and important terms. You will build on this knowledge as you use the application, read the help, and complete tutorials.


In ArcGIS Pro, a body of related work—consisting of maps, layouts, data, tables, tools, and other resources—is organized in a project. By default, a project is stored in its own system folder. Project files have the .aprx extension.

When you start ArcGIS Pro, you can create a new project or open an existing project. A new project can either be blank or based on a template file (with the .aptx extension). A project based on a template will open with the content specified by the template. For example, a project created from the Map template includes a map view with a basemap layer.

The ArcGIS Pro start page with options to open an existing project or create a new project
On the ArcGIS Pro start page, you can open recent projects, browse to other projects, or create new projects.

Every project has its own geodatabase (the project geodatabase) for storing data and its own toolbox (the project toolbox) for storing models, scripts, and other tools. These items are stored in the project's system folder along with the project file.

Other items that belong to the project, such as maps, layouts, tables, charts, and resource connections, are stored in the project file.

Items that you want to reuse in multiple projects can be marked as project favorites.

ArcGIS Pro user interface

The main parts of the ArcGIS Pro interface are the ribbon, views, and panes. For a hands-on introduction, try the Introducing ArcGIS Pro quick-start tutorial.


ArcGIS Pro uses a horizontal ribbon at the top of the application window to display and organize functionality into a series of tabs. Some of these tabs (core tabs) are always present. Others (contextual tabs) appear as needed when the application is in a particular state. For example, a set of contextual Feature Layer tabs appear when a feature layer is in use.

ArcGIS Pro ribbon


The Quick Access Toolbar has commonly used commands. It can be customized.


The Explore tool is used to navigate maps and identify features through pop-ups.


Ribbon tabs, such as the Analysis tab, organize functionality. When a tab is selected, its associated tools display on the ribbon.


Dialog box launchers open panes or dialog boxes with more functionality.


Groups organize functionality on a tab.


Contextual tabs appear under specific conditions. Contextual tabs are highlighted in orange or green.


Buttons and tools execute software actions.

ArcGIS Pro ribbon elements

You can customize the ribbon and the Quick Access Toolbar.

The Quick Access Toolbar customized with the Create Features tool
You can right-click a tool on the ribbon to add it to the Quick Access Toolbar.


A view is a window for viewing and working with a representation of your data. Maps, scenes, tables, layouts, and charts are all views. A project may have many views, which can be opened and closed as needed. Different views can be open at the same time, but only one is active. The active view affects which tabs appear on the ribbon and which elements are displayed in panes, such as the Contents pane.

ArcGIS Pro application with an active map view


A map view is a window that displays map layers, such as this basemap of New Zealand.


Every view has a tab that can be used to close or move the view. The tab of the active view is blue. Clicking a view's tab makes the view active.


The Contents pane lists the contents of the active view.


The ribbon changes based on the active view. For example, the Map tab appears on the ribbon when a map view is active but not when a layout view is active.

An ArcGIS Pro map view


A pane is a dockable window that displays the contents of a view (the Contents pane), the contents of a project (the Catalog pane) or commands and settings related to an area of functionality, such as the Symbology and Label Class panes.

Contents and Catalog panes

While basic commands are available on the ribbon, panes offer advanced or complete functionality. Panes may have rows of text and graphical tabs that subdivide and organize their functionality.

Symbology pane with marked pane controls



Some panes have more than one page. Use the Back button to switch pages.


Text-based primary tabs, such as Gallery and Properties, contain different sets of functionality.


Graphical secondary tabs subdivide the functionality of a primary tab.


Expanders are small arrows that you click to show or hide settings.


The Menu button contains additional commands.


Drag a handle to resize an area of the pane. Handles can be horizontally or vertically oriented.

ArcGIS Pro terminology

Project Open Project—A collection of related GIS resources such as maps, scenes, layouts, datasets, tools, connections, and tasks. Most project items are stored in the project file (.aprx). Every project has an associated geodatabase (.gdb) and toolbox (.tbx). These are stored externally to the project file but typically in the same system folder.

View View—A window containing a representation of data such as a map, layout, or table. Multiple views can be open at the same time. The active view is the primary work area of the application.

Map Map View—A project item used to display and work with geographic data in two dimensions.

Scene 3D Scene View—A project item used to display and work with geographic data in 3D. Scenes can be viewed in global mode (for large geographic areas) or local mode (for small geographic areas).

Basemap Basemap—A layer of background reference information, such as topography or imagery, on which other thematic layers are displayed.

Layer Layer—A visual representation of a collection of geographic features that are usually of the same thematic type, such as cities, parks, or roads. Some layers represent measured or remotely-sensed properties of surfaces, such as elevation, temperature, or land cover. Maps and scenes are composed of one or more layers.

Geoprocessing Toolbox—A framework and set of tools for analyzing, manipulating, and managing geographic data.

Task New Task—A set of steps that guide you through an ArcGIS Pro workflow.

Layout Layout—A collection of map elements organized on a virtual page designed for map printing.

Portal All Portal—A connection to ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise. In ArcGIS Pro, you sign in to a portal to share your work and access content shared by others.

Related topics