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Run a geoprocessing tool

Once you have found a geoprocessing tool, use it by opening the tool, entering parameters, and running the tool. Any geoprocessing tool you select from the Analysis gallery, the Geoprocessing pane, or any other place in the application will open the tool in the Geoprocessing pane.

You can get help for the open geoprocessing tool by hovering over the Help button Help or clicking the button to open the tool reference page.


After the tool opens, you fill in the tool's parameters, which are a set of options or settings, such as the input data to process, output dataset, and other options that modify how the tool runs. Every geoprocessing tool has a unique set of parameters. You can get more information about each tool parameter by hovering over the information button Information next to each parameter. Parameters can be required or optional as follows:

  • Required parameters must be filled in for the tool to execute and are indicated by a red asterisk.
  • Optional parameters can be left blank or unmodified to use a default behavior.

Geoprocessing tools have both input and output parameters. Input parameters can reference data or be options that control what the tool does. There are a number of ways to specify the input data to be processed by the tool, including the following:

  • Select a layer from a list of map layers. If the layer has a selection, only the selected features will be processed.
  • Browse to a dataset that is in a project database or connection using the browse button Browse to dataset.
  • Create input features interactively using the interactive input button Editing.
Input Features modes

For input parameters that are not data, you will typically only need to specify a number, check a box, or select an option from a list.

Some parameters require more interaction, such as multiple values, geographic extent, where clause or query, or the field map.

An output parameter is typically the location of a new dataset, object, or resulting value to be created by the tool. For output dataset parameters, an output location and name are usually automatically selected for you, but you can change the path of the dataset or browse using the output browse button Browse. The output location that is automatically selected is based on your current or scratch workspace.


You can modify additional options that affect tool execution in the tool Environments. All environment settings are optional. Only the geoprocessing environments that actually apply to the specific open tool will be displayed in Environments.

Environment options set from the tool Environments will only be applied to that specific execution of the tool. If you reopen the tool from geoprocessing history, the environment settings will be retained; otherwise, all environment settings will be the default. To set geoprocessing environments that should be applied to all geoprocessing performed in the project, set environments from the Environments window opened from Analysis > Geoprocessing > Environments .

Learn more about geoprocessing environment settings

Progress and messages

Run a geoprocessing tool by clicking the Run button at the bottom of the Geoprocessing pane. When a tool is running, a progress bar is displayed to show completion percentage, and a cancel button is available to stop processing. You can hover over the progress bar to display a pop-up window containing comprehensive information about the tool that is running, such as messages, execution time, and all tool settings. You can also click the progress pop-out button Tool progress to see the same information in a detached window, or expand the messages section to view any geoprocessing messages.

When the tool is finished running, any output layers will be added to the map and the progress bar will display Completed Check mark if the tool ran successfully. If a warning or error occurred during execution, the progress bar will display Warning Warning or Error Error.

When you are finished running a geoprocessing tool, you can click the back button to return to the last page you viewed in the Geoprocessing pane.

Execution threads

When you run a geoprocessing tool, it will typically execute in a thread dedicated to geoprocessing. This enables the application and map to remain available for other tasks while the tool is running, which is especially important if you are running a tool that takes a long time to complete. There are several cases when a geoprocessing tool will not run in this separate thread, which causes the tool to lock the application when it is run. In this situation, other tasks cannot be performed until the tool has completed. The following cases lock the application until the tool has completed:

  • Running a geoprocessing tool in the Python window.
  • Running a geoprocessing tool in an Add-in may or may not lock the application depending on the methods used in the Add-in.
  • Running a geoprocessing tool when there are pending edits.
  • Running a model interactively in ModelBuilder.

Geoprocessing history and recent tools

When a geoprocessing tool is run from the Geoprocessing pane or the Python window, an entry is added to the project geoprocessing history with details on when the tool was run, the settings that were used, if the tool completed successfully, and any information, warning, or error messages.

Geoprocessing history

The Favorites tab in the Geoprocessing pane has a Recent section that lists tools you've recently run.

If one of the tools you recently ran is already a Favorite, the tool will not be duplicated in the Recent section.
Tools that have been recently run display an indication icon showing if the tool completed successfully or failed, and a list of recent executions of the tool. You can hover over the entries in the list to see more details, and click to open the selected tool with the parameter settings that were previously used.

Recent geoprocessing tools

Batch geoprocessing

Geoprocessing tools can be run in a batch mode that allows you to run the tool multiple times using multiple input datasets or using different parameter settings. For example, you can run the Clip tool in batch mode to clip several feature layers to the same study area polygon.

Learn more about batch geoprocessing