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Terminology for working with projects

You'll encounter these common terms when working with projects in the ArcGIS Pro application.


ArcGIS projects help you manage a collection of GIS resources, including the maps, layers, tools, and datasets required to complete your work. Projects can reference content in your organization's portal and on the file system; some project items are saved directly within the project.

Projects can be created and opened by the ArcGIS Pro application. They can be saved on the file system. There is a well-known location where ArcGIS Pro stores and looks for projects by default: the Documents\ArcGIS\Projects folder in your user profile.

Project item

A project item is any item stored within the project or accessed from an item stored within the project, and is available in the Catalog pane or the catalog view. Maps, globes, scenes, layouts, and tasks are stored in the project. Connections to toolboxes, styles, databases, servers, locators, and folders are stored in the project; the toolboxes, databases, data stored in folders, and so on, are not stored in the project.

A map is a project item, and a server connection is also a project item. A locally stored data file that is not available from a folder connection in the project is not a project item.

Portal item

A portal item is any item that is accessible from the active portal, and is available in the Catalog pane or the catalog view. From the Portal tab in the Catalog pane, web maps and web scenes can be added to the project, and feature, tile, and imagery layers can be added to maps in the project.

Project favorites

Project favorites is a list of folder, database, or server connections that you often use. This list is available from anywhere on your local network if your network supports roaming user profiles. Quickly add favorite items to your current project; after adding a favorite to the project, you can browse, search, and use its content. Project favorites are managed in the Catalog pane and the catalog view.

Project package

Project packages make it easy to share and archive projects. They can be shared across an organization through its portal to support communication and collaboration. People can view project items and the data they reference. Team members can use the same project package to update the data referenced by its maps and scenes, and print documents for delivery.

Project packages can reference enterprise datasets or consolidate all content into a single package. A consolidated project package can be delivered to people who can't access enterprise resources or can be stored independently to archive completed work. An ArcGIS project package may contain the following:

  • Maps, scenes, and layouts
  • Embedded datasets or connections to enterprise dataset locations
  • Tasks for key workflows
  • Tools
  • Documentation such as data dictionaries or specifications

Project templates

A project template is a special type of project package that can be used to create new projects with a set of predefined maps, tasks, and connections, for example. There is a well-known location where ArcGIS Pro stores and looks for project templates by default: the Documents\ArcGIS\ProjectTemplates folder in your user profile.


A dataset is any project item or portal item that can be added to a map. Examples of datasets include feature classes, tables, services that provide access to data, layer packages, and imagery layers. Datasets may be stored online or on the file system.

Data source

A data source is the dataset to which a layer is connected.

Layer template

A layer template is a schema-only layer package that is provided in a specific location where ArcGIS Pro looks for layer templates.

Home folder

A project's home folder is the location where the project file is stored. If a new file geodatabase is created as the project's default geodatabase, it is also created in the project's home folder.

Default geodatabase

Every project has a file geodatabase that serves as a default geodatabase. By default, when you create a new project, a new file geodatabase is created to act exclusively as that project's default geodatabase. However, you can instead designate an existing geodatabase as the default geodatabase.

The geoprocessing environment uses the project's default geodatabase to determine the default workspace where output items created by geoprocessing operations are stored. Similarly, if you create new map layers from a layer template, the new datasets that contain the layer data are created in the default geodatabase.

Default toolbox

Every project has a toolbox that serves as a default toolbox. By default, when you create a new project, a new toolbox is created to act exclusively as that project's default toolbox. However, you can designate an existing toolbox as the default toolbox instead. New models that are created in your project are stored in the default toolbox.


Information that describes items in ArcGIS is called metadata. When care is taken to provide good descriptions, you can find appropriate items with a search and evaluate which of the items in your search results is the correct one to use. An organization typically has a standard that determines what level of content must be provided in an item's metadata to document it.

A brief portion of the item's metadata content is used to power ArcGIS software, including ArcGIS Online. It consists of the title, tags, thumbnail, summary, description, credits, use limitations, extent, and scale range. When items are packaged and shared, ArcGIS provides the opportunity to enter this level of information if full metadata is not already provided. This subset of the item's metadata is often referred to as the item description.

Set the style of metadata you will create on the Options dialog box, and start editing and item's metadata from the catalog view.

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