Open a project

There are several ways to open an ArcGIS Pro project. You can open and use many projects at the same time. Each project will open in a separate instance of ArcGIS Pro.

The same project can be opened many times, for example, by different people. However, only one writable copy of the project can be opened—all other copies will be read-only. Similarly, if you accessed a project from a read-only network share, the project will be considered read-only. A project's read-only status is indicated in the title bar of the ArcGIS Pro application.

You can work with read-only projects in the same manner as writable projects: update your maps and layouts, edit datasets and models, and so on. When you save your work, edits to datasets and models will be saved successfully, provided the database and toolbox accessed from your project are writable. However, maps, layouts, and other items stored within the project can only be saved by creating a copy of the project in a writable location. Provide a new file name or location to create a writable copy of the read-only project (.aprx).


Projects, project packages, and project templates (.aprx, .ppkx, and .aptx files) saved with any version of ArcGIS Pro 1.x can be opened and used by any version of ArcGIS Pro. However, projects saved using ArcGIS Pro 2.x cannot be opened by ArcGIS Pro 1.x. You cannot save a copy of an ArcGIS Pro 2.x project that can be opened with any 1.x version of ArcGIS Pro. If a project is saved with a recent version of ArcGIS Pro, such as 2.3, it can be opened with previous versions of ArcGIS Pro 2.x, such as 2.0, but the project will be downgraded in a manner appropriate for the previous version.

Open a recent project

When you start ArcGIS Pro, you see a list of the projects you worked on recently. You can pin projects that you frequently use to the Recent Projects list. If you can't see the entire project name or location, hover over a project: a pop-up provides the project's full name, date, and location to help you decide which project to open.

The Recent Projects list is also available on the Settings page.

  1. Go to the Recent Projects list.
    • Start the ArcGIS Pro application. The start page appears.
    • From an open project, click the Project tab on the ribbon, and click Open.

    Pinned projects and up to 50 of the most recent projects you've worked on are listed.

  2. Click the project you want to open.

If most of your work is accomplished using the same project, at least for a period of time, you can choose to open that project automatically when you start ArcGIS Pro.


If a project in the Recent Projects list no longer exists, right-click it and click Remove Project From List.

Open another project

If the project you want to use is not listed when you start ArcGIS Pro, you can use a different project that is available from the active portal or from a local or network computer.

When you upload a project package to a portal, it can be opened from any computer. From the active portal, you can also open project packages that were shared by others. Online project packages are downloaded and unpacked before they are opened. By default, project packages are unpacked in the <User Documents>\ArcGIS\Packages folder. You can change this location in the Share and download options.

Sometimes you have to interrupt your work on one project and perform a task for a different project. You can open another project in a second instance of ArcGIS Pro. Alternatively, you can close your current project and open a new one in the same instance of ArcGIS Pro.

Select a project from the start page

  1. On the ArcGIS Pro start page, click Open another project.

    The Open Project dialog box appears.

  2. Browse to or search for the project you want to open.

    If you search for a project, you can widen the search box Search by dragging the edge of the Open Project dialog box. You can also drag the gap between the Refresh button Refresh and the Sort button Sort at the top of the dialog box.

    Search box on the Open Project dialog box

    From ArcGIS Pro, you can browse to projects stored on local or network computers, but you can't search for them.
  3. Click the project.
  4. Click OK.

Once the project is opened, it is added to the Recent Projects list in ArcGIS Pro and to the ArcGIS Pro jump list on the Windows taskbar, if this option is enabled on your computer. It is the project file (.aprx) that is added to the list, even if you opened a project package.

Select a project from the Settings page

  1. Go to the Settings page.
    • From the start page, click Settings.
    • From the ArcGIS Pro application, click the Project tab on the ribbon.
  2. Click Open.
  3. Click the Computer or Portal option, as appropriate.
  4. Click the appropriate option.
    • With the Computer option, headings are listed that represent well-known locations in which personal projects are stored. Documents lists projects stored in the Documents folder. Desktop lists projects stored on your computer's desktop; projects stored in a folder accessible from your desktop aren't listed.
    • With the Portal option, headings representing My Content and the groups in which you participate are listed.
  5. Click the appropriate project.
    • Double-click a heading to list the projects available from that folder, collection, or group. Click a project in a list under one of the headings.
    • Click Open another project. The Open Project dialog box appears. Browse to or search for the appropriate project, click it, and click OK.
  6. If you were working on another project, click Yes to save any changes.

    The project you were working on closes.

The selected project is accessed from the local or network folder or downloaded from the active portal. Once opened, it is added to the recent projects list.

Always open the same project

After creating a project with all the maps, folders, and databases you need, you might find yourself using the same project all the time to edit or manage your data. You can set ArcGIS Pro to open the same project automatically each time.

  1. Open the Options dialog box.
    • If a project is currently open, click the Project tab on the ribbon and click Options.
    • Start ArcGIS Pro and click Settings at the bottom of the start page.

    The Options dialog box appears.

  2. Under the Application heading, click the General tab.
  3. Click the Start ArcGIS Pro heading.
  4. Click the With a default project option.
  5. Browse to or type the location of the existing project that should be opened each time you start ArcGIS Pro.
  6. Click OK.

The next time you start ArcGIS Pro, the specified project opens immediately. The start page will not appear.

Open a project from the file system

The manner in which you open a project from the file system depends in part on your local computer's operating system and your personal preferences. The following list provides a few of the available options:

  • Browse to the location of the project you want to open and double-click the project (.aprx) or project package (.ppkx) file.
  • Search for the appropriate project (.aprx) or project package (.ppkx) file on the local computer. Double-click the file in the search results to open it.
  • If there is a project you work with frequently, create a shortcut to the project or project package file and place the shortcut on your computer's desktop. Double-click the shortcut to start the ArcGIS Pro application and open the project.
  • The operating system may provide you with a list of project or project package files that have recently been opened by the ArcGIS Pro application. For example, if the application is pinned to the Windows taskbar, you'll see the list when you hover over the ArcGIS Pro icon; click the appropriate project or project package file in the list.

If the ArcGIS Pro application is already running, the current project will remain open, and the selected project will open in a new instance of ArcGIS Pro.

Additional files created with ArcGIS Pro can also be opened from the file system, including the following:

  • Map files (.mapx)
  • Layout files (.pagx)
  • Layer files (.lyrx)
  • Map packages (.mpkx)
  • Layer packages (.lpkx)

The ArcGIS Pro application will be started without a project template. For map files, layout files, and map packages, the maps and layouts defined in the files will be added to the project. For layer files and layer packages, a map will be added to the project, and the layers defined in the files will be added to the map.


Do not associate other ArcGIS Pro or ArcMap file types with the ArcGIS Pro application and try to open them directly from the file system—they will not open successfully. Start ArcGIS Pro and add or import the item to your project.

Update a project opened from the active portal

When you open a project from a portal, your local copy of the project is linked to the original project package. If the active portal in ArcGIS Pro is the portal from which the project was opened and the original project package has been updated, the next time you open the project you will be notified an update is available.

  1. Click the notifications button Notifications to open the Notifications pane.
  2. Hover over a notification indicating a new version of your project is available.
  3. To see what changes have been made, click the more button More button in the corner and click Open Portal Item.

    The page describing the project in the active portal appears in a browser.

  4. Click Update Project.

    The current project closes. The updated project package is downloaded, unpacked, and opened.

    The Recent Projects list is updated to reference the updated project file. The previous version of the project remains available in the <User Documents>\ArcGIS\Packages folder, and remains in the recent projects list on the Windows taskbar.

Recover a project

If you back up your projects, you can recover unsaved changes in the event that ArcGIS Pro shuts down unexpectedly. Unsaved changes are recovered up to the time of the most recent backup.

Follow the steps below to recover a project after an unexpected application shutdown.

  1. Start ArcGIS Pro.
  2. On the start page, open your project from the list of recent projects.

    A Project Recovery prompt informs you that the backup project was saved more recently than your original project.

    Project Recovery prompt

    If the prompt does not appear, it means that the original project was saved more recently than the backup project. In this case, unsaved changes cannot be recovered.

  3. Choose how to proceed.
    • Click Yes to open the backup project. Unsaved changes are recovered up to the time stamp of the backup project.
    • Click No to open the original project. The project state reflects your last manual save. Unsaved changes are lost.
    • Click Cancel to dismiss the prompt without opening the project.

    If you click Yes, the backup project replaces the original project. The original project is deleted. As you continue to work with the recovered project, new backups are created.

    If you click No, the original project is preserved. As you continue to work with the original project, new backups continue at the specified interval.

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