Terminology for working with projects

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


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

Project item

A project item is any item stored within the project file or accessible from an item connection in the Catalog pane or a catalog view. Project items include the following:

  • Maps, layouts, reports, and other items stored inside the project file (.aprx).
  • Folders, file geodatabases, toolboxes, and other items that are stored on local or network computers, and to which you make item connections.
  • Items to which you browse from an item connection—for example, a feature class in a database connection, a geoprocessing model in a toolbox connection, or a shapefile in a folder connection.
  • Items in remote locations, such as enterprise geodatabases and servers, to which you connect through a connection file.

Files stored on local or network computers are not project items unless they are accessible from an item connection.

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. Add a favorite item to your current project and browse, search, and use its content. Project favorites are managed in the Catalog pane and the catalog view.

Project package

Project packages allow you to share and archive projects. They can be shared across an organization through its portal to support communication and collaboration. Users 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 users 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 projects with a set of predefined maps, tasks, and connections, for example. The well-known location where ArcGIS Pro stores and looks for project templates by default is 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 map 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 project, a file geodatabase is created as its default geodatabase. However, you can designate an existing geodatabase as the default geodatabase instead.

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 map layers from a layer template, the 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 project, a toolbox is created as its default toolbox. However, you can designate an existing toolbox as the default toolbox instead. Models that are created in your project are stored in the default toolbox.


Information that describes items in ArcGIS is called metadata. Metadata allows you to find items with a search and evaluate which of the items in your search results is the correct one to use. Organizations typically have a standard that determines what level of content must be provided in an item's metadata to document it. ArcGIS Pro supports several formal standards, or metadata styles. At a minimum, good metadata consists of an item description that includes a title, tags, thumbnail, summary, description, credits, use limitations, and an appropriate extent and scale range for working with the data.

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