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For ArcMap users

If you're used to working with ArcMap, you'll be familiar with many aspects of ArcGIS Pro. However, they are different applications, so there are some concepts and features that may be unfamiliar to you.

This guide answers general questions and will help get you started. If you still have questions, review the Frequently Asked Questions for ArcGIS Pro.

Project organization

ArcGIS Pro uses projects (.aprx) instead of map documents (.mxd) as the primary working environment.

In ArcMap, you can choose to keep related items organized in ArcCatalog or on your local machine. Projects in ArcGIS Pro are designed to organize your work by keeping all related maps, layouts, tables, tasks, tools, connections, and more in one .aprx file.

In ArcMap, a map document can contain multiple data frames but only one layout, and all of the data frames are stored in the same table of contents. In ArcGIS Pro, a project can contain multiple maps, layouts, tables, tasks, tools, connections, and more, and these items are all stored in one project file.

When you start ArcGIS Pro and sign in, you can open recent projects, create a blank project, or select a project template (.aptx).

Create a new project

When you create a project, a new folder is created for the project by default, so all the items and connections associated with the project are saved together. A new geodatabase and toolbox are also created with each new project, and the data, tools, models, and scripts you create within a project are stored in these new locations by default.

ArcMap has templates (.mxt) for you to reuse maps. In ArcGIS Pro, if you want to save and reuse the tools, connections, and settings that you create in a project, you can create a project template (.aptx) or add items to your project favorites.

User interface

When you open ArcGIS Pro for the first time, you'll see a new user interface. Like the toolbars and menus in ArcMap, the ribbon is where you'll find most of your tools in ArcGIS Pro.

Similar to how menus organize functionality in ArcMap, the ribbon has tabs to keep related tools together in ArcGIS Pro. Tools are further divided into groups on each tab based on related functionality.

In ArcMap, the File, Edit, View, Bookmarks, Insert, Selection, Geoprocessing, Customize, Windows, and Help menus are always available. In ArcGIS Pro, the core tabs—Project, Insert, Analysis, View, Edit, and Share—are always available. ArcGIS Pro also has contextual tabs, which means that new tabs or buttons appear on the ribbon as you need them. Click the tabs to reveal their associated tools, and click a button to start using a tool.

The ribbon, tabs, and buttons

The Project tab is similar to the File menu. Click the Project tab to save, open new projects, access settings, update licensing information, manage add-ins, and configure multiple portals.

Project tab

On the Project tab, click Options to configure settings such as display preferences, default spatial reference and basemaps, mouse controls, and more.

Options dialog box

In the same way that ArcMap uses dialog boxes and windows for more advanced settings and workflows, ArcGIS Pro uses dialog boxes and panes.

The Contents pane contains all of the items in your active view, which is the main working area of ArcGIS Pro. In ArcMap, you have one table of contents. In ArcGIS Pro, you have an updated Contents pane for each map, layout, or other view.

Contents pane

The Catalog pane contains all of the items and connections in your project and portal and is designed for searching, browsing, and adding these items to your view.

The Catalog pane is similar to the Catalog window in ArcMap, but it is focused only on the items that are relevant to the project you're currently working in.

Everything on the Project tab is related to the current project. Each project has its own set of server, database, or folder connections to keep your work organized, and searching on the Project tab will search the indexed items in your project.

Catalog pane

Click the Portal tab in the Catalog pane to search and browse through items in your active portal.

You can save, open a project, or undo and redo changes at any time using the Quick Access Toolbar at the top of the app.

Quick access toolbar

Add existing work

Import a map document

You can import an existing map on the Insert tab. To import a map document (.mxd), click Import Map, and search or browse to your file using the Import dialog box.

Import Map

When you import a map document, all the items in the document are imported, if possible, into your project. If ArcGIS Pro cannot access the data sources in the original document, an indicator will appear in the Contents pane next to the layer. You can repair the broken link, or view the import log in the Catalog pane for details.

If the import is successful, you will always get at least one map and one layout, even if you never made any edits in layout view in ArcMap. Each data frame is imported as a separate map. Although only one map may open on import, all the other items, such as the layout or other data frames, are still in the project. To open all of your data frames, add them from the Catalog pane, under Maps.

After the document is imported, there is no link back to the original. Any changes you make in ArcGIS Pro are not reflected in the original ArcMap document that was imported.

Although you can import and use ArcMap documents with ArcGIS Pro, you cannot export ArcGIS Pro items as .lyr, .lpk, .mxd, .sxd, or .3dd to ArcMap since not all functionality is compatible.

Add data, toolboxes, models, and scripts

To access your other data in a project, you need to create a connection to your project's items. You can do this on the Insert tab as well. Click Add Folder, and browse to the folder that contains the items related to your project. The folder will be added to the Catalog pane, where you can browse, search, and add items from the folder to the map.

If you want to know if you can add a specific type of data, review the supported data types in ArcGIS Pro.

Your existing toolboxes, models, and scripts can be reused in ArcGIS Pro. Run the Analyze Tools For Pro geoprocessing tool to determine if you need to modify your existing tools for use in ArcGIS Pro.

If you use arcpy.mapping, you may need to make adjustments to work with project files (.aprx) and maps, instead of map documents (.mxd). In addition, ArcGIS Pro uses Python 3, so it is possible that you may need to make some changes to your scripts. In addition, application-level .NET add-ins written for ArcMap will not run in ArcGIS Pro.

Common workflows


To move around your map and learn about your data, ArcMap uses several tools: Identify, HTML Pop-up, Pan, and Zoom. In ArcGIS Pro, the functionality of those tools is combined in the Explore tool on the Map tab. There are also keyboard shortcuts for navigation in ArcGIS Pro.

Navigate group


In ArcMap, you start an editing session to begin editing. In ArcGIS Pro, editing is always enabled. On the Edit tab, use the editing tools to create and update the features in your map. After editing, the Save button on the Edit tab saves your edits to the geodatabase, feature service, or other current workspace.

Edit tab


When you add existing maps, any items previously authored with metadata will continue to use the same ArcGIS metadata previously authored; no importing or conversion is required. You can also add item descriptions or standards-based metadata.

You can edit metadata from the Layer Properties dialog box, or from the Catalog view.

Catalog view


Like ArcMap, ArcGIS Pro has geoprocessing tools and toolboxes for analyzing your data. The ArcGIS Pro tool reference has detailed information about all of the geoprocessing tools.

You can find your geoprocessing tools on the Analysis tab on the ribbon. Commonly used tools are shown in the gallery on the ribbon, and you can search for tools in the Geoprocessing pane. Click the Tools button on the Analysis tab to open the Geoprocessing pane. Some tools that are available in ArcMap are not yet available in ArcGIS Pro. You can review the list of unavailable tools or see the ArcGIS Pro Frequently asked questions for other common questions about geoprocessing.

Tools button

Geoprocessing pane


In ArcMap, you work with attribute tables through the toolbar on the open table. In ArcGIS Pro, you can access table tools through a toolbar on the table and on the ribbon.

When you click a feature layer in the Contents pane, a contextual tab appears on the ribbon called Data. The Data tab contains some tools for working with tabular data. When you open a table, another contextual tab appears on the ribbon called Table, which contains a View tab with advanced options for working with your tables, fields, domains, and subtypes.

In ArcMap, you use dialog boxes to modify fields. In ArcGIS Pro, you open the Fields view to modify field properties—such as names of fields and aliases—or to create new fields.

Fields view


ArcGIS Pro is tightly integrated with ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise. In ArcMap, you connect to a portal through ArcGIS Administrator. In ArcGIS Pro, you can connect to multiple portals from the Project tab.

You share using the ribbon. Click the Share tab to find sharing options.

You can share data using geodatabases, shapefiles, or other supported export file formats, or publish web maps and other services to ArcGIS Online or your portal to use in other ArcGIS Desktopapplications.

To share your project settings, connections to servers and databases, and other items, share a project template (.aptx).

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