Skip To Content


Maps display one or more layers of spatial data. Maps can be 2D, 3D, or they can be basemaps. They can be as simple or as complex as you like. They can be designed for a single-scale, hard-copy output, or with multiple degrees of detail to be viewed at a range of scales. To learn how to make a map with varying levels of detail, see Author a multiscaled map.

3D maps are also called scenes, and they can be viewed in either a global view or a local view. Global views portray a scene in a full world view on a surface. Local views present a 3D view of a scene in a projected coordinate system. Global scenes are best suited for global datasets or situations where you want to move from a global to a regional view. The coordinate system for a global scene can only be WGS84. Local scenes are for content where a fixed cube of information best portrays the information, such as for a mineral exploration or construction project. Local scenes can use any coordinate system. Both global and local views support subsurface viewing.

2D maps can be converted to new 3D scenes, or vice versa. Doing so creates a new scene or map in the project, and the originating map or scene is unchanged. You can have as many maps as you need in one project, and you can have as many of those maps open at once. This means you can look at the same data in different ways—even in 2D and 3D—simultaneously.

Maps are project items and managed from the Catalog pane or a Catalog view in the same way as other project items. You can create blank maps, or create maps by importing existing documents from other ArcGIS Desktop applications, such as ArcMap (.mxd), ArcGlobe (.3dd), and ArcScene (.sxd).

You can define the color model for a map as either RGB or CMYK. The color model is set on the General tab of the Map Properties dialog box. Use RGB if your map will always be viewed on a digital screen. Use the CMYK color model for the map if you'll embed it in a layout that will be printed or otherwise output onto paper.


Spatial data is displayed on maps through layers. Layers tell a story about the data through symbols and labels. Layers generally contain a single theme or category of information, such as roads, buildings, habitat types, or administrative boundaries. Layers represent different kinds of content, including vector-based features, rasters, and web content. You use symbols and labels in layers to help communicate the characteristics of the data. Layers reference data sources, such as a database or a server.

One map can have many layers, and you can reuse layers in other maps. For example, you might use the same imagery layer under different data sets on different maps. Use map note layers to annotate or otherwise mark up your map without spatial data. Preset layers can be added to scenes for a simple visualization prepared with only a few settings.

You manage layers in a map from the Contents pane. You can turn layers on and off from here, and re-order them. Scenes can contain both 2D and 3D data, so there's a category for 2D layers and one for 3D layers. Scenes can also include KML data, which is listed in a KML category. The layers in the 2D layers category are drawn as though draped over a surface. Symbols in 2D layers are drawn and configured in a two-dimensional context. Layers in the 3D layers category have additional capabilities, such as vertical extrusion. Symbols in 3D layers are drawn and configured with a full set of three-dimensional properties. To move a layer from one category to another, click the layer name in the Contents pane and drag it into the other category.

Navigate and interact with layers

You explore maps in a project by panning around them to see different areas and zooming in and out to see those areas at different scales. To learn how to navigate a map, see Keyboard shortcuts for navigation. If you're comparing two or more maps, you can link two or more open maps together so they stay in sync as you navigate. Save bookmarks of key locations to get back to them easily. They will be stored in a visual gallery that is available from all maps and scenes in the project.

You can also explore maps by measuring distances and areas or by viewing the data through time or other variable ranges.

Not all information in the data can be visualized through labels and symbology at one time. To discover additional attribution, configure pop-ups to display information about features as they are interactively queried. ArcGIS Pro uses the same pop-up style as other ArcGIS applications, so maps can be designed for presenting information prior to sharing and publishing them.

Pause drawing

You can temporarily pause the drawing of your maps and scenes by clicking the Pause Drawing Pause Drawing option at the lower right of the view. When pause drawing is active, it suspends fetching of new content for the view. This allows you to make changes to the map's content without causing a redraw of the map.

A paused map displays the word Paused as an overlay at the top of the view, and a pause icon appears on the map view's tab. A paused map will not pull content from either a data source or your local disk cache. The map will still be navigable, and all content currently in memory will continue to draw. This allows you to use it as context for navigating to a new location. This includes the current level of detail for the basemap being displayed. It will not refresh as you navigate or zoom in and out. Additionally, if you turn off the visibility for a layer, or add a new layer to the map, it will not display until you exit the pause drawing state.

In layout views, the pause drawing state only applies to map frames. Other dynamic elements, such as north arrows and scale bars, are not affected.


To represent your data on a page, you can create a layout with your content in your project. You can have as many layouts as you like in a project. A layout can reference maps and scenes. Scenes in a layout portray 3D data on a printed 2D page. Add static and dynamic elements to the layout page to support the maps and scenes. You can export a layout to a variety of graphic file formats, or print it directly on paper ranging from typical office printer sizes up to large format printing.

You can make a map series from a layout. A map series is a collection of map pages with a common layout, where each page covers a portion of a larger geographic area.

You can define the color model for a layout as either RGB or CMYK. The color model is set on the General tab of the Map Properties dialog box. Use RGB if your layout will be exported to a format that will always be viewed on a digital screen. Change the layout to the CMYK color model if you will print it directly, or export it to a file type (such as PDF) that will then be printed onto paper.

Automate mapping work

You can automate many mapping-related tasks through Python scripting or the geoprocessing framework. is a Python scripting module you can use to manipulate the contents of projects and layer files and automate exporting and printing. Geoprocessing capabilities also enable easier data processing, such as performing cartographic generalization, where large volumes of feature-level updates are required.

Related topics