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Navigation in 3D

ArcGIS Pro has a common navigation experience between map and scene views. When working with 3D content—such as cities, surfaces, lidar, and subsurface data—you will be creating and exploring scenes, which require you to manipulate the perspective of the view in 3D. These skills may not be naturally inherent to you if you are used to only working in a map.

A series of functionality is built-in to one primary tool, the Explore tool Explore Tool. This tool is used in all views for 2D and 3D navigation; however, there is added functionality for 3D.

Common 3D navigation tasks include panning to a particular study area, zooming to a selected feature, or interactively roaming through your data. However, you are not limited to just these. You can also combine tasks to rotate, tilt, and zoom at the same time, while selecting, measuring, or editing your features.

When combined with keyboard shortcuts, the Explore tool and other non-navigation tools are enhanced with fingertip efficiency. The advantage is that you avoid the need to switch tools that take you outside the view or away from your task.

Use your mouse buttons with the Explore tool

When using the Explore tool for map or scene navigation, your mouse buttons control the built-in functionality to common navigation tools.

  • Left mouse button—A single click allows you to identify features with an instant pop-up window. Drag to pan around the view.
  • Right mouse button—Drag to zoom in and out continuously.
  • Wheel button—Drag to tilt your view or rotate around the point you clicked. Rotate the wheel to zoom in and out.

Explore tool mouse buttons
The Explore tool mouse buttons

How does navigation in 3D work?

All the 3D navigation methods operate by manipulating the view in x,y,z. Consider it like a helicopter that hovers in place in the sky but can still turn to get a view in any direction. You can also fly the helicopter forward, backward, up, and down to get a closer look (that is, zoom in).

Become familiar with navigating in 3D

To help you become familiar with navigating a 3D environment, try sampling different datasets, especially elevation data or data with 3D symbology so you have the opportunity to explore a more realistic 3D view.

You can also try the Navigate tutorial to introduce you to using the mouse buttons with the Explore tool, which is how you manipulate the 3D view. It allows you to test your skills with tilt, rotate, and roam, as well as various keyboard shortcuts that can help you with navigation. For example, you can press B to look around, and you can combine by pressing C when you are in another task, such as selecting or editing features to access the Explore tool. This is a convenient way to stay working in the view, alter the perspective, and continue to edit or modify your selection.

Task-based navigation in 3D

You can also navigate the 3D view without interactive tools using the options below. The difference is that you are not actively navigating the view with the mouse; rather, you click a button or use a menu option to perform a method of navigation.

  • Zoom to the full extent of your data—Press the Insert key or click Full Extent Full Extent on the Map tab.
  • Zoom to the extent of one or more layers using the layer's context menu—Right-click the layers in the Contents pane.
  • Use a selection query such as Select Layer By Attribute and zoom to the selection set—Click the selection results listed at the lower right of the view or click Zoom to Selection Zoom to Selected on the Map tab.
  • Create and consume a set of bookmarks for the 3D view so you can navigate quickly to saved extents.
  • Adjust the 3D height above ground by typing a value in the height control at the bottom of the view.
  • Use the Locate tool search results.

Change elevation units

When working with a scene, the height list in the bottom corner of your view displays your viewing height relative to the ground. To change the elevation unit displayed in the list, right-click the scene in the Contents pane and click Properties. On the Scene Properties dialog box, on the General tab, choose a unit from the Elevation Units drop-down menu.


Elevation units are derived from the units listed under Projects > Options > Units. To add a new unit, click <Select Unit Code> and choose from the list of all available units. To remove, format, or make a unit the default, right-click the unit.

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