Interactive elevation profile basics

The interactive Elevation Profile tool generates a graph of height values along a linear path in the view. The profile is calculated using the ground elevation surface in a map (2D) or a scene (3D), and unlike other exploratory analysis tools, the values are derived from the data sources for the elevation surface rather than the view's level of detail.

The tool requires a line to generate the elevation profile. You can either interactively create the line by placing vertices on the fly, or by choosing a line feature already in the map. The resultant profile graph is generated and added as an overlay window at the base of the map or scene.

Characteristics of the profile window include the following:

  • The width of the profile window is defined by the width of the active view.
  • The height of the profile window can be adjusted interactively.
  • The resolution of the graph—that is, the number of samples along the line where height values have been calculated—is driven by the display width of the graph in the view.
  • You can move the pointer over the profile graph for feedback where the elevation information appears in the graph and a corresponding positional graphic appears on the map.
  • The base of the profile window includes statistical information about the elevation and slope of the profile line.
  • You can reverse the direction of the profile.
  • You can save the profile to an image.
  • You can export the profile graph to a line feature or to a table format.

An interactive elevation profile graph created in a 2D map.

In 2D, you must add a ground elevation surface to the map; otherwise, the interactive elevation profile tool is not available. You can add an elevation surface to a map by clicking the Add Data drop-down menu on the Map tab and selecting Elevation Source Add Elevation Source. Browse to an elevation source, such as a DEM raster file you have saved on disk, or use an elevation service layer hosted on ArcGIS Living Atlas. In 3D, the scene always has at least one elevation surface, named Ground, which cannot be deleted. Ensure in both cases, 2D and 3D, that the Ground surface has at least one data sourced checked in the Contents pane.


The elevation profile graph will be a horizontal line if the ground surface contains no elevation data sources, or if all the elevation data sources are unchecked. When the map is in this state, the Elevation Profile window displays a notification of No active ground surface data.

The profile graph displayed in the view is temporary and is not saved with the project, nor is it included in map packages. You have the option to save the profile graph as an image file or in a table format, as well as convert the profile to a line feature class. If you require the profile graph's elevation line as z-aware feature data, consider using the Interpolate Shape geoprocessing tool instead.

Create an interactive elevation profile

The interactive Elevation Profile tool Elevation Profile is located in the Exploratory 3D Analysis drop-down menu in the Workflows group on the Analysis tab. When you select the tool from the drop-down menu, it opens the Exploratory Analysis pane and activates the tool with the Interactive Placement creation method. The pointer updates to a crosshairs icon.

Creation parameter

An interactive profile graph creation parameter is described in the following table:


Distance Units

The linear unit used to label the axes of the profile graph.

Creation methods

There are two methods for creating an interactive profile graph:


Interactive Placement Elevation Profile Interactive Line

Click in the view to digitize a linear path, and double-click to finish. This is the default method.

Along a Line Elevation Profile Along a Line

Generate a profile graph from a selected set of connected line features. When multiple lines are selected, the tool will attempt to collapse them into a single continuous line. If there are disconnected segments, the tool will arbitrarily choose one of the segments for the graph.

Previously exported profile line features can be revisited using this method.

Update a profile graph

Once a profile graph has been created, you can update it in the following ways:

  • Change the profile path by dragging individual vertices within the map or scene.
  • Flip the direction of the graph in the Elevation Profile window by clicking the Reverse Direction button Reverse Direction.
  • Change the units used to label the axis of an existing profile graph by changing the Distance Units property on the Create tab of the Exploratory Analysis pane.

Profile graph export options

You can save elevation profile graph results as an image file, geodatabase table, CSV table, or convert the path to a line feature class. An image can be included as an element on a layout or report. Use the tabular format to generate any tabular chart type from the same profile. Save elevation profile graph results as a feature class to rerun the analysis location again at another time or with other tools.

Learn more about converting analysis results to features

Once an elevation profile graph has been created, do the following:

  1. In the elevation profile graph window, click the Export Graph button Export Graph.
  2. Choose from the following options:
    • Image—On the Export Graph dialog box, set the destination for the image file and provide a name. You can save the image as a JPG (.jpg), TIF (.tif), PNG (.png) or BMP (.bmp) file. The elevation profile graph is saved to an image file on disk using the current screen resolution of the graph window. For a higher-resolution image, increase the width of the view and the height of the graph window.
    • Feature—Provide a name for the feature class and an optional description. The profile path will export to a line feature class. This is the same command as clicking Convert To Features from the Menu button in the Exploratory Analysis pane. The newly created feature class will get added as a layer to the scene.
    • Geodatabase Table—Provide a name for the output table. A new stand-alone file geodatabase table is added to the scene.
    • CSV Table—On the CSV Table dialog box, set the destination and provide a name for the output CSV text file.
  3. Click OK.

Close an interactive profile graph

Click Close Close in the profile graph window to remove it from the view. The pointer switches back to the Explore tool, but the Exploratory Analysis pane remains open to perform a new elevation profile.

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