Top 5 Differences between ArcMap & ArcGIS Pro

Are you an occasional Esri software user that is needing to ramp up your game?  Maybe its been a couple of years since you dabbled with the GIS software and you have a project that needs a little geospatial touch.  One of the questions you may find yourself asking is “What is the difference between ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro”?

ArcGIS Pro is the new ArcMap.  ArcGIS Pro is taking the place of ArcMap as the desktop software of choice.  Yes, they can both read shapefiles and geodatabases but there is some additional functionality with the newer Pro version.  Below weI have summarized the top 5 differences between these two Windows-based GIS software packages both created by Esri that we have spotted for you.

1. Editing feature services:  ArcGIS Pro has the ability to edit feature services on the fly.  ArcMap would allow you to view these services in a ‘read-only’ format, however, with Pro you can actually pull in these layers and edit them in real time (assuming editing privileges are enabled).  This can be really handy when making minor updates to layers hosted in a web map (ArcGIS Online or Arc Enterprise).

2. No more MXD’s:  ArcMap uses a *.mxd file extension, similar to CAD’s *.dwg format, however Pro uses an *.aprx format which allows users to have multiple maps within the same project.  This concept takes some getting used to but makes a lot of sense when looking at it from a project basis.

3. The Ribbon feel:  Remember when Microsoft Office made the switch to the ‘ribbon’ look with their menu items at the top of the page?  Well ArcGIS Pro clearly has the same ‘ribbon’ look and feel which can definitely appeal to the MS Office crowd of users.

4. No more Starting and Stopping the Editor:  Yes this is a big deal.  If you were a migrator from CAD to GIS, then you keep banging your head on your desk when trying to get used to clicking a button to start making edits to your map.  ArcMap required the user to begin an ‘edit session’ prior to making any changes to the data.  Now with ArcGIS Pro, users simple go to the edit menu and can begin selecting which tool they would like to use without having to start/stop or select which layer they want to perform edits on.

5. Schema changes: Now with ArcGIS Pro, the user has the ability to make schema changes to their data within the program itself without having to go through the ArcCatalog menu.  For example, when needing to rename a field or make adjustments to a domain, the user would need to go to the properties of the gdb file within ArcCatalog.  But with ArcGIS Pro they just select the layer and there is a new menu called ‘Data’ where they can make schema changes and save them to the database.

This is just a few of the many changes and improvements that you will see with ArcGIS Pro.  Although it will take a little time to make the transition, and yes, you will be a bit slower editing at first, we would encourage you to make the transition and use the wealth of information available on the web and some of our tutorials on how to get started that are to come soon, so as to help get you up and going.

About the Author


Kumbirai is a 4th year Surveying & Geomatics students at the Midlands State University in Zimbabwe. He is also the Founder and Team Lead at African Surveyors Connect. He enjoys spending time writing web-applications and is more of a GIS enthusiast who mainly focuses and grew interests in Health and Land Administrative Applications of Geographic Systems.

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