ArcGIS Pro: Not Ready for Education Yet

At dinner on Friday night I did a quick poll of my companions working in GIS asking what they knew about ArcGIS Pro. They knew it was “like” ArcMap and supported 2D and 3D but that was about it. The Esri Q&A noted “It is for anyone who works with geospatial information.” I attended a hands on workshop to try to make sense of this new product. 




Beta: We talked about and worked with beta 4 released just before the conference. There will be two more betas before the code if frozen for release.


Timing: First release coming with ArcGIS 10.3 in Q4 of this year.


Home address: ArcGIS can sit next to and run alongside ArcMap, but it only runs on a 64-bit platform.


Data support: Accesses data in ArcGIS Online, data published from ArcGIS server, shape files, and geodatabases except personal geodatabases, which are 32-bit.


Why?: It’s time for a new type of software. ArcMap is 15 years old and limited by its 32-bit history. ArcGIS Pro, developed for 64 bit platforms can take advantage of up (perhaps more than) 8 GB of RAM and is thus faster than ArcMap. And, it’s time for a modern ribbon interface (right).


3D: ArcGIS Pro can view and edit 3D without the 3D Analyst Extension. However, there are no 3D analysis capabilities without the extension.


ArcView Revisited: ArcGIS Pro supports multiple view and multiple layouts and uses the concept of a project folder.

ArcGIS Online for Organizations Subscription Required: At beta 4 an ArcGIS Online for Organization account is required. And, the user must be online to log-in. It’s not clear if that will be true at release per my trainer.


Task Assistant: An extention in of a few industry products and ArcGIS, this interactive workflow “guide” sounds like a great tool for teaching. It’s not in beta 4.


Extensions: Most ArcGIS extension will work with ArcGIS Pro and use existing licenses.


ArcMap is Not Going Away: That’s the official word and of course it will need to be supported as long as a significant number of users run 32 bit platforms. Everyone I queried on this outside of Esri agreed that in time ArcMap would indeed go away.


MXDs: ArcMap MXD files can be imported into ArcGIS Pro, but ArcGIS Pro documents can’t go into ArcMap.


My Experience


I used a introductory “cookbook” exercise to put ArcGIS Pro through its paces. After logging in to ArcGIS Online I found myself in a somewhat foreign world of ribbons and panes and such. I’ve not worked much with that interface, so I had a hard time getting around. Still, the concepts are the same: connect to data, view the data, symbolize the data, open multiple views of the data. And, as a longtime ArcView 1-3.2 user, I was very pleased to see some of its best features included.


Panning and zooming were fast. The software kept up nicely as I explored two linked views, one 2D and one 3D of the same area.


The instructor suggested it takes existing ArcMap users eight or nine hours to get comfortable with the new environment and that sounds about right. For those without any GIS background I’d guess about twice that time.


While the product will ship this year, my suggestion is that educators not think about teaching with ArcGIS Pro until at least next spring. That will give them time to be sure the hardware is in place (on campus or elsewhere) to support the product. It will also provide time for educators to work together to determine some best practices for data management, document sharing and how to integrated ArcGIS Pro with ArcGIS Online and other software used in their classes. 


ArcGIS Pro will be the future interface for ArcGIS Desktop, but there’s no need to rush it into students hands.


Image via

Published Monday, July 14th, 2014

Written by Adena Schutzberg

© 2017 Directions Media. All Rights Reserved.