ArcGIS Desktop

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About ArcGIS Desktop

ArcGIS Desktop is the primary platform for GIS professionals to compile, use, and manage geographic information. It's the starting point and foundation for deploying GIS across your organization and onto the Web.

ArcGIS Desktop is available at three functional license levels to address the needs of many types of users.

License levels

ArcGIS Desktop is available at different license levels: ArcView, ArcEditor, and ArcInfo, each with increasing functionality.

  • ArcEditor is the midlevel software suite designed for advanced editing of spatial data published in the proprietary ESRI format. It provides tools for the creation of map and spatial data used in GIS, including the ability of editing geodatabase files and data, multiuser geodatabase editing, versioning, raster data editing and vectorization, advanced vector data editing, managing coverages, coordinated geometry (COGO), and editing geometric networks. ArcEditor is not intended for advanced spatial analysis.
  • ArcInfo allows users the most flexibility and control in "all aspects of data building, modeling, analysis, and map display".

Other desktop GIS software include ArcGIS Explorer and ArcGIS Engine. ArcGIS Explorer is a GIS viewer which can work as a client for ArcGIS Server, ArcIMS, ArcWeb Services and Web Map Service (WMS).


ArcGIS Desktop consists of several integrated applications, including ArcMap, ArcCatalog, ArcToolbox, and ArcGlobe. ArcCatalog is the data management application, used to browse datasets and files on one's computer, database, or other sources. In addition to showing what data is available, ArcCatalog also allows users to preview the data on a map. ArcCatalog also provides the ability to view and manage metadata for spatial datasets. ArcMap is the application used to view, edit and query geospatial data, and create maps. The ArcMap inferface has two main sections, including a Table of contents on the left and the data frame(s) which display the map. Items in the table of contents correspond with layers on the map. ArcToolbox contains geoprocessing, data conversion, and analysis tools, along with much of the functionality in ArcInfo. It is also possible to use batch processes with ArcToolbox, for frequently repeated tasks.


There are a number of software extensions for ArcGIS Desktop to provided added functionality, including 3D Analyst, Spatial Analyst, Network Analyst, Survey Analyst, Tracking Analyst and Geostatistical Analyst. Numerous extensions have also been developed by third-parties, such as XTools and MAP2PDF for creating Georeferenced pdfs, ERDAS' Image Analysis and Stereo Analyst for ArcGIS, and ISM's PurVIEW, which converts Arc- desktops into precise stereo-viewing windows to work with geo-referenced stereoscopic image models for accurate geodatabase-direct editing or feature digitizing.

See also