ArcMap, the central application and main component of Esri’s ArcGIS suite of geospatial processing programs, represents geographic information as a collection of layers in a map and is used primarily to view, edit, create, and analyze geospatial data. ArcMap allows users to create and manipulate datasets, symbolize features, and elements such as north arrows, scale bars, titles, legends, and descriptive text. ArcMap is also used to create map layouts for printing and publication.
ArcMap users can do the following:
- Increase productivity with features such as the embedded Catalog window, symbol search, and basemap layers.
- Incorporate enhanced cartographic capabilities into maps, capabilities such as dynamic layout text, data driven pages for creating a map series, and access to professionally designed basemaps.
Mapping with ArcMap
ArcMap  is used to create unique maps with its in-built customization and design features. Maps can be saved as MXD files (using the .mxd extension). Users can then open the MXD files in ArcMap and display a variety of information within the dataset.
The geographic information that is loaded into ArcMap can be viewed in a data view and a layout view. The data view provides a window for exploring, displaying, analyzing and querying data on the map with real-world coordinates and measurements. The layout view, which shows the map layout, is for final editing and production. Users can incorporate the elements that are crucial to map-making such as scale bars and north arrows, and save, print, and export map files to a PDF or other file formats.
ArcMap is used to perform a wide range of specialized and user-specific Geographical Information System (GIS) tasks.
- Work with maps - Open, view, explore, and edit layers, as well as query features and visualize geographic information on map documents.
- Print maps – Print simple maps or complex and sophisticated cartography.
- Compile and edit GIS datasets - Automate geodatabase datasets with ArcMap’s scalable full-function layer dataset editing.
- Geoprocessing to automate work and perform analysis - Use geoprocessing scripts for map visualization, to automate tasks such as map book generation, and to perform GIS data processing and analysis.
- Organize geodatabases and ArcGIS documents - Manage GIS datasets, geodatabases, map documents, geoprocessing tools, and geodatabase schemas through the Catalog window in ArcMap.
- Publish map documents as map services using ArcGIS for Server – Publish geographic information as a series of map services via a simple user experience.
- Share GIS maps and data - Share maps, layers, geoprocessing models, and geodatabases on ArcGIS Online with other users.
- Document all GIS content - Document all projects for data sharing and document datasets using the ArcGIS metadata editor for more effective search functions.
- Customize the user experience - ArcMap includes tools for customization including the ability to write software add-ins to add new functionality, to simplify and streamline the user interface, and to use geoprocessing for task automation.
What is New in ArcMap
- A new coordinate system selection experience that includes searching for spatial references by name, well-known ID, and spatial extent.
- Create compound datum transformations in the user interface.
- The ability to set a seed for the fixed placement of dots in the dot density renderer.
- A new option in the dot density renderer that allows user to choose between dot size and dot value as a way to maintain the density.
- Python is supported as a scripting language for all locations where scripting is used, including label expressions, display expressions, hyperlink scripts, dimensions, and linear referencing hatching.
- Credits are available for service layers.
- New layers supported in ArcMap basemap layers:
- Dot density layers
- Dimension layer
- TIN and terrain layers
- Schematics layer
- Geostatistical layers—contours and filled contours
- XY event layers
- Linear referencing event layers
The ArcGIS suite is available at three license levels ArcGIS for Desktop Basic, ArcGIS for Desktop Standard, and ArcGIS for Desktop Advanced. Each step-up in the license provides users with more functionality that allows a variety of querying to be performed on a dataset. ArcGIS for Desktop Advanced is the highest level of licensing and has all the functionality of the Standard licensing level. It allows users to use extension tools such as the 3D Analyst, Spatial Analyst, and the Geostatistical Analyst. ArcMap is available at all license levels.
Latest release dates of the ArcGIS product suite:
- May 2009 - ArcGIS 9.3.1
- January 2010 - ArcGIS 9.4, Renamed to ArcGIS 10.0
- June 2012- ArcGIS 10.1, Renamed ArcGIS license levels as per the following:
- Desktop Help - An overview of ArcMap. ArcMap. Esri. Accessed 19 April 2013.
- What's new in ArcGIS 10.1. ArcMap. Esri. Accessed 19 April 2013.