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Type Private
Founded Redlands, California (1969)
Headquarters Redlands, California, U.S. 34°3′25.35″N 117°11′44.44″W / 34.0570417°N 117.1956778°W / 34.0570417; -117.1956778
Key people Jack Dangermond, Founder/President
Industry Software
Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Products ArcGIS, ArcView, ArcEditor, ArcInfo, ArcGIS Server, ArcIMS, ArcSDE,
Revenue More than $610 million per year
Employees 4,000+ (2007 statistics) [1]

ArcGIS is a product suite developed by Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri), that is comprised of several technologies ranging from the desktop and server, to the hand held device or open source client. These technologies integrate together allowing someone using the software to create data, perform advanced geospatial analysis, and publish it out as a service so that it can be consumed in web applications, mobile devices, or other desktop software.

ArcGIS can be considered an integrated collection of GIS software products that provides a standards-based platform for spatial analysis, data management, and mapping. ArcGIS is scalable and can be integrated with other enterprise systems such as work order management, business intelligence, and executive dashboards.

Product history

Prior to the ArcGIS suite, Esri had focused its software development on the command line Arc/INFO Workstation program and several Graphical User Interface-based products such as the ArcView GIS 3.x desktop program. Other Esri products included MapObjects, a programming library for developers, and ArcSDE as a Relational database management system. The various products had branched out into multiple source trees and did not integrate well with one another. In January 1997, Esri decided to revamp its GIS software platform, creating a single integrated software architecture.[2]

ArcGIS 8.x

In late 1999, Esri released ArcGIS 8.0, which ran on the Microsoft Windows operating system.[2] ArcGIS combined the visual user-interface aspect of ArcView GIS 3.x interface with some of the power from the Arc/INFO version 7.2 workstation. This pairing resulted in a new software suite called ArcGIS, which included the command-line ArcInfo workstation (v8.0) and a new graphical user interface application called ArcMap (v8.0) incorporating some of the functionality of ArcInfo with a more intuitive interface, as well as an ArcGIS file management application called ArcCatalog (v8.0). The release of the ArcGIS suite constituted a major change in Esri's software offerings, aligning all their client and server products under one software architecture known as ArcGIS, developed using Microsoft Windows Component Object Model (COM) standards.[3]

One major difference is the programming (scripting) languages available to customize or extend the software to suit particular user needs. In the transition to ArcGIS, Esri dropped support of its application-specific scripting languages, Avenue and the ARC Macro Language (AML), in favour of Visual Basic for Applications scripting and open access to ArcGIS components using the Microsoft COM standards.[4] ArcGIS is designed to store data in a proprietary RDBMS format, known as Geodatabase. ArcGIS 8.x introduced other new features, including on-the-fly Map projections, and annotation in the database.[5]

Version Release Date Notes
8.0.1 December 1999
8.0.2 March 2000
8.1 April 24 2001 New extenstions were made available with ArcGIS 8.1, including GeoStatistical Analyst. ArcGIS 8.1 also added the ability to access data online, directly from the Geography Network site or other ArcIMS map services.[4]

Updates of ArcView 3.x extensions, including 3D Analyst and Spatial Analyst, came later with release of ArcGIS 8.1, which was unveiled at the Esri International User Conference in 2000.[6]

8.1.2 January 2002
8.2 April 2002
8.3 February 2003 Added Topology to geodatabases, which was a feature originally available only with ArcInfo coverages.[7]

ArcGIS 9.x

ArcGIS 9.0 was released in May 2004, which included ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Engine for developers. The current version of the ArcGIS software is 9.3.1. The ArcGIS 9 release includes a geoprocessing environment that allows execution of traditional GIS processing tools (such as clipping, overlay, and spatial analysis) interactively or from any scripting language that supports COM standards. Although the most popular of these is Python, others have been used, especially Perl and VBScript. ArcGIS 9 includes a visual programming environment, similar to ERDAS IMAGINE's Model Maker (released in 1994, v8.0.2). The Esri version is called ModelBuilder and as does the ERDAS IMAGINE version allows users to graphically link geoprocessing tools into new tools called models. These models can be executed directly or exported to scripting languages which can then execute in batch mode (launched from a command line), or they can undergo further editing to add branching or looping.

Version Release Date Notes
9.0 May 2004
9.1 May 2005
9.2 November 2006
9.3 June 26, 2008 This version of ArcGIS Desktop has new modeling tools and geostatistical error tracking features, while ArcGIS Server has improved performance, and support for role-based security. There also are new JavaScript APIs that can be used to create mashups, and integrated with either Google Maps or Bing Maps (Formerly Microsoft Virtual Earth).[8][9]

At the 2008 Esri Developers Summit, there was little emphasis on ArcIMS, except for one session on transitioning from ArcIMS to ArcGIS Server-based applications, indicating a change in focus for Esri with ArcGIS 9.3 for web-based mapping applications.[10]

9.3.1 May 2009 This version improved the performance of dynamic map publishing and introduced better sharing of geographic information. [11]
9.4 (Renamed to 10) Scheduled for 2010 There are references to version 9.4 in previous Esri conference proceedings and websites. This version was released in a private beta to select users as "9.4 Beta 1" from October 2009 to January 2010. This release was renamed to ArcGIS 10, and will not be distributed to the public under the version name 9.4

ArcGIS 10.x

ArcGIS 10.0 was announced on January 11, 2010, and was released on June 29, 2010. This release was formerly referred to as ArcGIS 9.4, but due to feedback from the user community and major improvements to the the functionality and a new UI for ArcGIS Desktop it was renamed to ArcGIS 10[12]. Listen to a podcast by Jack Dangermond explaining the reasons for this change.

Version Release Date Notes
10.0 June 29th, 2010 In 2010, Esri released ArcGIS 10. This release introduced new functionality to the Desktop as well as Server, and also continues to show progression towards mobile GIS with the release of an iPhone SDK.
10.1 June 11th, 2012 The 2012 release of ArcGIS 10.1 provides an integrated GIS platform that enables greater collaboration, including a fully integrated ArcGIS Online. ArcGIS users now can deliver any GIS resource, such as maps, imagery, geodatabases, and tools, as a web service. New names were introduced within the ArcGIS product line to reinforce that, regardless of the name, it is all the same system.

Name Changes in 10.1

Introduced with release 10.1 are a series of name changes to the ArcGIS product line. The reason for these modifications is to reinforce the fact that, regardless of where and how ArcGIS is used, it is the same system. [13]

ArcGIS Name Changes
Name in 10.0 and Below Name in 10.1 and Above
ArcGIS Desktop ArcGIS for Desktop
ArcInfo ArcGIS for Desktop Advanced
ArcEditor ArcGIS for Desktop Standard
ArcView ArcGIS for Desktop Basic
ArcGIS Server ArcGIS for Server
ArcGIS Mobile ArcGIS for Windows Mobile
ArcGIS Mobile SDK ArcGIS SDK for Windows Mobile
Esri Data and Maps Data and Maps for ArcGIS
Esri StreetMap Premium SteetMap Premium for ArcGIS
ArcGIS Data Appliance Data Appliance for ArcGIS
ArcGIS Mapping for SharePoint ArcGIS for SharePoint


Older Esri products, including ArcView 3.x, worked with data in the Shapefile format. ArcInfo Workstation handled coverages, which stored Topology information about the spatial data. Coverages, which were introduced in 1981 when ArcInfo was first released, has limitations in how it handles types of features. Some features, such as roads with street intersections or overpasses and underpasses, should be handled differently than other types of features.[14]

ArcGIS is built around the Geodatabase, which uses an object-relational database approach for storing spatial data. A geodatabase is a "container" for holding datasets, tying together the spatial features with attributes. The geodatabase can also contain Topology information, and can model behavior of features, such as road intersections, with rules on how features relate to one another.[15] When working with geodatabases, it is important to understand about feature classes which are a set of features, represented with points, lines, or polygons. With shapefiles, each file can only handle one type of feature. A geodatabase can store multiple feature classes or type of features within one file.[16]

Geodatabases in ArcGIS can be stored in three different ways including as a "file geodatabase", "personal geodatabase", and "ArcSDE geodatabase".[17] Personal geodatabases store data in Microsoft Access files, using a BLOB field to store the Geometry data. The OGR library is able to handle this file type, to convert it to other file formats.[18] Database administration tasks for personal geodatabases, such as managing users and creating backups, can be done through ArcCatalog. Personal geodatabases, which are based on Microsoft Access, run only on Microsoft Windows and have a 2 gigabyte size limit.[19] Enterprise (multi-user) level geodatabases are handled using ArcSDE, which interfaces with high-end DBMS such as Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, DB2 and Informix to handle database management aspects, while ArcGIS deals with spatial data management.[20] Enterprise level geodatabases support database replication, versioning and Transaction management, and is cross-platform compatible, able to run on Linux, Windows, and Solaris.[19]

Components and product levels

ArcGIS consists of Desktop GIS products, as well as GIS products that run on a server, or on a mobile device. There is also an Online GIS component.

Desktop GIS

License levels

ArcGIS Desktop is available at different license levels, with increasing functionality.

  • ArcReader (freeware, viewer) is a basic data viewer for Maps and GIS data published in the proprietary Esri format using ArcGIS Publisher. The software also provides some basic tools for map viewing, printing and querying of spatial data. ArcReader is included with any of the ArcGIS suite of products, and is also available for free to download. ArcReader only works with pre-authored published map files, created with ArcGIS Publisher.[21]
  • ArcGIS for Desktop Standard (formerly 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. ArcGIS for Desktop Standard is not intended for advanced spatial analysis.[22]
  • ArcGIS for Desktop Advanced (formerly ArcInfo) allows users the most flexibility and control in "all aspects of data building, modeling, analysis, and map display."[23] ArcGIS for Desktop Advanced includes increased capability in the areas of spatial analysis, geoprocessing, data management, and others.[22]

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, ArcGIS Online, 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.[24] 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.[25] ArcToolbox contains geoprocessing, data conversion, and analysis tools, along with much of the functionality in ArcInfo. It is also possible to use Batch processing with ArcToolbox, for frequently repeated tasks.[26]


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.[27] Advanced map labeling is available with the Maplex for ArcGIS extension, as an add-on to ArcView and ArcEditor and is bundled with ArcInfo.[22] Numerous extensions have also been developed by third-parties, such as XTools Pro and MAP2PDF for creating Georeferenced pdfs (GeoPDF),[28] 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.

Server GIS

Server GIS products include ArcIMS, ArcGIS Server (which includes ArcSDE), and ArcGIS Image Server.

Product levels

ArcGIS Server is available at three different product levels with increasing levels of functionality: Basic, Standard, and Advanced Editions. It is also available at two different "capacity" levels: Workgroup (single machine) and Enterprise (multi-user database).


ArcGIS Server comes with SQL Server Express DBMS embedded, and can work with enterprise DBMS such as SQL Server Enterprise and Oracle.[29] The Esri Developer Network (EDN) includes ArcObjects and other tools for building custom software applications, and ArcGIS Engine provides a programming interface for developers.[30]


Mobile GIS

ArcGIS Mobile and ArcPad are products designed for mobile devices. ArcGIS Mobile is a Software development kit for developers to use to create applications for mobile devices, such as smartphones or tablet PCs. If connected to the Internet, mobile applications can connect to ArcGIS Server to access or update data.[31]

Online GIS

Online GIS products include ArcGIS Online and ArcWeb Services


ArcGIS Desktop products and ArcPad are available with a single-use license. Most products are also available with concurrent-use license, while development server licenses and other types of software licenses are available for other products.[32] Single-use products can be purchased online from the Esri Store, while all ArcGIS products are available through a sales representative or reseller. Annual software maintenance and support is also available for ArcGIS.[33] While there are alternative products available from other traditional vendors such as MapInfo and Intergraph, Esri has a dominant share of the GIS software market with its software used by 78% of GIS professionals.[34]


Esri's change to the ArcGIS platform rendered incompatible an extensive range of user-developed and third-party add-on software and scripts. A substantial user base resists migrating to ArcGIS because of changes in scripting capability, functionality, operating system (ArcGIS Desktop software was developed exclusively for the Microsoft Windows operating system), as well as the significantly larger system resources required by the ArcGIS system.[35][36] Esri has continued support for these users. ArcView 3.x is still available for purchase, and ArcInfo Workstation is still included in a full ArcGIS ArcInfo licence to provide some editing and file conversion functionality that has not been included to date in ArcGIS.[citation needed]

ArcMap and other ArcGIS applications have a tendency to crash from time to time.[37] ArcGIS Desktop 9.1 had bugs when exporting maps as PDF files.[38] Esri has issued a number of service packs for ArcGIS Desktop and other products, which include numerous bug fixes, along with feature enhancements.[39] Other issues with ArcGIS include high prices for the products, proprietary formats, and difficulties of porting data between Esri and other GIS software.[40][41][42]

See also


  1. Esri - Company's history
  2. 2.0 2.1 Smith, Susan (May 2004). "Dr. David Maguire on the ArcGIS 9.0 Product Family Release". GIS Weekly. 
  3. Elroi, Daniel (2000-05-16). "Straight Talk From the Top". Directions Magazine. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Here Comes ArcView 8.1". GeoCommunity. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  5. Huber, Bill (August 2000). "The Future of ArcView; Part 1". Directions Magazine. 
  6. Maguire, David J (May 2000). "Esri's New ArcGIS Product Family". ArcNews (Esri). 
  7. "ArcGIS Brings Topology to the Geodatabase". ArcNews (Esri). Summer 2002. 
  8. "What's New in ArcGIS 9.3". 2008-06-26. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  9. "ArcGIS Desktop 9.3 Demos". 2008-06-26. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  10. "ArcIMS Goes Out With a Whimper". Fuzzy Tolerance / Mecklenburg County GIS. 2008-03-17. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  11. "What's New in ArcGIS 9.3.1". Retrieved 2009-06-25. 
  12. "WArcGIS 9.4 Renamed to ArcGIS 10 and ArcGIS 10 Planned Improvements [updated]". Retrieved 2010-01-12. 
  13. A Note About Names. ArcNews (Esri). Summer 2011. Accessed 09 July 2012.
  14. Zeiler, Michael (1999). Modeling Our World: The Esri Guide to Geodatabase Design. Esri. 4. 
  15. Tomlinson, Roger F. (2003). Thinking about GIS: Geographic Information System Planning for Managers. Esri. 144. 
  16. Detwiler, Jim. "ArcGIS - Building geodatabases" (PDF). Penn State - Population Research Institute. Retrieved 2008-02-06. 
  17. "Types of Geodatabases (ArcGIS 9.2 Desktop Help)". Esri. Retrieved 2008-02-06. 
  18. "Esri Personal Geodatabase". MapServer. Retrieved 2008-02-06. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 Gillgrass, Craig, Tom Brown, Gary McDougall. "What's New with Geodatabases" (PDF). Esri. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  20. Reid, Hal (2004-08-18). "ArcGIS 9 and the Geodatabase". Directions Magazine. 
  21. "ArcReader - Frequently Asked Questions". Esri. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 ArcGIS 10 for Desktop Functionality Matrix. Esri Accessed 10 July 2012
  23. Esri - Product Page
  24. Zeiders, Michelle (October 2002). "Introduction to ArcCatalog" (PDF). Penn State. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  25. Zeiders, Michelle (October 2002). "Introduction to ArcMap" (PDF). Penn State. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  26. Graham, Steve (October 2002). "Introduction to ArcToolbox" (PDF). Penn State. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  27. "Extensions for ArcInfo, ArcEditor, and ArcView". Esri. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  28. Limp, W. Fredrick (October 2007). "MAP2PDF Bundle". GeoWorld. 
  29. "Streamlining Server Technology at ArcGIS 9.2". ArcNews (Esri). Summer 2006. 
  30. "What is ArcGIS 9.2?" (PDF). Esri. Retrieved 2008-02-06. 
  31. "ArcGIS Goes Mobile". ArcNews (Esri). Spring 2007. 
  32. "General License Terms and Conditions" (PDF). Esri. Retrieved 2008-02-06. 
  33. "ArcGIS Pricing". Esri. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  34. "GIS Survey". GIS Jobs. Retrieved 2008-02-06. 
  35. "Making The Move From ArcView 3x to ArcView 8.1". GeoCommunity. May 2001. 
  36. Fee, James (2006-10-02). "Do you still use ArcView 3.x?". Spatially Adjusted. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  37. ArcGIS 9.1 (and now 9.2) Annoyances, [1], [2]<!-- this is true, but need to find other sources for this //-->
  38. "ArcMap PDF export issues". CartoTalk (forum). 2006-11-06. Retrieved 2008-02-06. 
  39. "New issues addressed with Service Pack 4". Esri. Retrieved 2008-02-06. 
  40. Flanders, Kevin (2005-11-11). "Is It Time for Open Source?". Directions Magazine. 
  41. Nasr, Mahmoud Refaat (June 2007). "Open Source Software: The Use of Open Source GIS Software and its Impact on Organizations" (PDF). Middlesex University / MIT. 
  42. Mitchell, Tyler (2006-11-23). "The missing open source piece?". 

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