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Developer(s) Esri
Stable release 9.3.1 / May 2009
Operating system MS Windows
Type Geographic information system
License Proprietary


ArcToolbox is an integrated application developed by Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri). It provides a reference to the toolboxes [1] to facilitate user interface in ArcGIS for accessing and organizing a collection of geoprocessing tools, models and scripts.

A tool box is a container which contains all the tools required to perform any advanced task in a particular domain. Similarly, ArcToolbox is a container in which all the tools required to facilitate advanced Geoprocessing tasks are organized in a logical way.

Inside of ArcToolbox

Tools in ArcToolbox are grouped logically as under:

  • Toolbox - Container for toolsets and tools
    • A toolbox can contain 'n' numbers of Toolsets
    • A System Toolbox cannot be deleted however it can be removed from ArcToolbox Window
    • One can create his own custom toolbox and add it to the ArcToolbox structure
    • A custom toolbox can be stored at any custom location
    • A toolbox can not contain another toolbox
  • Toolset - Logical container of tools and other toolsets (i.e. folder)
    • Custom Toolset can be added, renamed or removed from the Toolboxes[2]
    • System Toolsets can be removed from Toolbox
    • It is not mandatory to have a Toolset within a toolbox. Based on variety actions performed by the tools stored in a toolbox, one can decide whether to create a toolset or not.
  • Tool - Single geoprocessing operation (includes dialogs, models, and scripts)
    • A tool can be stored at Toolbox level or within the Toolset
    • In case when tools with same names are stored, the logical grouping is recommended
    • Presence of Tools depend on the Extensions available

General - All the Toolboxes, Toolsets and Tools within the ArcToolbox are sorted alphabetically.

Method of access Way of access Benefits
ArcToolbox Window ArcGIS Application Provides a user friendly GUI to work with tools
Command Line Command prompt Very efficient for command line aficionado
Supporting intelligent auto-completion of commands
Model Builder Model An 'executable Flow chart' for GIS processing
Powerful multi-step processing, yet simple to create and use
Script or Program Function call in a Script or program Providing decision making and looping to support Batch Processing

Development in ArcToolbox

The ArcToolbox functionality has undergone reorganization and has been enhanced from ArcGIS version 8x to 9.0.

  • ArcToolbox in earlier versions of ArcGIS 8x
    • It was a separate module
    • ArcGIS 8.3 primarily supported coverages
    • VBA was the only alternative in 8x for scripting
  • ArcToolbox in ArcGIS release 9
    • Available as an integrated window in ArcCatalog or ArcMap
    • All ArcToolbox tools support all data types (geodatabase, shapefiles, coverages)
    • New scripting capability for repetitive actions
      • Python, JScript and VBScript - simpler to use than VB for Applications
    • Model builder – a diagrammatic modeling tool, invaluable for tracking and replicating geoprocessing steps, was added

Common Toolboxes

Common toolboxes present within ArcToolbox are:

  • Analysis Toolbox
    • It provides a powerful set of tools to perform various geoprocessing operations, such as overlays, create buffers, calculate statistics, and perform proximity analysis of all types of vector data
  • Cartography Toolbox
    • The tools in the Cartography toolbox are designed to produce data and support map production for specific maps in a way that meets a specific cartographic standard
  • Conversion Toolbox
    • It contains tools that convert data between various formats
  • Coverage Toolbox
    • It contains a powerful set of tools to perform various geoprocessing operations that only use coverage as input and will only output data as coverage
  • Data Management Toolbox
    • A rich and varied collection of tools that are used to develop, manage, and maintain feature classes, datasets, layers, and raster data structures are grouped in this toolbox
  • Geocoding Toolbox
    • It contains tools to assist in accomplishing common geocoding tasks such as, creation, maintenance, and deletion of address locators, as well as the actual geocoding of addresses
  • Linear Referencing Toolbox
    • It contains a series of tools for creating, calibrating, and displaying the data used for linear referencing
  • Spatial Analyst Toolbox
    • With the tools available in this toolbox, one can create, query, map, and analyze cell-based raster data; perform integrated raster/vector analysis; derive new information from existing data; query information across multiple data layers; and fully integrate cell-based raster data with traditional vector data sources


  1. ArcToolbox Window basics
  2. Working with Custom Toolboxes

See also