ArcGIS Pro: An honest review

The Python scripting functionality is one of the most powerful extension of ArcGIS family. In ArcGIS Pro the Python windows has a lot of new feature.

The scripts are not only has autocomplete feature but also show helpful tool tips. Any geoprocessing that has run on Python window will show up in the current project’s Geoprocessing history. Script is taking too long to run – hit the cross to stop that immediately.

To make the operation breeze the Python window works with any file, tools and layers by simply dragging and dropping them inside the window.

Working with raster data has found some new functionality since ArcGIS Desktop 10. Part of this process ArcGIS Pro has all the raster geoprocessing tools in a new window.

Other options are distributed is many other windows but remain almost same. Raster functionalities of ArcGIS Pro are not something most of us should get eager about when programs like GRASS and Monteverdi has more tools than this and are absolutely free.

Layout making

The layout making workflow in ArcGIS Pro doesn’t seem to be much organized. Besides there is currently no option to add grids to the layout. In ArcGIS Desktop layers are automatically added to a map frame, here you need to specify a Map frame which doesn’t seem much intuitive. The north-arrow and scale bars are as usual, so does the legend. The maps and layout styles now a days changed a lot, the scale bars now have multiple units, legends are more stylish. Even though ArcGIS Pro is a mapping suit of 2015, it seems to have styles from 90’s. But there is something new, dynamic texts now can use information directly from metadata.

The individual elements now snap with each other as interactive layout tool. The ‘add guides’ window can add multiple guides at once depending on the orientation and placement. The map frame itself doesn’t have to be rectangular, it can be of any size and shape.

When you finish decorating your map, go to Share > Layout to export. The export formats remained same, except the compressed SVG (.svgz) and TGA is new, AI is gone (which you may not need when you already have .EPS). Most of the format lack some of their options compared with ArcGIS Desktop. All of them have a same option – ‘clip to graphics extent’, a familiar option which can be found in Adobe Illustrator. The default output name is surprisingly “ArcGIS.jpg” which should be “name_of_the_project.jpg”. I never understood why the DPI has to go below 100 because that creates a crappy output. Why not use a ‘quality’ slider saying ‘best’ to ‘smallest’ and adjust the DPI with the screen resolution just like Adobe Illustrator do.


Maybe I am not the right person to judge an application like ArcGIS Pro from a GIS powerhouse like ESRI who has been feasting on its lions share of the overall geospatial market for decades. But let me pick few things as I walk through with this new software and have them listed before it jeopardize my head.

Good things

  • The first good thing about this new software is that it is not ArcGIS desktop. ArcGIS Desktop somehow messed up in so many level that we should give up hoping for more fix
  • ArcGIS Pro is finally a cutting edge technology that works with both 2D and 3D.  It takes advantage of latest multi-threaded processors and RAMs. It can also work with advanced GPUs to accelerate its 3D rendering capability
  • The project-based mapping workflow, the familiar ribbon-based user interface, the task and templates will help users of many other field to understand and communicate with each other
  • Eliminating a lot of edit-time and layout-time complexities shows that ESRI really hears what their customers use to say. For example, autocomplete polygon option now doesn’t depend on the double-click from the user to finish, it has its own finish button. This helps people with tablets a lot. There are a lot of similar complications been taken care of; so does many unnecessary options, exotic styles and commands with self-conflicting behavior.
  • I really liked the Python scripting environment. The geoprocessing windows took care of all the floating toolbars. The raster processing has found some new functionality. The users have more control over the user interface, geoprocessing capabilities and the project workflows.

Bad things

  • The user interface is fascinatingly dull! I would expect a darker interface for the people who work longer in front of the computer. (For example, Microsoft, the inventor of the ribbon interface themselves are switching to darker interface because they just look really good)
  • Still more to do to resolve conflicts among multiple Python environments under same workstation. Even if Python in ‘sandboxed’ inside the application (bin folder), user should get access to it and install libraries they want.
  • The biggest advertisement of ArcGIS Pro seem to be its ability of using its Large Address Aware processing engine. But in reality there are very little option to take advantage of this capability. For example, the geoprocessing tools can use more than 4 gigabyte memory, but no one sees how they are doing this. Are they taking single channel or multiple. How about running multiple tools in parallel.
  • The worst thing  is actually the essential part of the application – the layout making functionality.  The tool and options for layout making, map frame, adding symbols, elements and exporting to the final output seem to have spread across several panes. The steps for the final output gained complexity and sometime sluggish behavior.

The verdict

No wonder ArcGIS Pro is built on experience from a range of products which has been successful for a many good year, but the application itself is still a new born. Even if the product looks promising but it still feels underdeveloped and sometime unfinished. I understand the excitement, but let me suggest to hold your patience for a few more year. The ArcGIS Pro is good, but it can be better. There must be a balance between the functionalities and the demands. ESRI has taken a bold move, let them finish their journey.

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  1. realy tiered esri

    July 3, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    on the frist look it seems to be really smart.
    After 18 Hours of work and About 20 crashes later i can see, that it is all Makeup: Ist the same bugged s*** like all teh yesars bevor, in deed ist even worse.
    – Basic functions, like Feature Datasets don’t work correctly,
    – creating shapfiles is nearly impossible,
    – Performance is an absolute fail (on a new high end processor!)
    – Crashes occure regulary without anny reason
    – Working on Symbologies an Labels is getting even more complicated. Each menue taks eterneties of time for loading

  2. They suck. I am writing this while being on hold with customer service for the past 2 hours.

  3. Dawn,
    your Python script tools continue to work in Pro with some exceptions (arcpy.mapping). So your work is not lost.


  4. Thanks for the insightful review. Since I’ve left consulting and joined the ranks of the average user, I rarely handle a new release. I was intrigued by the offering and inspired to consider ArcGIS Pro instead of upgrading from 10.x to 10.x+1.

    Your review of the layout coincides with undercurrent I’ve been perceiving that ESRI no longer wishes to cater to paper output. I wonder if they forgot to ask “How can we make map production better?” Clearly they asked How can we make analysis more streamlined and intuitive?”, which I am grateful for. But in my business I need both!

    And it sounds like they didn’t consider that we might have a lot of hours invested in existing python-based toolsets. One of the core reasons I’ve waited to step up from my current version, is that many pieces of customized code do not work in the later releases, because libraries changed.

    I will test it too on a spare 64 and ask “How can I stay current without having to recreate a thousand lines of custom code?”

    • Thanks for the comment Dawn. Even if it’s a ‘half-baked’ version of the original ArcGIS software, let’s keep our faith on ESRI’s state-of-the-art ‘user tolerance testing’ strategy and wait for the future 😉