ArcGIS Licensing and Software


ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Inc.) produces ArcGIS as well as a series of related products. Their main Desktop software comes in two versions:

  • ArcGIS Desktop 10.x (ArcMap, ArcCatalog, ArcToolbox)
    ArcCatalog: An application for managing spatial data and metadata (the GIS equivalent to Windows File Explorer, designed specifically for spatial data)
    ArcMap: Used for most analysis, mapping and editing tasks
    ArcToolbox: Used for geoprocessing and spatial analysis. ArcToolbox is an embedded application and can be accessed from either ArcCatalog or ArcMap
  • ArcGIS Pro 2.x
    ArcGIS Pro is the most recent addition to ArcGIS Desktop, with advanced tools for analysis and visualization and 64 bit processing. ArcGIS Pro includes Catalog and Geoprocessing panes (similar to ArcCatalog and ArcToolbox).

ArcGIS Desktop LICENSING LEVELS (for ArcMap or ArGIS Pro)

ESRI has three licensing levels for ArcGIS (with increasing quantity and complexity of tools):

  1. ArcGIS Desktop BASIC: Basic data viewing, analysis and editing 
  2. ArcGIS Desktop STANDARD: Additional functionality including multi-user editing and
    advanced data management 
  3. ArcGIS Desktop ADVANCED: A complete, professional GIS w/the full array of tools for high-end analysis and cartography

ArcGIS Desktop LICENSING TYPES (ArcMap vs. ArcGIS Pro)

In addition, there are three types of licensing methods:

  1. Single User: A license file that resides on the computer w/the software installation
  2. Concurrent User: Multiple, shared licenses that are served by a ‘license manager’ program (typically installed on a local server) to multiple computers
  3. Named User (ArcGIS Pro only): Licenses are associated with the individual User accounts, typically through an ArcGIS Online Organizational account. “Named User” licensing is the default for ArcGIS Pro. Named User accounts are administered through ArcGIS Online for Pro as well as associated extensions.

With a Named User account, the software can be installed as often as one likes on as many computers as one likes, but in order to use the software one must have a Named User account with a license assigned to it.

Thus, to use ArcGIS Pro (by default) you need install the software, have a User account (with a license assigned to it) and have internet access in order to log in.

Note that a Named User license can be ‘checked out’ for use offline (effectively converting a Named User license to a Single User license on a temporary basis).

ArcGIS Desktop EXTENSIONS (for ArcMap or ArcGIS Pro)

In addition to the core ArcGIS software, advanced functionality can be added to ArcGIS via Extensions. The two most common ESRI extensions are:

  1. Spatial Analyst: Tools for raster data processing and integration with vector data
  2. 3D Analyst: 3-Dimensional visualization tools; can also be used for creating TINs and calculating area and volume statistics. Includes ArcScene and ArcGlobe
Other Extensions from ESRI include: *
  • Network Analyst
  • Business Analyst
  • Survey Analyst
  • Publisher (for use in conjunction with ArcGIS Reader)
  • And more

    There are also third party (non-ESRI) extensions (some of which are free). *

Other Products from ESRI (Old and New)

  • ArcInfo / Command Line ArcInfo / ArcInfo Workstation (now Retired)
    ArcInfo was the original, command line GIS software developed by ESRI in 1982. 
  • ArcView 3.x (now Retired)
    Introduced in 1995, ArcView was ESRI’s first GUI GIS. Originally intended as a viewing platform for ArcInfo data, ArcView grew into a full GIS program that was eventually replaced by ArcGIS.
  • ArcGIS Explorer / Explorer for ArcGIS Desktop (now Retired)
    A free program (now ‘retired’) which allowed simple viewing of spatial data and projects. 
  • Explorer for ArcGIS
    A free app (for Android or iOS) which allows simple viewing of spatial data and maps. 
  • Collector for ArcGIS
    A free app (for Android or iOS) for spatial data collection with a GPS enabled mobile device. 
  • ArcGIS Online
    ArcGIS Online is a cloud-based mapping and spatial analysis platform, providing web mapping and spatial data geoprocessing and delivery. 

    ArcGIS Online is also used to Administer Named User accounts (assigning ArcGIS Pro licenses and license levels to different Users in an organization).

    See also ArcGIS Help & online resources.