ArcGIS Pro 2.1 brings a blizzard of new features

ArcGIS Pro 2.1 brings a blizzard of new features

The latest update for ArcGIS Pro, Esri’s flagship desktop application has arrived. With so many new features, even the most observant eye might miss some of the exciting advances that have been made in this most recent update. This blog will take you through my selection of the new tool developments and features in ArcGIS Pro 2.1.

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Working with OS MasterMap Water Layer in the ArcGIS Platform

Ordnance Survey have released OS MasterMap Water Network, a new OS MasterMap layer. It provides the flow, centre line geometry and height of all rivers, streams, lakes, lochs and canals across Great Britain. The layer is a structured link/node representation of all connected watercourses including the underground network (inferred based on entry and exit points). This article takes you through loading (Productivity Suite is not required), merging, de-duplicating and creating a geometric water network.
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My top ten of what’s new in Desktop 10.1

There are many enhancements to ArcGIS for Desktop coming in 10.1 (opens PDF) and here are my top ten favourite features (in no particular order) using a scenario based on a long weekend in Edinburgh. For my basemap, I’m using the EsriUK Online OS MasterMap ‘Carto’ premium map service which we can see if we open the Service Credits icon bottom right of the map.

1. Support for GPS data

There are 85 new tools and 117 improved tools available in Toolbox and for my first enhancement I’d like to show you one of the new tools providing better support for working with GPS data.

You really can’t come to Edinburgh just now without making a trip to the zoo to see pandas Tian Tian and Wang Guang (Sweetie and Sunlight). Whilst visiting the pandas, I took some photos with my GPS enabled smartphone and I can use the new GeoTagged Photos to Points tool to create a new point layer showing the locations where I took them on my map.

Obviously all the media attention has been too much for Wang Guang!

2. Editor Tracking

Editor tracking has been implemented within Geodatabases so you can now record information about who made changes to datasets and when the edits were performed using auto-populated fields.  

Here I can see that the routes of the two Olympic torch relay stages in Edinburgh on the 13th and 14th of June have been digitised so people can go and cheer the runners along their mile.

Through editor tracking, an editor’s username and time stamp are stored in attribute fields directly in the dataset (shown in the image above). This can help you enforce quality control standards, maintain responsibility and also create a log of changes that have happened on each dataset.

3. Symbol Support

My third improvement is greater image support for symbols. As you can see, I have another layer displaying the start and end points of the relay routes using picture symbols. At 10.1 you can now use PNG and JPG images for your symbols.

4. Python Support

Python is now supported as a scripting language for all locations where scripting is used. You can program your own buttons and tools using Python add-ins and you can now create geoprocessing toolboxes entirely in Python.

For example, with the new label expression parser, you can now use Python to add logic to your label expressions, including conditional logic and looping.

The screenshots below show a before and after using the label expression parser. The first image is showing the names of all the torch bearers running one mile of that leg of the relay but they aren’t displayed in a suitable format. This is clearly far too long to be an appropriate label!

A python expression that creates stacked labels, based on text from one field by using the comma between the torch bearers’ names to specify where the stack happens, makes the labels much easier to read.

So, for python users, we have far more flexibility in how we can label features without modifying the field contents.

5. Maplex Label Engine

The Maplex for ArcGIS extension functionality has been moved into the core Desktop and is now called the Maplex Label Engine. So it’s now available for everyone to use! 

It provides a special set of tools that help you to improve the quality of the labels on your map, tools that were previously only used for specialist cartographic production.

I’ve heard that there is a great mountain biking centre just south of Edinburgh at Glentress so a day’s biking is on the agenda. The trails are colour coded by their level of difficulty – green, blue, red and black, just like for skiing.

As you can see from the screenshot below, important bends or trail features are shown with labels. The labels are currently using the standard label engine. By changing to using the Maplex Label Engine, they look much better, even before applying any of the label placement rules available.

By default, new Map Documents (.mxd’s) open using the Standard Label Engine but you can change to Maplex and specify a different font name and size for labelling in Customise menu > ArcMap Options >data view tab, as shown in the screenshot above. 

6. GPX to Features Tool

At number six is another tool providing better support for working with GPS data called GPX to Features. This converts the point information inside a GPX file into features, storing the geometry (including elevation or Z-value) as well as attribute fields for name, description, elevation etc. So this could be useful for all sorts of field data capture such as asset inventory or mapping the extent of a flood.

Whilst mountain biking at Glentress I’ve captured my bike route with my phone and can now use this new tool to add that to my map. Searching for the tool, we can see it’s a Python script that can be edited if you need it to do something different.

Help for tools have also been enhanced to show the licence level required (whether basic, standard or advanced).

I’ve created a simple workflow using ModelBuilder to automate this conversion process and take it a bit further. This model creates the point features and then selects just the track points to create a linear track layer.

As you can see, we did the red route and because I have converted the waypoints and tracks, you can see that we stopped for some well-earned carrot cake at the end...showing that descriptive information can also be captured and converted along with the geometry.

7. Search Window

After the ride, I’d like to see where the showers and bike wash are. The new spatial filtering options can help me to narrow down my search for relevant facilities using map-based, text-based and scale-dependent searches and the results can be sorted and grouped.

With no spatial filter set, my search for ‘facilities’ finds both the Glentress and Innerleithen layer files. If I change it to ‘within or overlapping current extent’ it filters down to just the Glentress data.        



I can also view thumbnails and preview the result contents to check this layer is what I want. Each search result also has an enabled context menu enabling adding the layer and zoom to the layer’s extent.

8. Map Legends

I want to create a map in layout view to remind myself of the biking trip.

The new dynamic legends in 10.1 will be particularly useful for people using dynamic data pages and creating map books. They support the display of only features in the visible extent and the ability to show feature counts i.e. how many features of a certain kind are showing on my map.

The new Map Extent Options enable me to limit the features displayed in the legend to only those features currently visible on the map and also add feature counts. This works on an individual layer basis so can be set for only selected layers. I only want feature counts displayed for the facilities, not the trails.

Fitting Strategy is also really useful if, like me, you’ve ever added a new layer to your map and the legend has shot off the top of the layout! You can fix the frame size so the items will change size to fit within the frame, rather than the other way around. Here are a few examples showing the dynamic legend and how the legend items fit into the available space when fixed frame is set.

9. Password Protected PDFs

If I have sensitive information in the map that I want only certain people to see (maybe I took a sneaky shortcut) I can now set a password to limit access to it if I save it as a PDF. This was possible at 10 with python scripting but at 10.1 you can use the security tab in the PDF options of the Map Export dialog box to set a document-open password and other PDF security features.

10. Share As...

Lastly, I want to make my Glentress route map available to my biking friends and the new sharing tools make this really easy to do.  

The wizard makes it very simple to take my map and publish it to both my server and ArcGIS Online. 

In the service editor I can specify all the service properties. I can also choose to share my map with and of the groups I belong to. Then I just click Publish and it’s done. 

So that concludes my top ten enhancements in ArcGIS for Desktop at 10.1 but of course we’ve only just scratched the surface. There are many more, including new analytical and geodatabase management tools, which you can read about here


Hide and Seek with the Desktop Licence Manager Server Status Enquiry

My name is Andy, one of the Desktop Support Analysts here in the Technical Support team. We are here to help with any questions or queries you may have regarding the Desktop Suite of products developed by Esri Inc or Esri UK.

Here in the Esri UK Technical Support team every day is different. We are asked about just about anything you can think of, some of which we have heard of, and some that we haven’t! Looking through some of our old support calls, there are however, some subjects that are asked about more frequently than others.

One such question is “How can I see who is using a specific licence?”, or “Am I able to perform a Server Status Enquiry like I was able to at v9.x?”

At v9.x, the ability to run a Server Status Enquiry was a routine task for many ArcGIS Licence Administrators within an organisation, allowing for the efficient management of their licences. It was run directly from the 9.x Licence Manager and allowed the user to see what licences were available, how many were available, and which users were consuming licences at that particular time.

The good news is that the ability to perform a Server Status Enquiry at v10 is still possible, it’s just hidden away! Whilst the functionality is no longer available in the v10 Licence Manager Interface, it can still be accessed via Command Prompt:

  • Open Command Prompt (Start > Run > cmd)
  • Type: 
 cd "C:\Program Files\ArcGIS\License10.0\bin"  
  • Press enter. This will change the current working directory to the specified path.
  • Type:
 lmutil lmstat -a -c service.txt  
  • Press enter. This will display the information previously given by the Status Enquiry.


Pretty simple stuff really, but not quite as obvious.

You may even consider creating the command as a batch file to save you typing in the command each time you require it…

  • In Notepad (or your preferred Text Editor) Type:
 cd C:\Program Files\ArcGIS\License10.0\bin\   
 lmutil lmstat -a -c service.txt  


  • Save this file as a Batch file (.bat) and name it whatever you wish (saving onto the machine containing the v10 Licence Manager)
  • You may then run the Batch file simply by double clicking the file!

So as you can see, all the functionality is still there, you just have to search and find it! Why not look a little harder and see what else may still be possible using Command Prompt?

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CityEngine - Esri’s gone all 3D

If you go to Esri’s Aylesbury office, climb the stairs to the 2nd floor, turn left and see someone wearing a granddad-style jumper, you’ve probably found me. My name is Caroline Steer and I’m the Technical Solution Group’s (TSG) placement student for the year, after taking some time out from studying geography at UCL. I’ve been at Esri since September and so far I’ve been working on a wide range of things, including creating webmaps, a bit of geocoding, a smattering of Python, some beta testing and now starting to demo our online solution for Local Government, LocalView Fusion.

So in my first week at Esri, I was asked to investigate some new 3d technology that Esri Inc. had recently acquired. This software is called CityEngine, and harks from the exciting world of movie graphics. It’s been used for the likes of the cityscapes in the movie Cars 2, adverts for the Ministry of Sound and hard-core gaming. All very exciting, but what’s it got to do with GIS? Well CityEngine’s main function is to quickly create 3D models from 2D data and then making it look life-like by using a rules engine, allowing us GIS folk to build up cityscapes in no time. These buildings can then be imported into ArcScene, where we can do shadow or line-of-sight analysis. For example, this process will be of interest to the urban planning market but also links into some really interesting research some of us in TSG have been doing around Building Information Management (BIM).

There are clearly many useful and interesting applications for CityEngine in generating 3D urban environments for city planners, architects, the military and of course those working in film and entertainment.

So now you’ve got a rough idea of what CityEngine does, I’ll share my experience of it. I sat down at my new desk and after reading several help files, trying out lots of bits and pieces and overcoming various challenges I can now say I am a competent user of CityEngine. I was impressed at how I was able to create cities, which were relatively realistic with no programming skills. Those lucky enough to have some Python skills will be able to create some amazing cityscapes.

To test out my new found knowledge and CityEngine’s capabilities we decided to set ourselves the challenge of creating a 3D tour of the area surrounding our Aylesbury offices. The buildings were created using a shapefile of Ordnance Survey MasterMap building outlines and applying a series of rules which apply images to the building fascades. The streets were created by importing street networks, again from MasterMap, and applying rules to insert 3D cars and texturing. The final detail was provided by an aerial photograph taken from the Esri Imagery basemap. The result was a really impressive 3d model of Aylesbury which only took 3 days and to make it look even better I could have added lampposts, higher quality aerial imagery and use the Facade Wizard to create highly detailed facades.

So what have I learnt about CityEngine? I found the software pretty simple to use and its unique scripting language (Computer Generated Architecture) is relatively easy to pick up. I’m sure the future looks bright as Esri plans to develop tighter integration between existing ArcGIS software and CityEngine making it even easier to use.

I’d like to thank BLOM for letting us use their aerial photography and model data for testing. CityEngine is still evolving so look out for updates on the blog to see what’s been happening. For example, our friends over at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis(CASA) have already started using CityEngine with a renderer and have created some really impressive models

To see what CityEngine can do see:

ArcGIS Mobile

Recently one of my colleagues in our team asked me how he could use ArcGIS Mobile on his desktop without  a server licence. This got me looking for information on how this can be done. One of the outcomes of my research was a document that details my findings, as well as how a new user to ArcGIS could go about setting up a Mobile project and start working straight away.

I found that it was quite hard to figure out a way of getting started quickly. At the end of the day, how many people want to spend all their time scratching their heads? Not too many i would imagine. This document gives a very concise description of how to get started.

I hope other people find it as useful as i did in putting it together (and my collegue, who is no doubt much happier now!)

Shortcuts in ArcGIS Desktop

I'm currently in the midst of working on a series of four webinars entitled 'Getting the most out of ArcGIS'. These webinars are a response to customer feedback saying that they want to understand how to get more from ArcGIS desktop.  So we thought we would share some tips and tricks on areas we most commonly get questioned about. I would encourage you to watch it again here (and get my viewing figures up!) but if there was one top tip to remember it would be the following doc:

This is a document of shortcuts for saving you time in ArcMap.  An absolute must read for all users wanting to reduce their click count!

For those who have also been asking for access to the other links mentioned in the webinar, here they are... both excellent:

Desktop Blog:

Geodatabase Blog: