ArcGIS, ArcMap, ArcView, Arcinfo – ESRI products explained

What is the difference between ArcView and ArcMap? Don’t worry if you cannot answer this immediately, ESRI product names are quite confusing. 


With ArcGIS 10.1 ESRI changed the names of its products and license levels: the product is now called  ArcGIS for Desktop and is available in three license levels: Basic, Standard, and Advanced (formerly ArcView, ArcEditor, and ArcInfo, respectively). More on the new naming directly from ESRI.

Hmm, I believe I also saw a ‘professional’ somewhere in the ArcInfo license file… Anyway, note that with this change the following explanation only refers to ArcGIS 8.x and 9.x, and to some extent 10.0.

Now back to the original post:

Let’s explain

ESRI‘s flagship product line is called ArcGIS 9. This is not one product, but a group of about 50 individual offerings, including software for desktops, for servers and for mobile devices, but also data products, online services, and more.

ArcView is one product within the ArcGIS line. ArcGIS Desktop is another one.

Let’s have a look at ArcView first: ArcView is a product , comprising mainly the programs ArcMap and ArcCatalog.  This is a bit like the Microsoft Office product containing the products MS Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.

When you buy ArcView you get a license to install it on a specific computer. This licensing mechanism is called standalone licensing. So when I talk about ArcView Standalone, I mean the ArcView product, comprising ArcMap and ArcCatalog, which is licensed to run on a single computer.

Now ArcGIS Desktop: This also is a product, comprising mainly the programs ArcMap and ArcCatalog, exactly like ArcView. However, the licensing mechanism is different: ArcGIS Desktop requires a central license server to provide licenses to connected computers on demand. This is called concurrent licensing. At the University this server is running in IT Services. The server can be configured to provide licenses in ArcView mode, meaning that a client PC is allowed to have exactly the same functionallity and tools as ArcView.

Alternatively, the server can be configured to provide ArcEditor or ArcInfo licenses, meaning it will allow each client PC to provide additional levels of funcionality. For the user this is noticeable by having more tools in the toolbox. So when I talk about ArcInfo, I mean the ArcGIS Desktop product, comprising ArcMap and ArcCatalog, which received it’s license from a network server, which in turn provides the ArcInfo level of functionality.

For the funcionality and tools available at the ArcView, ArcEditor and ArcInfo levels, see ESRI’s Functionality Matrix.

Resume: ArcView has less tools and works on a stand-alone PC. ArcInfo has more tools and works only on PCs connected to the University network.

What does it mean for you?

At the University of Manchester we have ArcInfo installed on all public cluster PCs on campus. (5000 PCs – anyone know of a larger ArcGIS deployment?)

Our license also allows us to provide ArcInfo and ArcView to staff and students for installation on private PCs and Laptops. However, with ArcInfo only working on the campus network and through the VPN, in practice only ArcView is to be considered for off-campus computers.

For more information about Arcinfo 9 and ArcView 9 at the university, including installation instructions, please see:


ESRI software naming is confusing, however logical. I did think about how their ArcGIS Desktop products could be name more appropriately (never know who is reading your blog), and I think a good solution would be to offer all licensing levels as a network and as a standalone edition. So you would get six products: ArcView Standalone, ArcEditor Standalone, ArcInfo Standalone, ArcView Concurrent, ArcEditor Concurrent, ArcInfo Concurrent.

This would introduce one new product, ArcInfo Standalone. I am sure there is a market for an ArcInfo Standalone!


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