An overview of customizing ArcGIS
Last modified June 5, 2008
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ArcGIS Desktop is a suite of integrated applications including ArcMap, ArcCatalog, ArcGlobe, and ArcScene, as well as integrated functionality provided through ArcToolbox and ModelBuilder. Using these applications in unison, you can perform any GIS task, simple to advanced, including mapping, geographic analysis, data compilation, data management, visualization, and geoprocessing.
All ArcGIS Desktop applications share a common architecture that allows users to easily share their work with others using the same applications. Maps, data, symbology, map layers, geoprocessing models, custom tools and interfaces, and so on, can be accessed and used by all or various ArcGIS Desktop applications.
For a large number of ArcGIS users, the standard functionality that is provided with ArcGIS Desktop is sufficient for completing their GIS tasks. However, each organization has unique workflows and requirements, and the way that the functionality of ArcGIS Desktop is presented in the user interface may need to be customized, automated, or extended to improve productivity and efficiency.
ArcGIS Desktop contains most of the functionality that you need to accomplish your GIS tasks without any programming or customization of the user interface. This is because it has been developed as a collection of general software functionality designed to meet the needs of all GIS users. However, when defining the steps required to complete your specific workflows it can be difficult to find the most efficient way to accomplish your tasks. Functionality within the ArcGIS applications is designed to help you improve productivity—see Tips and tricks within ArcGIS.
In addition to using the software to improve productivity, the ArcGIS Desktop framework itself is customizable. For example, using the Customize dialog box, you can create new toolbars and drag and drop commands and tools onto those toolbars to consolidate functionality, you can add or alter shortcut keys for frequently used commands, and you can change the icon or description for a command so that it is more readable.
Learn about customizing the user interface
There are several ways that you can extend the functionality of ArcGIS Desktop by using one of the developer toolkits and a development language (.NET, Visual Basic, Visual C++). Some of the common examples include writing custom commands, tools, toolbars, dockable windows, and custom layers. These customizations are compiled as dynamic link libraries (.dll) and can be distributed to other users within your organization.
Learn about extending ArcGIS