ArcGIS AllSource projects

In ArcGIS AllSource, you organize your work into projects. A project is a collection of related items—maps, link charts, tables, timelines, data connections, and more—that contribute to a common purpose. The purpose may be to analyze a problem, visualize a state of affairs, maintain or update a data model of infrastructure, and so on. A project can serve more than one purpose. The scope of a project is not defined or limited by any rules—it can be as broad or narrow, as large or small, as necessary.

For example, you can create a project to do the following:

  • Model spatial and nonspatial relationships of suspected criminal activity.
  • Identify a suitable site for a security camera or sensor placement.
  • Analyze movement tracks of persons of interest.
  • Visualize planned operations and perform after action reviews.
  • Perform damage assessment through imagery analysis.

For examples of real-world projects, visit the Learn ArcGIS website.

Project architecture

Projects comprise four main design principles:

  • Projects are self-contained.

    By default, a project and its associated files are stored together in one system folder. This makes projects easy to find. It also means that project resources don't become detached from the project and lost.

  • Projects are streamlined.

    A project contains only the items and data connections required for your work.

  • Projects components are reusable.

    Project items—such as maps, scenes, layers, and layouts—can be copied or exported to other projects.

  • Projects are integrated into the ArcGIS platform.

    Projects and their components can be shared to web portals and to ArcGIS apps for the field, the office, and the community.

Project contents

A project contains two types of items. One type is the items that you create in ArcGIS AllSource, such as maps, scenes, layouts, charts, and reports. The other type is connections to folders, databases, servers, and other data repositories that you use to build maps and scenes.

An ArcGIS AllSource project gives a comprehensive view of the items it contains.

Project files and their associated files

A project is stored on your computer as a project file. The project file is closely associated with these additional files: a default geodatabase, a default toolbox, an index, and an import log.

Project file

When you start ArcGIS AllSource and create a project, a project file (with the file extension .asrx) is created. The project file contains items you create as you work with the project—maps, scenes, layouts, charts, reports, and so on. It also contains connections to data and other resources.

The following connections are present by default in a project:

You can add connections to other resources, such as databases and servers, as needed.

Default geodatabase

Each project has a default geodatabase (with the extension .gdb). When you run geoprocessing tools in a project, the output data is stored in this geodatabase unless otherwise specified. When a project is created, a default geodatabase is also created in the project's home folder. The default geodatabase has the same name as the project (for example, MyProject.asrx is associated with MyProject.gdb).

Typically, the default geodatabase is unique to the project. This is not necessary, however. Two or more projects can have the same default geodatabase. In addition, you can change a project's default geodatabase at any time.

The default geodatabase is a repository for data created in a project. It helps to keep project resources organized. However, you can store output data in a geodatabase other than the default geodatabase.

Default toolbox

Each project also has a default toolbox (with the extension .tbx). When you create geoprocessing models or Python scripts. in a project, they are stored in this toolbox unless otherwise specified. When a project is created, a default toolbox is also created in the project's home folder. The default toolbox has the same name as the project (for example, MyProject.asrx and MyProject.tbx).

As with the default geodatabase, it is typical, but not essential, that the default toolbox be unique to the project. You can change a project's default toolbox at any time.

ImportLog folder

An ImportLog folder is created the first time a map is created in or imported to a project. This folder contains an .xml file for every map, scene, layout, and report in the project. The .xml file records any problems with the creation or import of maps, scenes, and other items.

Project name and location

You can name a project anything you like. The default naming convention is MyProject, MyProject1, MyProject2, and so on.

By default, new projects and their associated files are stored in a new system folder with the same name as the project. For example, a project named MyProject is stored in a system folder that is also named MyProject. You don't need to create a project in a new system folder—you can create a project in an existing folder on your computer. However, storing a project in its own system folder helps keep the project and its associated files organized. The system folder in which the project is stored is called the project's home folder.

By default, new projects are stored in C:\Users\<username>\Documents\ArcGIS\Projects. When you create a project, you can store it in another location on your computer, on a network drive, or on a shared local drive. You can also change the default location for storing new projects.

Learn more about changing project settings.


Cloud storage services, such as Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive, are not supported unless stated otherwise in the documentation about specific tools and functionality.

Learn more about ArcGIS AllSource and cloud storage services

Create and open projects

By default, ArcGIS AllSource opens to a start page. (As with other aspects of ArcGIS AllSource, this behavior is configurable.) The start page presents options for opening projects that you have created and for creating projects.

Use projects to collaborate

Intelligence users often have overlapping roles. To some degree, you may be a field agent, an analyst, a data processor, a manager, a planner, and a specialist.

Your role, and the way your organization operates, affects the way you collaborate on projects. You may work alone; you may share maps, data, or entire projects with your colleagues; or you may work with colleagues on the same projects.

Generally, there are four approaches to working with projects. They aren't mutually exclusive; you use all of these approaches at different times or combine them. They can be distinguished conceptually, however.

  • You work mainly alone. You create and save projects on your computer.
  • You work with others on the same projects that are stored on a network drive.
  • You and your colleagues work on different projects, but you use the same starting project configuration.
  • You share maps, layers, and other project items with colleagues. You may also share entire projects.

Create and work on projects alone

If you work mostly alone, the default method of project creation—in which each new project has its own default geodatabase and toolbox—is usually best. You can add folder connections to a project by browsing to folders that reference your computer's drive letters. (This is problematic only if you access projects from multiple machines.)

If you are a specialist or analyst and create projects from the Map template, you can add new maps and scenes as needed.

If you manage data, you can create projects from the Blank template. If you run geoprocessing tools and perform various file operations, but you don't normally need to create maps and layouts, or save multiple projects, you can start without a project template. In this case, you start ArcGIS AllSource, perform your work, and close the application without saving the project.

If many of your projects use the same resources, such as the contents of your C:\MyData\Redlands folder, you can add these connections as project favorites. Your favorites can be added to new projects or set to be added automatically.

Collaborate on projects stored in a shared location

A project that two or more people need to access, such as OurProject.asrx, can be stored on a network drive or a shared local drive. A project stored on a network drive can be opened by anyone with ArcGIS AllSource and access to the location. However, only one person at a time can make changes to the project file.

If one person has a project open, others can open it in a read-only state. You can make changes to a read-only project , but they must be saved as a new project. You can also perform operations that don't change the project file (.asrx). For example, you can edit spatial data or run geoprocessing tools while working in a read-only project.

If a project is stored on a network or shared drive, add folder and database connections as UNC paths to avoid problems accessing paths that contain drive letters. To add connections with UNC paths, you must type the path in the browse dialog box. (If you browse to the location, the connection automatically references a drive letter.)

In the examples below, UNC connections that are suitable for a shared project have green check marks. Connections made with drive letters are marked with a red x.


\\<computer name>\Data\SanBernardinoCounty

Check mark



\\<computer name>\c$\MyData\Redlands

Check mark



Working with projects stored on a network is slower than working with local projects.

Create projects that conform to a standard template

The blank Map template on the ArcGIS AllSource start page is a generic starting configuration for a project. If your team or workgroup follows specific patterns for new projects, you can create a project template to start new projects.

A project template (a file with the .aptx extension) allows you to define an initial configuration for projects. You can save any project you create as a template. A project template can contain items such as the following:

  • Maps and scenes containing symbolized data layers.
  • Layouts containing map frames and map surrounds.
  • Toolboxes containing geoprocessing models and scripts.
  • Connections to folders, databases, and servers.

Data sources referenced by map layers are copied to the template file and copied from the template file into projects created from the template. This means that if a map layer in a template references a data source such as C:\MyData\Roads, a user who creates a project from the template doesn't need to have the roads data. (On the user's computer, the path to the Roads dataset is changed to the default location for their saved projects.)

Connections to folders and databases can be saved in a template, but they only work in projects created from the template if they reference accessible paths. As with projects shared on a network, this is another context in which establishing connections with UNC paths is a good practice.

The default geodatabase and toolbox from the template, along with their contents, are copied into every project created from the template.

Project templates can be stored on a local or network drive or shared through your active portal.

Share projects and project items

Projects and project items, such as maps and map layers, can be shared with colleagues through your active portal or through traditional file sharing methods. There are three sharing strategies: packages, web items, and files.


A package is a compressed file that may contain an entire project, a map, a layer, or other type of project item. Packages contain all the resources associated with the packaged item. For example, when you open a project package, it's similar to opening the original project—you have all the maps, layers, and connections of the original project, along with the default geodatabase and toolbox.

The package is a copy of the original project; it is not the original project.

Because packages are copies, they tend to work better for distributing resources than for collaboration, although they can be used to collaborate as well. For example, if you unpack a project package or map package shared from a portal and use it locally, you are notified of any updates to the package whenever you open the project or map.

Packages are also effective for archiving projects and can be used to store snapshots of a project as it changes over time.

Web items

Maps, scenes, layers, and tables can be shared as web items to your active portal or an ArcGIS server.

While a package is a copy of a project, map, or layer, a web item is a different type of resource. In a web map or web layer, data sources are converted to web services that are hosted by your ArcGIS portal or server.

For example, if a map layer of roads in your ArcGIS AllSource project references a local dataset, such as C:\MyData\Roads, when you share the layer as a web layer Feature layer and a colleague adds it to a map in their own project, the layer references a web service with a REST endpoint. The URL is similar to

By comparison, if you share the same layer as a layer package Layer Package, colleagues who add the layer to their own maps have a local copy of the dataset.

Web items are an efficient tool for collaboration. They can be overwritten or replaced by the item owner if updates need to be made. If the item owner enables editing, users of web layers and tables can edit these items. If editing is not enabled, colleagues can modify the properties of a layer in their own map or project without changing the original web item.


Maps, layers, and layouts can be saved as stand-alone files and shared through a portal or standard file sharing methods. A map file (.mapx) saves all the properties of a map (for example, its name, bookmarks, and coordinate system), along with its layers and their properties (for example, symbology, scale ranges, and label settings).

A map file does not include the data referenced by the map's layers. If you share a map file with a colleague, they must have their own copy of the data or have access to the data. Similarly, layer files (.lyrx) and layout files (.pagx) save the properties of those items without saving the datasets they reference.

If you add a map file from a portal to your ArcGIS AllSource project, you are notified of any updates to the map file whenever you open it. (Update notifications are not provided for layout or layer files.)

For teams or workgroups that have common access to data resources, map files, layer files, and layout files are a convenient way to share an item's configuration without duplicating datasets unnecessarily.

Manage projects and project items

Projects can't be copied, moved, renamed, or deleted from ArcGIS AllSource. To copy, move, or rename a project, share it as a project package or use the Save As command. Using file system commands for these operations isn't supported and risks corrupting the project.

You must delete projects using file system commands. In most cases, you should delete the project file and any other files uniquely associated with the project file. However, don't delete a default geodatabase or toolbox that is used by multiple projects. If the project home folder exclusively contains files related to the project, you can delete the home folder.

You can copy, move, rename, and delete items that are stored in the project file from ArcGIS AllSource. Use caution before deleting items that store data. Some project items, such as geodatabases, can be either removed or deleted. When you remove an item, it is no longer a project resource, but it is not otherwise affected. When you delete an item, it is permanently deleted.