ArcGIS Blog

ArcGIS Pro: Ribbons, Toolbars, and UI Hacks

There are many reasons to use ArcGIS Pro. Maybe you need 64-bit geoprocessing or lightning fast mapping to get your job done. Perhaps your project requires multiple layouts and maps, or you wanted to finally step into 3D GIS. Pro’s full integration with ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Enterprise also provides some amazing possibilities.

Whatever your reason, the first time you opened ArcGIS Pro you were confronted with something different – a ribbon-based application with a contextual user experience. It doesn’t look anything like ArcMap. You might be asking: “Where are all the buttons I am familiar with, and what is this ribbon thing?” Maybe you’ve used a ribbon before in a word processing, spreadsheet, or email application, but never with GIS.

ArcGIS Pro ribbon

The ribbon is the primary interface for working in ArcGIS Pro. Hundreds of essential GIS commands and tools (buttons) are located in contextual ribbon tabs associated with whatever view you have active.

Looking at a map? You are presented with ribbon tabs for:

Map ribbon tab
Map ribbon tab in ArcGIS Pro 2.1

ArcMap toolbars

This is obviously much different from how buttons are laid out in ArcMap. ArcMap’s tools and commands are on a number of toolbars, including:

ArcMap toolbars
Standard toolbars in ArcMap

After years of working with a full-featured professional software like ArcMap, the toolbars, buttons, and their locations may be second nature to you. I can definitely say you are not alone.

The learning curve

I’ve observed a pattern with those who have downloaded ArcGIS Pro to start using it for their work or just to see what it’s all about. A gradual but often quick progression that can start with some frustration at not knowing where to find a command or tool. Typically after a few days a proficiency starts to develop, but still some jumping between ribbon tabs might occur to find a less frequently-used button. Finally, after a few weeks, mastery of the ribbon is attained as you have a mental map of all the commands and tools needed to perform your job.

Even if you are an experienced ArcGIS Pro user, you might wish that your most frequently-used commands would be in one convenient location. My colleague Hannah Deindorfer recently wrote about customizing the UI of ArcGIS Pro. I think two of these options for customization might help you if you are having difficulty adjusting to ArcGIS Pro or have trouble locating buttons in the ribbon:

  1. In the Project > Options > Customize the Ribbon window, you can move any command or tool to any ribbon location you prefer. You can create new ribbon tabs and groups, or even rename the existing tabs and groups.
  2. Any command or tool on the ribbon can be added to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT). By default, the QAT includes the commands: New project, Open project, and Save project, as well as Undo and Redo. This toolbar is easy to customize so your favorite commands and tools are in a convenient and centralized location in the UI.

Making an ArcMap-style toolbar for ArcGIS Pro

I’ve taken customization of Pro’s QAT a few steps further. In addition to adding frequently-used commands and tools to the QAT, I minimize the ribbon. You can also move the QAT below the ribbon tabs. And just like that, you’ve got a familiar, click-reducing, productivity-enhancing toolbar in ArcGIS Pro.

Pro toolbar
ArcMap-style toolbar for ArcGIS Pro

….Yes, I did go through the process of recreating ArcMap’s Standard and Tools toolbars using the QAT in ArcGIS Pro (download user.config file).

While it’s a very close match between ArcMap’s standard toolbars and this customized Pro QAT, there are a few differences worth discussing and understanding.

Pro projects

ArcGIS Pro is a project-based application, so the first buttons are New project, Open project, and Save project. You do not work with map documents like you did in ArcMap. However, I’ve added the New Map and New Layout commands after the project commands, since adding maps and layouts is common for almost all projects.

Printing and exporting maps

In addition to the command to Print Map, there is a command to Export Map to File, like a .pdf, .svg, or .jpg. ArcGIS Pro is great at exporting high-quality .pdfs.

Copy data paths

ArcGIS Pro 2.1 has a Copy Path command that is extremely useful, so it is on the QAT toolbar despite no such button in ArcMap. Select some item in the Catalog pane, then click this button to copy its path.


The Delete button only works on selected features in the map, as there are no map graphics or free text in the latest version of ArcGIS Pro.

Map scale

Map Scale is not on a ribbon command so cannot be added to the QAT. But the scale control is always available in the status bar below the map.


The ArcMap Standard toolbar has a button to open the Editor toolbar which has commands to Start Editing and Stop Editing, among many others. There is no Start Editing or StopEditing in ArcGIS Pro, as edit sessions are started on demand, and stopped when you Save or DiscardEdits. The closest capability for the Pro QAT is the Create Features pane. Save Edits and DiscardEdits were added to the toolbar for convenience.


There are no Zoom In or Zoom Out rectangle tools in the latest version of ArcGIS Pro. Navigation and zooming can be accomplished using the mouse or keyboard shortcuts while using the Explore tool, or using the new on-screen Navigator control.

Select elements

The Select Elements tool can only be used with layout elements, as there are no graphics or free text in the latest version of ArcGIS Pro.

Explore tool

The Identify, Hyperlink, and HTMLPopup tools in ArcMap have been combined into the Explore tool in ArcGIS Pro.


The Search command opens the Locate pane where you can search for place names or addresses, attribute values in your configured layers, and latitude (y) – longitude (x) pairs. This combines ArcMap’s Find and Go To XY commands.

Network analysis

There is no dedicated Find Routes button or dialog like ArcMap has. Instead there is a Network Analysis button with a menu containing several commands for network analysis. This includes routing and service areas (drive-time buffers), among others.

Time slider

In ArcGIS Pro the Time Slider is not available as a ribbon button. Rather, it is enabled by configuring the time properties of a layer in your map.

Overview map and multiple views

There is no Create Viewer Window command available in Pro. Link multiple map views to get secondary views of the same map layers.

Toolbar position

The ArcGIS Pro QAT can only be positioned above or below the ribbon. You cannot tear the QAT off to float over the application, or dock it in a different location.

I hope this ArcGIS Pro hack configuration might help a few people out there to be more productive in their work.

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Simon Watkinson
Simon Watkinson

Actually the heavy reliance on the ribbon for tool access is fundamental flaw in the new UI. ArcMaps floating toolbars enabled one click to access any tool. Now every action requires a minimum of two clicks. Even when in the general context of the toolset itself (geoprocessing, labelling, editing etc). The other issue is that most tools are unresponsive on the first click in the map space. Take for example georeferencing, in most instance you need about 4 tools on the geoprocessing toolbar, but the ribbon runs off and hides everytime you select a tool, so a tool switch on… Read more »

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