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Moving On Up to the ArcGIS Pro Side: Prepping Data for Conversion of Map Documents to Map Projects

If you have not heard of Esri’s ArcGIS Pro, it is safe to say that you have either been out of the Geographic Information System (GIS) game for a while or have been living under a rock. Hopefully a well-furnished rock, but a rock nonetheless. ArcGIS Pro is touted to be the crème-da-la-crème of Esri’s mapping platform, one day surpassing the capabilities of ArcMap itself. Because of this, it is no surprise that many companies are wanting to embrace this new product.

Although switching to this new platform would have its benefits, there may be obstacles in the way of reaching such glory. The main obstacle? Moving your ArcMap files to ArcGIS Pro compatibility. When creating an ArcGIS Pro Map Project from scratch, this is easy enough. All that you must do is add the desired Layers and BAM! Outside of sprucing up the look and getting your geoprocessing on, that is it. However, what happens to those ArcMap Documents you have worked so tirelessly to create and maintain over the years? Must they be tossed to the side and forever forgotten?

Now, now. Don’t be silly.

With the help of Integrated Marco Pro, you can give these ArcGIS Map Documents and Layer Files the ArcGIS Pro treatment with ease. Converting them to a suitable format (e.g., ArcGIS Pro Map Project) does not take long at all. However, it is advised to first prep your data for a smooth transition. After all, you want your data to be as spiffy as possible prior to meeting ArcGIS Pro for the first time, right?

To help you along in this, we have compiled a game plan for approaching this task with the help of both Integrated Marco Desktop – the ArcMap component of Integrated Marco Studio’s Knowledge Management suite – as well as Integrated Marco Pro, the star pupil as far as ArcGIS Pro is concerned.

Decide on the Map Documents and Layer Files that will be moved to an ArcGIS Pro environment.

This seems simple enough. Prior to moving anything, you must know what you are moving. You may have files in mind, whether they be favorites, most commonly used, or are specific to a project. Regardless, before advancing your data to ArcGIS Pro levels, you need to know what data is going where.

This is easy enough if you already have a plan in mind…but if you don’t? No need to fret. As mentioned previously in The Broken Data Fight of the 21st Century, the Data Inventory tools within Integrated Marco Desktop are designed to help you discern what data is on your network. It will give you an idea of what is there, what is square, and help you be aware.

For basic sleuthing purposes, the Data Inventory Logger tool is the way to go. Running this tool against a Folder or Table produces an inventory of files, their data sources, and whether they may be moved as-is. By this, I mean are the files broken? Must they first be polished and cleaned up? This may seem trivial. We can typically house hundreds of broken ArcGIS Map Documents and Layer Files on our networks without ever realizing it. However, if we are putting in the time and effort to convert data from one ArcGIS environment to another, it is in our best interest to ensure that we can open and view it on the other side.

For example, a basic Data Inventory Log is shown above. Output options are available that detail a bit more about these files, such as Server, Service, and Social Security Number. Kidding, but you know.

Ready for a processing tip not exclusive to Marco? If you are working with a heavy load of datasets, my advice is to work in groups. This could mean more bodies, of course. The more people you have performing conversions, the better. However, I am more so referring to categorizing your data into groups – or even phases – to be addressed. The delineations of each are entirely up to you. However, the location on the network in which these ArcGIS Pro Map Projects will be stored should factor into the order in which they are processed as to keep the workflow (and your data) organized. Using this approach for larger migrations allows you to keep track of what is being modified.

Polish your data, cleaning up any broken data sources.

Did you find a few datasets whose health you were not over the moon with? That's okay. Integrated Marco Desktop is here to help. To fix these datasets prior to pulling them into ArcGIS Pro, all you have to do is follow the typical remapping practices with you may already be familiar with for this application. That is, Spatial Data Sniffer > Remap File > Repoint and Repath. Easy peasy.

The Spatial Data Sniffer tool will help to find the correct data sources for those files previously found with broken paths. This information, paired with the details pulled from the Data Inventory Logger, may be used to compile the Remap File. From there, returning these not-so-useful files back to their healthiest states is just a matter of running the Repoint and Repath tool against the Remap File. Clean as a whistle.

Aside from cleaning up broken data sources, you may wish to do a bit more polishing while your files are still in ArcMap. These suggestions are not quite as necessary as ensuring your data is healthy. However, you may want to give them a thought or two before moving forward…

  • Multiple data frames present? When ArcGIS Map Documents (.mxd) are converted from ArcMap to ArcGIS Pro Map Projects (.aprx), any data frames will be saved as separate maps within the Map Project. Keep this in mind both when opening the new Map Project as well as prepping your data. Ensure data frame names are unique and descriptive and that any necessary content is indeed present.

  • Showing off complex symbology? Because ArcGIS Pro currently (as in, version 1.4) does not play well with complex symbology, you may find that your carefully curated symbols do not transfer exactly from Map Document to Map Project. Although they can always be reimagined once inside of ArcGIS Pro, this is just an issue of which to be aware. When prepping data, you may find it easier to change complex symbols to more minimalist representations as to allow the respective Layers to retain their original symbology in this new environment.

Finally, move it on up to the ArcGIS Pro side.

Once you and your team have decided on the files that will be moved to ArcGIS Pro, the Integrated Marco Pro Add-In for ArcGIS Pro will help you to accomplish this daunting feat. By using the Upgrade Map Documents to Project tool within the Add-In, you can select those files to be converted – and do just that. Convert away. In full disclosure, it is advised to follow the approach previously mentioned for bulk data – modifying based on groups as to ensure you have a record of what is being addressed and where it is being stored.

With this tool, converting an ArcGIS Map Document (.mxd) or Layer File to an ArcGIS Pro Map Project (.aprx) is simple and straight forward. It is amazing the time it can save in taking advantage of this new format, which would previously require rebuilding a map from scratch inside of ArcGIS Pro. We know, nobody has time for that.

Moving on up to ArcGIS Pro has never been easier.


Integrated Marco Studio is a suite of applications built with the ArcGIS platform and Knowledge Management in mind. These Add-Ins and web applications help teams to better manage and maintain the Geographic Information System (GIS) spatial data that they rely upon. Software is intended for use with ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro. More information can be found at


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