GIS users work with interactive maps. There is a series of GIS map applications that provide the primary interfaces through which users work with ArcGIS. Map documents (ArcMap MXDs) and ArcGIS Web Maps are used to encapsulate maps that are used and shared across these applications.
GIS maps provide the primary user interface for many GIS applications. Users can point to map features to display information about them, discover new relationships, perform editing and analysis, and efficiently communicate results using geographic views.
A number of alternative GIS map applications can be deployed in various application frameworks to support many types of users and tasks. They include the following:
ArcGIS Desktop users (users of ArcView, ArcEditor, ArcInfo, and often custom ArcGIS Engine applications) employ a rich set of mapping applications, such as ArcMap, to perform their daily work. ArcGIS Desktop provides professional GIS applications for map authoring and map use, working with 3D scenes and globes, data compilation, running GIS analysis, and publishing GIS information products for use by others in your organization.
Typical tasks in professional GIS map applications include these:
Web maps are used by a wide-ranging audience from citizens to field-workers, operations staff, managers, and executives and are published in concert with ArcGIS Server. Web GIS applications have a user experience much like many of the consumer Web maps such as Google Maps and Microsoft Bing Maps.
You can create and share your own custom Web map applications powered by powerful, back-end map and geoservices hosted by ArcGIS Server. You can easily combine (that is, mash up) Web maps with one another.
Here is a list of some typical tasks that are used in custom applications:
ArcGIS Explorer is a free application from ESRI that you can share with any of your users. Explorer is used to build interactive Web maps that provide 2D and 3D views of geographic information. These GIS maps can integrate many information sets. ArcGIS Explorer typically relies on ArcGIS Web and other Web services (KML, WMS, and so forth), but can also use local datasets.
Here are some ArcGIS Explorer characteristics:
The wide adoption of mobile wireless devices (advances in cell phones) and the universal use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) are fueling the growth in mobile GIS. ArcGIS includes mobile capabilities that work on wireless devices (using the mobile Web) as well as devices with advanced GPS capabilities for field data collection and mapping applications. Mobile wireless appliances use standard Web map frameworks, while Tablet PCs and professional GPS devices use special maps that you can take to the field on your mobile appliance using ArcGIS Mobile technologies.