Exploring ArcGIS Earth Features & Capabilities

Let's unpack some interesting features from ArcGIS Earth that you could start using today while you explore the earth from satellite data.

Exploring ArcGIS Earth Features & Capabilities
Photo by Louis Reed

You are probably familiar with other earth exploration platforms such as Google Earth that give you a satellite view of the Earth.

In this article, I am going to be exploring ArcGIS Earth and some of the features that are worth mentioning.

Before we go any further, ArcGIS Earth is a simple, lightweight, easy-to-use desktop application. And guess what? It is free to use. Before we get any excited about the free part, let's see what ArcGIS Earth has to offer.

Interactive Analysis

The best way to analyze data is through an interactive interface that allows you to move between place and point.

Some of the interactive analysis tools,

  • the Elevation Profile is a depiction of a two-dimensional cross-sectional view of a landscape. It provides a side view of a terrain's elevation along a line drawn between locations on a map.
Elevation profile sample in Manicaland Zimbabwe

As you can see in the screenshot above, you can get a sample of the elevation in any area that you might be planning to work in or explore.

  • Line of sight in GIS is a phrase used to describe the unimpeded view or access from one point to another point across terrain or surface.
Line of Sight

From the image, the green lines show the areas which the user standing at the blue mark can see clearly, while the red portions have an obscured view. Some portions do not have a line, suggesting any visibility within those portions.

  • the viewshed is the geographical area that is visible from a location. It includes all surrounding points that are in the line of sight with that location and excludes points that are beyond the horizon or obstructed by terrain and other features (e.g., buildings, trees).

This is more like the Line-of-Sight tool. The only difference is the presentation, in this case, the area and line representation.


This one is basic for most earth exploration tools. You definitely can measure lines, areas, and all sorts of different stuff.

One feature that caught my attention from ArcGIS Earth is the 3D measure tool.

This gives you the ability to measure the horizontal, vertical, and directions. Pretty interesting right?

Exaggeration Tools

I know a lot of analysts and cartographers who love to exaggerate feel components to make the visuals more compelling and easy to notice.  

This is also possible here;

If you check over to your right screen, you will see options like;

  • 3D effects
  • Underground mode
  • Daylight

I haven't used these, but I believe they are worth a shot.

Connection with ArcGIS Online & Personal Data Files

Well, this is my favorite feature. If you are already an ArcGIS Online user, this could help you bring your data into the Earth application and do some great stuff.

I have connected my Organizational account as you can see. The data being presented there is from our COVID-19 Hub for Zimbabwe.

  • you can also connect with the Living Atlas, which is a large pool of open data on the ArcGIS online platform.
  • get a URL of a service hosted online and bring the data

Don't have an ArcGIS Online? The application also gives you the option to upload your shapefiles, geodatabases, and other data formats.

Drawing & Saving

Tired of digitizing data and then manually uploading it to your ArcGIS online account? This tool has an inbuilt functionality that allows you to publish your newly created datasets directly to your portal or Organization account.

Here, I drew a polygon just to illustrate the Share KML to Panel to Portal tab that you can also leverage.

Free Access

Okay, I had mentioned this earlier on. When people hear the word 'ArcGIS', they usually associate everything with a required fee. For this desktop application, it's a bit different because you do not need to even sign-up for an account.

Anyone can download ArcGIS Earth here.

Okay, so these are the features that you could start leveraging today with ArcGIS Earth. I left out some functionality that is most common in most platforms like the;

  • change base map
  • map creation
  • sharing among others.

There is also lots of documentation about this resource for anyone interested in getting tutorials, educational material, and a better insight on this. Simply head over to this link - https://www.esri.com/en-us/arcgis/products/arcgis-earth/resources