What is ArcGIS for Windows Mobile, and is it Better Than ArcPad?

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What is ArcGIS for Windows Mobile, and is it Better Than ArcPad?


ArcGIS for Windows Mobile is the newest line of ESRI solutions for mobile GIS.  ESRI has stated that this product is the future of their mobile solutions, and some people are concerned about ArcPad becoming obsolete and unsupported. Don’t worry. ESRI has a history of supporting legacy products, so if ArcPad is working for you, you probably won’t need to replace it. ArcGIS for Windows Mobile isn’t better or worse than ArcPad - it is different.  Each product has unique advantages for different users and applications. Let’s take a look at some of the differences.

ArcPad has always been better described as “portable GIS” or “GIS Mini.”  ArcPad is a generic solution which is highly customizable in skilled hands. It is the everything- but-the-kitchen-sink software toolkit for Mobile GIS.

ArcGIS for Windows Mobile is part of the ArcGIS Server family.  While that sounds fancy (and expensive), it means that ArcGIS for Windows Mobile and ArcPad belong to different ESRI product lines. ArcGIS for Windows Mobile is much more focused around workflow solutions. Imagine bigger buttons and commonly repeated tasks applied to discrete projects. Let’s look at an example project.

Imagine maybe a landscape company that maintains hundreds of yards. It would make sense to equip your crew with a simple ArcGIS for Windows Mobile product that allows them to document simple work tasks and receive daily work orders without having to visit the main workshop. A daily map could be distributed to your workforce with directions to minimize travel time. Once they started the work, they could have a simple check list to go through before they leave, for example: Yard Mowed, Trees Trimmed, Pool Cleaned, Leaves and Branches Removed. You could also require them to document their time spent and verify job completion with a GPS and photographic record. This workflow would allow you to manage assets, assure customer satisfaction and evaluate personnel. While this may sound simple, having the right device and software in place is essential. ArcGIS for Windows Mobile is designed precisely with this type of custom workflow in mind. ArcPad is not. This type of customization would not be possible in an ArcPad environment.

Pros and Cons of ArcPad and ArcGIS for Windows Mobile


  • Tons of functionality at a great entry level price
  • Great for experienced GIS users who want an entire suite of tools at their disposal out in the field
  • ArcPad while not difficult to operate can sometime be tricky
  • Practice makes for great ArcPad users, just like GIS in general
  • The work flow and processes would be familiar to an experienced GIS user, but often that is not the same person gathering the data
  • It would be difficult to prepare someone to use all the functionality of ArcPad in a one day training session

ArcGIS for Windows Mobile:

  • Very customizable and allows very specific workflows
  • Very easy to use in the field with a minimum amount of training
  • Since it is part of the ArcGIS Server platform it can work in a hosted environment and/or a disconnected environment
  • ArcGIS for Windows Mobile is the “cloud GIS” everyone is talking about 

In my next post I will discuss in more detail the benefits of ArcGIS for Windows Mobile and why people get really excited when talking about the product and the future.

Video courtesy of ESRI.

If you would like to learn more about ikeGPS mobile GIS solutions, click here.


ArcGIS Mobile, recently renamed "ArcGIS for Windows Mobile" is part of the ArcGIS system and therefore available to ArcGIS for Desktop users. At the 10.0 release, every license of ArcGIS for Desktop (ArcView/ArcEditor/ArcInfo) came with a single license of ArcGIS for Windows Mobile. Through the use of Mobile GP Tools found in ArcCatalog, data is "Checked-Out" for use on the Mobile device, allowing the field personnel to work in a disconnected state. Once the collection tasks have been completed, the data is then "Checked-In" through the use of the Mobile GP Tools. 
Please see <a>http://www.esri.com/software/arcgis/arcgismobile/common-questions.html for more info on licensing and leveraging ArcGIS for Windows Mobile with ArcGIS for Desktop.
Posted @ Tuesday, August 02, 2011 1:40 PM by Martin Copping
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