What's new in ArcGIS 3D Analyst 10.1

ArcGIS 3D Analyst is an extension available for Desktop, Engine, and Server. You will find that the ArcGIS 3D Analyst extension at 10.1 solidifies the 3D GIS story delivered with 10. Continuing to expand a fully functional and easy-to-use solution for visualizing, managing, analyzing, and sharing your GIS information in 3D. The new capabilities at 10.1 target specific user groups by expanding and improving the support in key areas.

Learn more about 3D AnalystSee a quick tour of 3D Analyst

Here is what you can expect for significant improvements with ArcGIS 3D Analyst 10.1:

Who and what was addressed for 10.1?


Targeted users of:

  • Virtual Cities
  • Virtual Campuses
  • Surfaces

Such as:

  • Urban planners, Emergency response, Public safety
  • Facilities managers, Defense, Universities, Hospitals
  • Civil engineers, Defense, Forestry, Government

Improvement and expansion areas:

  • Online integration for 3D
  • Support for authoring and maintaining 3D city and campus-level data
  • Support for point clouds with a focus on airborne lidar (LAS) data

Such as:

  • New options to easily find, consume, and publish 3D GIS data online, as well as an active blog, training videos, and templates.
  • Enhanced performance and usability for urban landscape data as well as an improved editing experience.
  • Several new and upgraded geoprocessing tools, and the ability to consume LAS in 3D natively as points and surfaces.

Online integration of 3D

The ability to consume and share 3D content and analysis results is an essential part of the growing 3D Analyst story in ArcGIS. To enhance the user experience in this regard, 10.1 offers:

A new 3D GIS Resource Center

At 10.1, a new 3D GIS Resource Center was launched to host guide videos and templates. These are aimed to show you how to leverage your potential with 3D analysis, as well as enable you to get comfortable with common workflows using your own data in the recommended setup. You can also browse an active blog for tips and announcements.

New and easier options to find, consume, and publish city data online

ArcGlobe has applied several new improvements to how you consume and share 3D GIS data:

  • You can add basemaps and online services directly to the 3D view. Utilize the options Add Data from ArcGIS online or Add Basemap in ArcGlobe from the Add Data drop-down menu on the Standard toolbar. These are also available through the File menu.
  • You can easily publish globe services. Click File > Share As to start a streamlined workflow to publish your 3D GIS data to the web. A new set of analyzers are automatically applied to flag any potential issues before deploying the document as a globe service.
  • You have access to additional globe services available through ArcGIS online, such as country and state boundary lines and labels.

Improved support for 3D city and campus-level data

It is now easier to maintain, analyze, and share urban landscape data at both the city and building level. ArcGlobe and ArcScene have significantly enhanced the support for both virtual city data (3D city models) and virtual campus data (3D campus models) to improve performance, usability, editing, and analysis.

Visualization improvements for city and campus-level data in 3D include:

  • Navigate through extremely large building datasets in ArcGlobe and ArcScene.
    • ArcGlobe now automatically adjusts the default layer display settings for visualizing buildings. You can now easily add and navigate over 1 million untextured buildings with better performance and usability. ArcScene has also improved its ability to handle large datasets.
  • Display a grid and graticule in ArcGlobe
    • You now have the ability to turn on a reference grid (Military Grid Reference System) or graticule (Lat/Long lines) display to help you locate areas of interest and navigate on the globe. It is purely a visual aid on top of the globe view with no interactivity or analysis capabilities. The on-screen benefit is that you will see greater detail and a finer grid as you zoom in.
  • Downloadable virtual city templates
    • Browse the Template Gallery on the 3D GIS Resource Center for templates that enable you to conduct common workflows by taking out the guess work for how to best set up your document. Examples include volumetric shadow analysis or constructing a textured 3D overpass feature in a virtual city. You can use the templates later for your own projects and substitute your own data ensuring an improved authoring experience.
  • Release of BISDM 3.0
    • Building Interior Space Data Model (BISDM) version 3.0 is now available and includes support for 3D networks (interior network routing) and a structure for storing building assets. The primary purpose of the data model is to provide a structure in GIS to support the aggregation of building information from CAD, BIM, and lidar into a single seamless data source at the facility scale. Although component features are generalized (thinned) down to 2D, the associated 3D height attributes are maintained as attributes so you can generate 3D representations of your building information.
  • New Directional Arrow navigation graphic for ArcScene
    • A new directional arrow in ArcScene provides on-screen feedback to improve the sense of location in 3D space. Accessed through the View Settings dialog box, the three-point arrow graphic represents the x-, y-, and z-axes of your 3D space.

Intuitive editing of city and campus-level data

The editing experience inside ArcScene and ArcGlobe has been improved so that many common tasks are easier to use with better visual feedback.

Move feedback

Improved overall visual feedback to help you better understand where you are moving your selected features to. For example, features that are set to display draped on a surface will move with the look and feel of being draped. This surface-hugging behavior is a more intuitive way to relocate features in a 3D space. There is also a new keyboard shortcut experience to assist by interactively dragging to move in x,y, and in z.

3D anchor points

3D anchor points are now enabled to work with snapping, rotating, and scaling of features. You can now:

  • Move a feature and snap it to a specific spot.
  • Rotate around key locations.
  • Scale about key locations.

Snap to displayed geometry

The snap environment in a 3D edit session will now correctly honor layer settings, such as base heights and extrusion properties. So when snapping to 3D features, the height value is honored when new features are constructed from the snap location. Using this improvement has also allowed the following three tools to perform with better visual feedback by allowing 3D snapping to honor 3D geometry: Copy Parallel, Cut Polygon, and Split Line.

Copy Parallel in Z

3D lines will correctly inherit their z-values when constructed using the Copy Parallel tool. This is useful for 3D interior transportation networks and creating flat road sections over terrains.

Cut Polygon tool feedback

Improved feedback when being used inside the 3D view. The newly created feature will retain the z-values inherited from the source polygon. This is useful for interior spaces and network designs.

Split Line tool feedback

Improved feedback when being used inside the 3D view. The newly created feature will retain the z-values inherited from the source line. This is useful for utilities, for example, if you need to split electric cable lines.

Current Z control when editing

The Current Z control is new functionality for 3D editing in ArcScene. It is adapted from the same experience in ArcMap, except you will see a semitransparent plane defined in the view at a height you specify. This is especially useful for digitizing new features, such as rooms and floors for building interiors.

Feedback for maintaining lines and editing vertices in 3D

The overall 3D editing experience for maintaining lines and polygons in 3D is easier, especially in ArcScene, with the ability to move individual vertices highlighted in the view. You can also constrain the movement to just the z-direction and drag one or more vertices interactively to their new height. Modifying vertex properties can be performed as tasks within the view or using the Edit Sketch Properties window. For more information, refer to the following topics:

Increased support for lidar

Lidar (LIght Detection and Ranging) is increasingly becoming one of the main methods for collecting information about the world around us. ArcGIS 10.1 recognizes the need to meet the growing demand to better manage, visualize, and analyze these huge collections known as point cloud data.

A new data type—LAS dataset

At 10.1, ArcGIS reads LAS files natively, thereby providing immediate access to lidar data without the need for data conversion or import. The LAS dataset has been developed to handle airborne lidar data stored and managed in LAS files. A LAS dataset stores reference to one or more LAS files on disk, as well as to additional surface features.

LAS attributes can be used to filter out content and symbolize the points in 2D and 3D. Also, as lidar data often comes as a group of files, ArcGIS provides the ability to define logical sets of LAS files for working in localized projects.

At 10.1, you can:

  • Quickly view lidar data in 2D (ArcMap) and in 3D (ArcScene)
  • Manage huge volumes of lidar-holding data
  • Display LAS datasets as points or with TIN surface renderers
  • Perform quality assurance checks on LAS files
  • Update lidar class codes
  • Analyze the lidar as a surface
  • Improve the quality of the lidar surface (such as for hydro-enforcement) with constraint features
  • Use LAS point clouds as a backdrop for digitizing 3D features
  • Take height and distance measurements from LAS point clouds
  • Utilize a new and interactive LAS dataset toolbar

With a Standard ArcGIS license you can create a LAS dataset, view it in 2D, include it in a mosaic dataset, and convert it to a raster DEM/DSM. You'll need a 3D Analyst license, however, to view a LAS dataset in 3D, edit LAS class codes, or analyze the LAS dataset with surface analysis tools.

Improved tools for working with lidar data

Several tools have been enhanced for working with lidar data by supporting the LAS dataset as an input surface. These include:

New geoprocessing tools for LAS datasets with flexible licensing requirement levels

Although most tools for working with LAS datasets new at 10.1 require the 3D Analyst extension, some are licensed a little differently to allow more flexibility. The tools located inside the 3D Analyst toolbox require 3D Analyst. The tools located in core toolboxes work if you have one of these three options: 3D Analyst, Spatial Analyst, or ArcGIS Standard.

The 3D Analyst toolbox includes the following LAS tools, all of which require the 3D Analyst extension:

The core Conversion toolbox includes the following LAS tools which have more flexible licensing requirements:

The core Data Management toolbox includes the following LAS tools which have more flexible licensing requirements:

New 3D Analyst geoprocessing tools and enhancements

A large effort was put into creating several new tools and reorganizing existing ones into more logical groupings withing the 3D Analyst toolbox. A full summary of the toolset changes can be found listed inside What's new in the 3D Analyst toolbox.

The following tables provide an overview of the new tools introduced at 10.1:

New tools in the 3D Features toolset

Geoprocessing tool


Buffer 3D

Creates a 3D buffer around point or line features.

Enclose Multipatch

Creates closed multipatch features in the output feature class using the features of the input multipatch.

New geoprocessing tools in the 3D Features toolset

New tools in the Conversion toolset

Geoprocessing tool


LAS Dataset to TIN

Creates a triangulated irregular network (TIN) from the lidar files referenced by a LAS dataset.

New geoprocessing tools in the Conversion toolset

New tools in the Data Management toolset

Geoprocessing tool


Change LAS Class Codes

Change the lidar classification codes of LAS files referenced by a LAS dataset.

Set LAS Class Codes Using Features

Changes lidar class code values assigned to data points using features.

New geoprocessing tools in the Data Management toolset

New tools in the Functional Surface toolset

Geoprocessing tool


Intersect 3D Line With Surface

Computes a geometric intersection of input 3D line features and one or more surfaces to return the intersection as segmented line features and points.

Stack Profile

Creates a table and optional graph denoting the profile of line features over one or more multipatch, raster, TIN, or terrain surfaces.

New geoprocessing tools in the Functional Surface toolset

New tools in the Visibility toolset

Geoprocessing tool


Sun Shadow Volume

Creates a model of the shadows cast by the sun for each input feature on a given date and time.

New geoprocessing tools in the Visibility toolset

Enhanced 3D Analyst geoprocessing tools

As mentioned in the previous section, there were several tools specifically improved for working with lidar data to support a LAS dataset as an input surface.

Several other geoprocessing tools were enhanced overall for 3D Analyst in10.1 and are outlined in the table below.




3D Features toolset

Difference 3D

An optional output table can be created to establish the relationships between the collection of features removed from the original collection of multipatch features.

Intersect 3D (3D Analyst)

Supports more input and output geometry types. The available options are:

  • SOLID—Creates a closed multipatch representing the overlapping volumes between input features. This is the default.
  • SURFACE—Creates a multipatch surface representing shared faces between input features.
  • LINE—Creates a polyline feature class representing shared edges between input features.

Conversion toolset

LAS To Multipoint

A new parameter has been added to specify input folders will be recursively scanned to read lidar files in their subdirectories.

This flag will allow for more easily importing of nested folders of LAS files.

Point File Information

Reports more accurate point spacing.

Functional Surface toolset

Add Surface Information

An additional input type has been added for polygons in order to summarize surface characteristics by area.

Visibility toolset

Construct Sight Lines

Added new output fields:

  • OBSRVR_OID—The OID of the observer point.
  • TARGET_OID—The OID of the target feature.
  • DIST_ALONG—The distance along the target feature if it's a line or polygon.

Line of Sight

A new output field, OBSTR_MPID, has been added to identify multipatch obstructions. This new field is populated with the ObjectID of the feature which blocks the line of sight.

Other 3D Analyst enhancements

There are several usability improvements incorporated to the overall 3D Analyst functionality.


  • Improved level of detail for BING map layer consumed from ArcGIS Online
  • Scalability—the undo/redo edit stack for 3D editing is more reliable
  • Interactive 3D Selection capabilities in ArcGlobe and ArcScene
    • There are three selection tools now in both ArcGlobe and ArcScene. Selection functionality by dragging a rectangle is available from the main selection tool on the Tools toolbar and also using the Edit Placement tool during an edit session. Open the Select Features drop-down arrow on the toolbar to access and switch between the other methods—Select By Draped Envelope and Select By 3D Box. Interactive selection is more intuitive in a 3D space as you can now drag over a surface to select multiple features, or press SHIFT to expand a 3D box making it easier to select features stacked in 3D.
    • The primary selection tool, Select by Screen Rectangle, has built-in dragging gesture capabilities to refine your selection experience. When dragging in a left to right motion, only features completely within the box will be selected. Alternatively, dragging from the right to the left will include features that are both completely and partially within the box.
  • More alerts (pop-up messages) to appear and inform when ArcGlobe or ArcScene needs to take an action as a result from the current situation. These include:
    • You will be notified when display settings will be autocorrected when trying to consume large datasets.
    • Before starting an edit session, if any layer is identified as having layer offsets, that property will be turned off during an edit session but will be reapplied afterwards.
  • More on-screen tools and interactive tools to make your navigation and editing experiences more intuitive: Grid and Graticule, Directional arrow, Area of Interest selection, and many keyboard shortcuts to simplify editing, selecting, and navigating the 3D view.


Area of Interest tool—You can now interactively reduce the extent of your 3D view in ArcScene by creating an area of interest box. This greatly improves performance and targets specific work areas. All features that are completely outside of the box will discontinue to be rendered until the extent is reset.

Shadow Analysis—The user experience for creating and analyzing feature shadows has been greatly enhanced. With one tool, the Feature Shadow Volume tool, it allows you to create shadow volumes for 3D features such as buildings. Also, on the 3D GIS Resource Center, there are templates that show you how to create shadow volumes over time and analytical shadow maps.

Grading Tool—The TIN Editing toolbar has a newly added interactive tool to the drop-down menu. Grade From Centerline is used to modify the TIN surface based on grading parameters applied to a selected linear feature. This is useful for adding roads and berm-like features to your TIN surface.

Profile Graph—This tool has been enhanced to support a default graph template. This means that there are preset design options for how you want the graph to be displayed.

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