Stand-alone applications enable users to use geographic information systems (GIS) without using ArcGIS for Desktop applications. They can create a custom graphic user interface (GUI) experience, or provide GIS functionality without an interactive experience.
Some advantages of building a stand-alone application include the following:
Creating cost effective ArcGIS Engine applications for mapping and visualization.
The code and logic behind the application can be hidden in a binary file (.exe).
Making use of all the functionality available in ArcObjects.
Creating fast, non-GUI applications to perform large processing tasks.
Once you've built your application, you will need to deploy it as outlined in Deploying stand-alone applications.
Stand-alone applications serve a number of user needs. This section will help you determine the type of stand-alone application to build to best serve your end user.
If you have an end user who needs a very focused application, you can use the ArcGIS Engine controls to create a custom GUI application. Many commands and tools are available out of the box for use in these applications, or you can create custom tools to further focus the application.
When developing a GUI application, you can use Windows Forms or Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). Using Windows Forms, you can create applications that are similar to ArcMap in look and feel, or you can create a completely unique GUI experience with either Windows Forms or WPF. Your applications can also incorporate any of the controls provided in either Windows Forms or WPF. Topics on using Windows Forms with ArcGIS Engine controls can be found in the Using the Windows Forms controls section of this Help system. Topics on using WPF with ArcGIS Engine controls can be found in the Using ArcGIS Engine controls in WPF section. If you've decided to develop with WPF, you will have additional design decisions to make, outlined in Using ArcGIS Engine controls in WPF.
If you need to create an application to provide data processing or analysis, without a visual mapping component, you can build a console application. An end user can run your created .exe manually or schedule it to create a daily process. Topics to assist you in creating console applications can be found in Building a console solution.
If you are working with an existing application and need to incorporate GIS functionality into it (either visual or non-visual, such as a map or a query of data), you can incorporate ArcObjects programming into your existing application. You will need to add licensing for ArcObjects development, then proceed as previously outlined for GUI and non-GUI applications.
You may have a user who wants to automate using one of the ArcGIS for Desktop applications, driving that application from a separate process space. See Automating the ArcGIS for Desktop applications section of this Help system for details.