A quick tour of ArcCatalog

ArcCatalog users organize, work with, and manage geographic information in workspaces and geodatabases. Workspaces are simply file folders on disk that are used to organize your GIS work—map documents, imagery and other data files, geoprocessing models, layers, geodatabases, and so on. Workspaces provide a simple way for you to organize and share logical collections of GIS information.

Geodatabases are collections of geographic datasets of various types used in ArcGIS. Geodatabases can be stored and managed in a number of containers:

ArcCatalog helps you by providing an integrated and unified "catalog tree view" of these various sources of information. This view works much like Windows Explorer, enabling you to find, organize, and manage your various ArcGIS documents and datasets.

This topic provides a tour of how ArcCatalog is used and also introduces tasks that can be performed with ArcCatalog.

The ArcCatalog user experience

ArcCatalog provides an integrated and unified view of all the data files, databases, and ArcGIS documents available to you. ArcCatalog uses two primary panels to navigate and work with your geographic information items.

The ArcCatalog application

Use the tree view on the left to navigate to the content folder or geodatabase that you want to work with. Highlight an item in the tree view to view its properties in the right panel. To work with any item, right-click the item to open its shortcut menu, which provides access to a range of tools and operations. For example, you can click New on the shortcut menu for the dataset above to add a new feature class.

Items in the Catalog tree view

The following are some of the items commonly shown in the Catalog tree:

The Catalog Tree view

You can work with the Catalog tree to make new connections, add new items (such as datasets), remove items, copy items, rename them, and so on.

Refreshing ArcCatalog contents

When working in many applications, the information items in the Catalog tree may not display the latest state of all ArcGIS information. In these cases, it is useful to refresh your GIS content.

Right-click the item you want to refresh in the Catalog tree to view its shortcut menu and click Refresh.

Refresh in ArcCatalog
Click Refresh in ArcCatalog to renew information items such as folders and geodatabases.

Adding data to other desktop applications from ArcCatalog

You can drag data from ArcCatalog into other ArcGIS applications. For example, you can drag a dataset onto the ArcMap data frame to add the dataset as a new layer.

Using search in ArcCatalog

ArcCatalog includes the ArcGIS Search window, which you can open by clicking the Search button (Search) on the Standard toolbar.

This displays the Search panel.

The ArcGIS Search panel
Pausing on a search result displays its item description.

See Using Search in ArcGIS for more information.

Working with item descriptions and metadata

You can document datasets, maps, models, globes, and other items in ArcCatalog. This includes the ability to work with standards-based metadata, which can be created, edited, viewed, and exported.

Editing item descriptions (metadata)

Toolbars in ArcCatalog

ArcCatalog contains a number of toolbars that are used to view datasets and perform a number of workspace and information management tasks in ArcGIS. For example, when using the Preview tab to view your data in a map view, you can use the Geography toolbar to zoom and pan across your dataset.

To open a toolbar, expand Toolbars on the main Customize menu and click the desired toolbar.

Here is a quick review of some of the commonly used toolbars in ArcCatalog.

Standard toolbar

This contains a set of commonly used tools for managing items in your catalog and options for viewing their contents and opening ArcMap, ModelBuilder, and other ArcGIS application windows.

The Standard toolbar in ArcCatalog

The Standard toolbar typically appears at the top of the ArcCatalog application.

Functions on the Standard toolbar




Up One Level

Up One Level

Navigate up one level in the Catalog tree

Connect To Folder

Connect To Folder

Connects to ArcGIS contents and documents, which are organized and managed in file folders on disk (also called workspaces)

Disconnect From Folder

Disconnect From Folder

Removes the highlighted folder reference from the Catalog tree (but does not delete any content)



Copies the highlighted item



Pastes the copied item at the cursor location



Deletes the highlighted item

Large Icons

Large Icons

On the Contents tab, displays items using large icons



Displays a list of items on the Contents tab



Displays a detailed list for each item on the Contents tab

Launch ArcMap

Launch ArcMap

Starts a new ArcMap session

Catalog Tree

Catalog Tree Window

Opens the Catalog tree window if it is hidden or closed


Search Window

Opens the Search window


ArcToolbox Window

Opens ArcToolbox


Show Python Window

Shows the Python window in which you can use Python for geoprocessing


ModelBuilder Window

Opens ModelBuilder for creating geoprocessing models

Geography toolbar

When you use the Preview tab and set the view type to Geography, you can pan and zoom your display using the Geography toolbar.

The Geography toolbar

You can also identify features and use the Create Thumbnail button (Create Thumbnail) to generate a thumbnail snapshot that can be inserted into the item description.

Location toolbar

You can use the Location toolbar as an alternative way to add folder connections to the Catalog tree.

The Location toolbar

Metadata toolbar

You can manage the metadata for all of the GIS items within a folder using this toolbar.

The Metadata toolbar in ArcCatalog

Using these tools, you can do the following:

  • Validate (Validate Metadata) the metadata for all of the items in the selected folder.
  • Export the metadata (Export Metadata) to a standard schema.
  • Set and view metadata properties (Metadata Properties) for the highlighted GIS information items.

ArcGIS Server toolbar

You can use the ArcGIS Server toolbar to start, stop, and administer ArcGIS services from ArcCatalog.

The ArcGIS Server toolbar

Common ArcCatalog tasks

Here is a list of some common operations performed in ArcCatalog and links to more information about them: