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“When will ArcGIS Run on a Mac?”

August 8, 2011

Esri logoNote: in the ~2 years months since the post below was written, some things have changed.  The 2013 Esri User Conference Q & A (July 2013) notes: “Q: Can Esri develop a simple Mac-based viewer for ArcGIS Online?” – See the answer at: . Also, “Q: When will Esri support native Mac OS and Mac hardware?” – See the answer at:

In the late 1980s, Macintosh computers were commonplace on the desks of Esri staff.  People used them to write documentation, design graphics, and write proposals.  About the only thing we didn’t do with them was run Esri software.

Esri actually did make software that ran on the Apple platform at one time.  This was back in the early 1981, when a short-lived product called “Gridapple” was released for the pre-Mac Apple II platform.  Gridapple was the first microcomputer implementation of Esri’s raster-based “Grid” system.

In the early 1990s, during the early days of ArcView, Esri was working on a port of ArcView to the Macintosh, but due to engineering challenges it never got beyond pre-release.

As it does every year, the question came up again at the 2011 Esri International User Conference: “When will ArcGIS Run on a Mac?” This question was addressed at the UC Closing Session on Friday.

“We’d love to be on the Mac, but we have engineering priorities…so we have to ask ourselves what’s most important for our users,” said Jack Dangermond.  “That focus is very important and we want to make sure that we don’t spread our resources too thin. In theory, we could spread our resources more on platforms and thus less on functionality. But would you want us to slow down advancement of the basic tool in order to deploy on a Mac?”

Of the approximately 1,600 people attended the Closing Session, only one or two people raised their hands.

But don’t count a Mac version of ArcGIS out yet.  Dangermond added “We’ll probably start moving more towards supporting the Mac at the next release after ArcGIS 10.1.”

Scott Morehouse provided a little more detail: “The architecture changes we’re making with ArcGIS 10.1 are allowing us to break some of the deep integration with Windows that we’ve built through the component architecture. That complexity of moving to the Mac is getting easier because the component architecture is going away. This is helping us work better on Linux and other environments and that engineering work does allow us to work more on building a native Mac OS application. The problem is figuring out how to allocate resources to support Window versus Mac or the lightweight clients like Android, mobile hosted services, etc. So it’s a technical problem. It’s also a resource problem.”

Meanwhile, Apple users are not left high and dry—there are several options available to let you use your Apple devices as entry points into the ArcGIS system. “I see this issue three ways,” said Chris Cappelli, a self-professed Mac bigot. “First, we’re aggressively supporting the iOS platform for mobile Mac users so they can leverage online GIS and the ArcGIS system. Secondly, our browser-based products like ArcGIS Explorer Online can be used on a Mac. When I need to make maps on my Mac, I always use ArcGIS Explorer Online. Lastly, if I ever need to run ArcGIS Desktop, I have a virtual machine that runs Windows 7. I can run ArcGIS Desktop from there.”

  1. August 8, 2011 9:51 am

    While I would really like to see ArcGIS Desktop for the Mac, 64-bit and multicore support (long overdue) is a much higher priority for me. It’s easy to set up a virtual machine, but if a program only can use 2GB of RAM you are stuck.

  2. August 8, 2011 2:01 pm

    How timely as I was at the Apple store today trying to decide whether to jump on the macbook bandwagon. My needs are not so computationally intensive, but I would be able to use standard spatial analyst functions for gridding and time stepping with my own data.

  3. August 30, 2011 12:53 pm

    I agree with Jarlath. When manipulating the massive data files often used in a GIS, 64-bit and multicore support are the best uses of ESRI’s resources. Mac fanboys can figure out a work-around or buy a PC. Welcome to computing in science, we’re not Mac-compatible.

  4. Thanxal permalink
    October 3, 2011 8:53 am

    I am so very sorry to hear this and the comments.

    I moved my entire lab and personal computers to Macs three years ago after wasting so much time on Windows crashes, viruses and hardware problems that I actually spent more time on computer science than gi science. I documented it and we were spending about 18% of our time on servicing machines*. After Macs, less than 1%.

    Right now, we run Parallels to load Arc GIS and Erdas Imagine. They are both far more stable on Macs, even when running virtualized Windows machines, which surprised us.

    Perhaps ESRI is not considering users needs as much as it should because users are locked into Windows mindsets. The same might be true for Linux although we did not choose to use it for other reasons.

    Note: these are simply my observations.

    *about = some tasks were deeply ingrained OS issues, such as Office problems. We discounted these as separate software issues.

  5. January 28, 2012 9:22 am

    It is hilarious to suggest that “science” only runs on windows. ArcGIS is just a decade behind supporting macs, linux…etc. Have you had a look at the markets in the last 12 years…yeah nobody likes Mac products. Simple stated, ArcGIS will be irrelevant if you cant support the machines people are buying. Suggestion…pay somebody else to get your product to run on other platforms. Win, more people will use your software, Win your engineers will have plenty of time to develop features.

  6. Rick permalink
    February 28, 2012 2:01 pm

    Qgis and Cartographica both run on mac’s

  7. laura g permalink
    July 27, 2012 9:06 am

    The “solution” of buying Parallels or Bootcamp and Windows OS and running a virtual machine on your Mac isn’t really a solution. First of all, the cost to get Parallels/Bootcamp AND Windows OS in addition to the ArcGIS software is prohibitive (especially for those of us working in international non-profits with minuscule budgets). Furthermore, you don’t avoid the major problems inherent in the Windows OS, which is a part of the reason many of us switch to Apple products. ArcGIS desperately needs to catch up to current technology.

  8. Cyrille MENGUY permalink
    September 25, 2012 1:17 am

    If like me you really want that ArcGIS can run on a Mac (and if you are already ESRI customers) you can vote on ArcGIS Idea’s here :
    Just promote the idea and if we get a high score ESRI can’t ignore us.
    All people that want ArcGIS to run on Mac have to tell it to ESRI. This is just a question of money. If we are many to tell ArcGIS that we would buy a Mac version of ArcGIS prior to a Windows version then it will be gainful to ESRI to do it… so they would do it for sure!

  9. Alan Dyck permalink
    February 19, 2013 11:49 am

    I have been waiting for over half an hour for arcmap to load on my PC. If this were a Mac I would have already been working. There needs to be a native version of ArcMap for Mac.


  1. GIS on the Mac | GIS Lounge

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