Section Seven: The ArcGIS Help Menu

In order to become a GIS pro, utilizing the built-in help is essential. When ArcGIS is installed on a computer, the local help is also installed.  Found in the Help menu in the menu bar, the “ArcGIS Desktop Help” option will open the local help. By opening the books along the left side will get you the help topic you need. If you know the name of the tool or action you are looking for, you can search for it in the Search tab.

Figure 4.16: ArcGIS Local Help Menu
The Help Menu option in the Help Drop Down MenuThe ArcGIS built in help menu

Another version of the help menu is available online at This page is updated when ever it is needed, versus the built in help, which is only updated upon software updates.

Figure 4.17: ArcGIS Local Help Menu
The ArcGIS Online Help Menu

When you visit the online help, you will notice it is set up a lot like this wiki (the other way around, really). That was an intentional effort to help make the transition from GIS 101 to utilizing the GIS help seamless.

When it comes to learning to use the software beyond this class, the ArcGIS help menu is the best resource out there (beyond taking more GIS classes, but even then, you’ll use the help menu). I, and every GIS technician/analyst I know, use the help on a daily basis. From looking up tools to remember which tool does what to finding the proper Python syntax when writing custom tools, ESRI did an amazing job with the help menu. Throughout the wiki, you will find links to ArcGIS help articles for various tools and processes. Clicking through the link and skimming the article is considered mandatory in this class, since the overall goal is to prepare you to be an independent GIS user. Learning to read help articles is fundamental to the process of developing good software skills.