Desktop GIS Workstation Computer Specifications

Back to GIS and Permit/Use Mapping Development

To:  Interested Parties
From:  Rosemary Neal, GIS CAC Coordinator, DPR
Date:  January 19, 2001
Subject:  Desktop GIS Workstation Computer Specifications

Which ArcViewGIS is right for you?
The year 2001 will bring the introduction of a new version of ArcView from ESRI. The new ArcView 8.1 is an entirely new ArcView because it is a huge leap forward from ArcView 3.x, with an entirely new architecture and user environment. ArcView 8.1 not only maintains the base functionality of ArcView 3.x, it also adds many new features that users have needed and requested for many years. These include on-the-fly coordinate and datum projection, built in customization with Microsoft's Visual Basic for Applications (VBA ), a catalog for browsing and managing data, support for annotation, new editing tools, and much more.

ArcView 8.1
ArcView 8.1 is built using the same, scalable, unified, and extensible architecture as ArcInfo 8.1 and is fully interoperable with all ArcGIS software (ArcInfo, ArcEditor, ArcSDE, ArcIMS) and the new ArcGIS extensions. At version 8.1, the user interface and applications are the same as ArcInfo. The three applications are ArcMap, ArcCatalog, and ArcToolbox. ArcMap is the map-centric application for display, query, and analysis that expands on the familiar concepts and interfaces of ArcView 3.x. ArcCatalog is a completely new tool to ArcView users. With ArcCatalog, you can browse, manage, create, and organize your geographic and tabular data. In addition, ArcCatalog comes with support for several popular metadata standards to allow you to create, edit, and view information about your data. ArcView 8.1 also includes ArcToolbox with basic data conversion tools. Designed for Windows, ArcView 8.1 includes VBA for customization, Component Object Model (COM)-based tools for advanced customization, and is fully interoperable with Microsoft Office and other Windows applications. In addition, ArcView 8.1 is Internet-enabled to facilitate the integration of Internet map data with your local data.

At the 8.1 release, ArcView and ArcInfo merge into a single, integrated platform. Users will see a common user interface, common architecture, and a single development environment. ArcView is available as a single-use or concurrent license. Regardless of the license type, the functionality of ArcView is identical. ArcGIS extensions are also licensed as either single use or concurrent. Single-use extensions operate only with the single-use version of ArcView. Concurrent extensions operate with ArcInfo, ArcEditor, and the concurrent version of ArcView. Users can upgrade to either single-use or concurrent licenses. The concurrent license, however, has two distinct advantages. First, it can float or be shared across the network. Second, it can share concurrent extensions.

ArcViewGIS 3.2a
Due to the huge popularity of ArcView 3.x software, there is an enormous knowledgebase established in the GIS community. Many organizations have invested significant amounts of time and resources in the development of ArcView 3.x functionality, and as a result ESRI will continue to support, maintain, and license ArcView 3.x after ArcView 8.1 is available. ArcView 3.2a offers users a highly customizable GIS product that is well known in the GIS arena.

DPR's position regarding GIS software and the CACs: DPR and to date at least 20 CACs continue to use ArcViewGIS 3.2. A number of customized extensions and scripts have been developed for the pesticide permitting and use report programs, and DPR intends to provide support for this application for the foreseeable future. DPR's GIS users group will evaluate upgrading to ArcView 8.1 in the future.

Software Costs:

Current market price for ArcView 3.2a ~$1100

  • The projected release date for ArcView 8.1 is by the beginning of the 2nd quarter, 2001.
  • No firm pricing structure exists for the 8.1 product at this time, but the initial cost for new users is expected to be ~$1500.
  • To upgrade from an existing ArcView 3.2a license will cost between $600 and $700.
  • Purchase of an annual maintenance contract ($595) for existing ArcView 3.2a license will provide users with a years free upgrades and technical support, including the "big" upgrade to version 8.1.
  • Purchase of a new copy of ArcView 3.2a and the maintenance agreement at the same time will entitle the purchaser to a reduced maintenance fee of $495, free upgrades and technical support for one year.
  • Users wishing to continue to use the ArcView 3.2a architecture can expect to be able to purchase upgrades to any future releases of this product (e.g. version 3.3, etc).

Pros and Cons

ArcViewGIS 8.1 Pros

  • New architecture, transparent usage with ArcInfo
  • Enhanced functionality, cataloguing capabilities, and metadata support
  • Expandable to take advantage of additional ArcInfo functionality
  • VB/VBA customization is an industry standard
  • True network installation available


  • Completely different to ArcView 3.2a
  • Will require significant amount of personnel retraining
  • No longer supports the Avenue programming language
  • Slightly more expensive than ArcView 3.2a

ArcViewGIS 3.2a Pros

  • Well established knowledgebase
  • Established skills available in the workforce
  • DPR, Counties, and CACs familiar with the technology


  • Is not the newest technology
  • Uses proprietary Avenue programming language
  • Does not support on-the-fly coordinate and datum projection
  • Essentially a single-user application

Questions to consider when making the software choice:

  1. What GIS software is used by the local county agencies?
  2. Does the county's IT department have GIS standards and requirements?
  3. What GIS experience does the CAC currently have?
  4. Does the CAC expect to work more closely with DPR than with their county departments when developing a GIS?
  5. What level of commitment to GIS is the CAC willing to make?
  6. Do any CAC staff have Visual Basic programming experience?

Which Hardware should you choose?

ESRI's Recommended Minimum Specifications for ArcView GIS 3.2a and 8.1


ArcViewGIS 3.2a

ArcViewGIS 8.1


Windows 95/98/2000 and
Windows NT 4.0

Windows 2000 or
Windows NT 4.0 (SP5)

System Requirements

Pentium Processor

128 MB RAM
Minimum 450 MHz Processor

DPR Recommended System Enhancements to Consider

Computer:  800MHz Pentium III
Memory:  256 MB RAM
Monitor:  19" monitor with 32MB VRAM
Hard Drive:  18GB
Media Drives:  40X IDE CD-ROM, 1.44MB Floppy
Operating System:  Windows NT 4.0 or 2000
Printer:  8.5" x 11" color inkjet

Additional Enhancements

Computer:  1GHz Pentium III or 1.5GHz Pentium IV
Memory:  1 GB RAM
Monitor:  21" monitor with 32MB VRAM
Hard Drive:  Two 18GB
Media Drives:  12x8x32 IDE CD-RW
Printer:  Large format Color Printer (24" x 36"), Postscript Compatible*

*Recommended for printing transparent layers over imagery.

If you have any further questions, please contact Rosemary Neal at or (909) 684-8625.