Getting Started with the ArcGIS-R Bridge

by | Apr 10, 2017

This blog post tells you how to install and get started with the ArcGIS-R bridge.

Installing the ArcGIS-R bridge

The installation for both ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro is pretty straightforward: after a clone or download from its GitHub repository, you can find detailed installation instruction of the tool in a file that can be opened with a code editor such as Sublime Text 2 or Brackets. This documentation contains a URL to a 16-page PDF with documentation of the tool that is recommended to read before getting started.

In order to install the ArcGIS-R bridge, you need to run a script called “Install R bindings” from the Catalog window ArcMap to install the tool. In Pro, you need to select the Projects pane and add the toolbox through Toolbox -> Add Toolbox, open it and run it from there.

Getting started

If everything works, you are able to access ArcGIS data from R. R works best by using an IDE of your choice, the most popular one being RStudio. From here, you can load the arcgisbinding ArcGIS-R bridge library you have just downloaded and installed, by initializing a connection to ArcGIS by typing the following code in the console:

>> library(arcgisbinding)

When you hit enter, you will be asked to have R define your ArcGIS desktop license, like this:

>> arc.check_product()

After running this command, the console will print your product and license. You´re now ready to read in your spatial data from ArcGIS by selecting a data source, which can be a feature class, layer or table:

>> Input <-´mygeodatabase.gdb/myfeatures´)

If necessary, you can make a selection of this data source by using and specify a SQL query that selects only a subset of the data you´ve just read in with By using, a dataset is loaded to a standard data frame. A data frame in R is used for storing data tables, containing a list of vectors of equal length.

>> Filtered.df <-, fields = “*”, where_clause = “”)

For performing analysis in R with this spatial data, it needs to be represented as sp objects. R users will be familiar with sp, a package that provides classes and methods for spatial data. The arcgisbinding package provides the Arc.data2sp function, which performs the conversion to sp objects:

>> <- arc.data2sp(filtered.df)

Now you´re ready to use R functionality on your spatial data – this is why the tool was created after all. Afterwards, you can your results back to a new feature class with arc.write and access it in ArcMap or Pro by refreshing the work map where the data sits:

>> arc.write(‘mygeodatabase.gdb/my_new_features’, myresults.df)

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Changing RStudio to a 32 or 64 bit-version

Depending on if you´re using ArcMap or Pro, you need to use a corresponding 32-bit or 64-bit version of RStudio. If RStudio prompts you to use a different version than the one you´re using now, there´s no need to install a second version of RStudio, but instead change the current version to the preferred one by choosing Tools -> Global Options and clicking “change” on the right where it says “R Version”, which is the first option of the menu. Such a change may be necessary as RStudio’s default version corresponds to the installed version of R and not ArcMap or Pro. If you´re running ArcMap and Pro on the same machine and use the ArcGIS-R bridge, this can come in handy.


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Eric van Rees
Eric van Rees is a freelance writer and editor. His specialty is GIS technology. He has more than eight years of proven expertise in editing, writing and interviewing as editor and editor-in-chief for the international geospatial publication GeoInformatics, as well as GIS Magazine and CAD Magazine, both published in Dutch. Currently, he writes about geospatial technology for various clients, publications and blogs.

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