Up and Running with ArcGIS
Illustration by John Hersey

Up and Running with ArcGIS

with Adam Wilbert

Video: Labeling features

Almost all maps rely on clearly Let's go ahead and say OK to accept Here we have further options for formatting our text, doing Now I might decide that I like this, or we can go in and change it again.

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Watch the Online Video Course Up and Running with ArcGIS
3h 13m Beginner Mar 11, 2014

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Get up and running with ArcGIS, a true geographic information system (GIS) that allows you to dig into highly accurate geospatial data in a way other mapping applications can't compete with. It's great creating maps, analyzing data for land use studies and other reports, and preparing data for use in an application or database. Let Adam Wilbert show you how to display, analyze, and illustrate geospatial data with ArcGIS. He explores how to import data from multiple sources, manage it with the ArcGIS catalog, and then start making maps. Learn how to lay out your data in the ArcMap component; add symbols, scale bars, and legends; and get your maps out of ArcGIS and into the real world, whether it's for printing or export to another application.

Topics include:
  • Understanding vector vs. raster data
  • Modifying metadata
  • Adding data to a map
  • Importing data from online providers
  • Labeling features
  • Joining data
  • Clipping data to a study area
  • Working with map layouts
  • Creating a legend
  • Printing and exporting the map to a file
Business Developer IT
Adam Wilbert

Labeling features

Almost all maps rely on clearly identifying the depicted features through labeling. We've seen how we can use the Identify tool to click on each feature and find out addition information about it. But that can be a pretty tedious way to explore the map. Especially since the Identify window only displays information for one feature at a time. Luckily for us, we have an entire database of information behind each feature on our map. And labeling becomes a simple task of deciding which fields from the attribute table, we want to see printed right on the map itself. So let's go ahead and start labeling our Washington Dairy Farm map.

First, I'm going to turn off the Roads and Cities layers to clean up the display a little bit. Then, I'm going to click on the counties. I'll right click on it, and come down to, Label Features. I'll turn that on, and we'll see that we get labels indicating the name of each county in Washington state. Now this comes in with a default symbology. I'm going to go ahead and change this, by double-clicking on the County label here, to open up the properties. Another way of getting to the properties is to right-click on the feature, and choose Properties from the pop up list. In the Properties, I'm going to click on the Labels tab here, and we see that we have an option here to turn the labels on or off, for this check box here.

We can also choose to label all the features the same way, or define classes of features and label each class differently. I'm going to choose to label all of my counties exactly the same, so I'll leave it with a default option. This next option down here, asks me which attribute field I want to use for my label, and it's identified Name 10 as the attribute that contains the names. If that's not correct, I can use the drop down list and choose any of the other attributes from the Counties table, in order to display on the map. I'm going to leave it as Name 10. Down below, we have the option to change its font, style, and colors, so I can go ahead and maybe change it to a bold font.

And every time I make a change I can press Apply here, to have the map updated in the background, so I can see what a bold font looks like, but its Arial at eight points. We have some options down here to go into, placement properties. By default, all of our labels are going to be horizontal. We also have the option to keep them straight, and best fit them to the polygon that they're in, or to try horizontal first and then straight if we can't fit it there. We also have a check box to force the label to only appear inside of the polygon. So it might not display outside of the polygon like this one over here.

I have options down here to remove duplicate labels if we have multiple polygons for a feature. For instance, some of our island counties might accidentally get duplicate labels, so I might turn on to remove duplicates. We also have an option over here for conflict detection. When you're labeling your map, you might have lots of labels that land on top of each other. In here we can specify which labels take priority for placement. I can label them as high priority, medium, or low priority labels. Let's go ahead and say OK to accept the default options here, and I'm going to go into this symbol button right here, to further refine the symbol the way my labels are looking here.

We'll press Symbol, and that'll pull up a symbol selector, where I can choose from a collection of pre-made font and style choices. I can change my color, my font style, the size, whether it's bold, italic, or underlined, or strike through. And if I want some additional information, I can click on Edit Symbol here to further refine it. Here we have further options for formatting our text, doing some advanced fill and background patterns, or applying a halo mask. A halo will apply a white border around our font, so we might be able to see it on top of other features clearly.

I'm going to say OK to see what that looks like on top of my map. We'll say OK again, and we'll say Apply to apply that white halo. Now we're going to see what that looks like. And now you can see that my labels have been rotated so they fit best inside of the polygons that they're in. Now I might decide that I like this, or we can go in and change it again. Back at my layout properties, we're going to go into Placement Properties, back to placement, and I'm going to say always horizontal to keep it horizontal. We'll say OK there, I'm going to go back into Symbol Properties here. And I'm going to edit the symbol, and I'm going to go back in that Mask tab where chose to have a halo.

Now, if I don't want the halo to be white, I need to go in and change the halo color, and once again I'm going to go in a new menu. This time Symbol here, and this time we can change how this halo is colored. So I'm going to choose a fill color here to match the background of my map. I'm going to choose this swatch here, the apple dust color, which is the same color that we chose for the Washington background. We'll go ahead and say OK, OK, OK, and finally Apply. And you'll see that my halos update to be a green color. Now you may not see them at first, because they blend in with the background. You can see where it crosses maybe another white border, or if I move this out of the way, here the island counties for example, you can see it's much cleaner where you don't have intersections between the text and the features below.

So that looks good for my county boundaries. Let's go ahead and say OK. And I'm going to go now and label my dairy farms. This time I'll double click on dairy farms, going to go to the Labels tab. This time I'll choose to label features in this layer, the label field is giving me the facility name, and I'm going to choose a color here flame red. We'll go ahead and leave the default size and color, we'll go ahead and check out the pr, the Placement properties. Now the Placement properties for a point feature, indicates where around the point our label is going to fall. This white box represents our point feature, and the numbers around the side, indicate the placement priority of where that might lie.

So for instance, in this placement priority, the upper right-hand corner is where our label will try to go first. And if it can't go there because of collisions with other labels, it'll try and put that label to the top left and above, or to the right, or to the bottom right. And if you can't put it in any of those places, it'll then move the label over to the left side or the bottom. We'll go ahead and say OK to accept these default point settings, and this time I want to take a look at scale range, here. Here we can specify that our labels only appear at certain scales, and by default it's going to say, use the same scale range as a feature layer.

So if the feature is available, then the labels are going to show. We'll leave it like that for now, and I'll go ahead and say OK, and Apply, and I'll say OK one more time to finish the layer properties for our dairy farms. You'll see that we get a lot of labels on this map, so it gets really crowded really fast. Let's go ahead and use one of our bookmarks that we set up earlier. We'll go to bookmarks, and Bellingham. Now, let's say we only want the labels for our dairy farms to show up when we're at this scale. If we zoom out any further, then the labels will disappear. Let's go back into our dairy farms to set that up. I'll double-click on Dairy Farms, we'll go to Labels.

This time, we'll go to Scale Range. And we'll choose the option to don't show labels when zoomed, out beyond, and I'll choose the current scale of 1 to 400,000. I'll go ahead and say OK. I'll apply that change, and say OK one more time. Now, our labels are still on the map, but if I use the minus magnifying glass, and click to zoom out, we'll see the labels disappear. If I use the plus magnifying glass to zoom back in, as soon as we get to a scale of 1 to 400,000 or closer, then we'll see those labels again. So that's how you can add text labels to your map. You'll want to make sure that you have enough labels on the map to help orient the reader to the various locations depicted, as well as to gain further insight into the features you've chosen to include, and what specifically makes them important.

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