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Add and modify map frames

Map frames are containers for maps on your page. They can point to any map or scene in your project. They can even be empty, which most often occurs when creating templates. It is important to note that the extent of the map inside a map frame is unique and independent of any map view that may be open in the project.


While the extent is independent, the contents of the map are not. It is just like having another map view open. For example, if you make a selection, those features will be selected in all open views—including any inside the map frame. Likewise, if you turn a layer off in one view, it turns off in all views. Layer properties cannot be set per view.

Insert a map frame

There are two ways to add map frames to your layout:

  • Drag a map from the Catalog pane onto the page. The map will be at its default extent.
  • On the Insert tab, in the Map Frames group, click Map Frame Map Frame. Clicking the drop-down menu displays a gallery of maps and scenes from the project. The gallery will include all open map views and bookmarks associated with each map. Choosing a view or bookmark will insert a map frame with the map at that extent. Clicking <None> from the gallery adds an empty map frame, which is useful for making templates that can be saved as layout files. Clicking the Map Frame button directly inserts a map frame containing a default map from the project.

Modify a map frame

After you've inserted a map frame, you make changes to its appearance and properties. You can change the map a map frame contains; change the shape of the map frame; add an extent indicator; or add a border, background, or shadow.

To reshape your map frame, on the Insert tab, in the Map Frames group, click the Reshape drop-down menu, choose a draw tool, and then draw a new shape.

You can change the map or scene a map frame contains in the Format Map Frame pane by right-clicking the map frame on the layout and clicking Properties. On the Options tab, under Map Frame, choose a different map or scene from the drop-down menu.

Extent indicators can be added when there are at least two map frames containing 2D maps on the page. To learn more about adding and working with extent indicators, see Extent indicators.

Use the Format tab to add or modify a border, background, or shadow. To learn more, see Add and modify graphics and text.


Adding a map frame background will override the map's background color.

There are many ways to interact with the map a map frame contains through the Contents pane. Through the pane, you have access to basic layer properties and symbology, but to interact with the map and perform tasks such as editing or adding data, you must activate the map frame. For information about working with maps on a layout, see Work with a map on a layout.

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