Contents pane

The layers in a map or scene are listed in the Contents pane. Use this pane to manage the display of layers, symbology, and other layer properties.

Contents pane

The Contents pane is open in every new project by default. Under View, in the Windows group, click Contents Contents to reopen the pane if necessary.

Use the tabs at the top of the Contents pane to view the contents of the map or scene in different ways:

Drawing Order List By Drawing Order

Arrange the layers in the order in which they display on the map. Layers at the top of the list draw above those below them. Click and drag a layer to position it in a different order in the list. Use the check box next to each layer to control visibility.


Press Ctrl while clicking to check or uncheck visibility for all layers simultaneously.

In a scene, use the drawing order to organize layers into the 2D Layers or the 3D Layers category.

Data Source List By Data Source

Group and manage layers by their data sources.

Selection List By Selection

Organize which layers allow selection. When a selection is made, the number of features selected is shown next to the layer name. Some layers, such as raster layers, do not allow interactive selection. These layers are listed without a selection check box on this tab.

Editing List By Editing

Organize which layers can be edited.

Snapping List By Snapping

Organize which layers can participate in snapping while working with tools that support snapping, such as those for editing and measuring features.

Labeling List By Labeling

Organize the visibility of label classes for each layer. Expand each layer to view the label classes, duplicate label classes, reorder them, access the labeling properties for each label class, copy and paste the labeling properties between label classes, and change label properties for multiple label classes at the same time. Click the feature layer to select all of its label classes.

Filter and search layers

Maps and scenes that contain a lot of layers can get unwieldy to manage. Use filtering and searching to better organize and manage these layers.

Use the Search box at the top of the Contents pane to search for layers by name.

Click the Filter button Filter to limit the list in the Contents pane to just those layers that meet certain criteria. The list of available filters differs depending on the contents of the map but includes filters for the following:

  • All layers (this is the default)
  • Visible layers
  • Not visible layers
  • Active definition queries
  • Empty feature layers

Additional layer management

There are many commands and actions available from the context menus on the Drawing Order tab List By Drawing Order of the Contents pane while viewing the layers. Right-click a layer or the map or scene to access these.

Layer properties and commands

These commands on the context menus of layers differ by the type of layer, but a few common commands used with feature layers are outlined here:

  • Set layer properties and metadata
  • Group and ungroup layers
  • Choose the layer symbology
  • Enable labeling and set labeling properties
  • Set selection options
  • Open the attribute table

Map and scene properties and commands

Right-click the name of the map or scene in the drawing order list to access commands related to the whole map or scene including the following:

  • Set the map properties and metadata
  • Reordering layers
  • Set labeling properties
  • Set a reference scale

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