Convert labels to annotation

Geodatabase annotation is stored as an annotation feature class in a geodatabase. You can convert labels to annotation using the Convert Labels To Annotation tool. When converting labels to annotation, you need to decide whether to create standard or feature-linked annotation features.

Storing feature-linked annotation in a geodatabase creates a relationship between the annotation and the feature it annotates. Then, if you move the feature, the annotation moves with it. If you delete the feature, the annotation is also deleted. If you change the attribute of the feature on which the annotation is based, the text of the annotation changes.


You need an ArcGIS Desktop Standard or ArcGIS Desktop Advanced license to convert to feature-linked annotation.


Labels can also be converted to graphic text in the map using the Convert Labels to Graphics tool. Graphic text is useful for adding simple text to a map but has limitations with editing and storage.

Similar to converting labels to annotation, you can convert unplaced labels to nonvisible graphics and then display and edit them.

Prepare labels for conversion to annotation

You need to set scale and label properties carefully, as they determine the size, position, and appearance of the new annotation.

Before converting labels to annotation, pay attention to the following scales:

  • The current map scale—This scale appears in the Scale box at the bottom of the Map view.
  • The map reference scale—This is the scale at which feature symbology and dynamic labels appear on the screen at their specified symbol size.

Annotation is created to have the same size and position as the labels you convert. When you convert labels to annotation, the annotation reference scale for the new feature class is taken from the map reference scale, if set. If the map reference scale is not set, the annotation reference scale for the new feature class is taken from the current map scale.

Selection is honored by the Convert Labels To Annotation tool. If features are selected, only labels for those features are converted to annotation.

If you encounter issues with memory usage while converting labels to annotation, only convert the labels within the displayed extent or use the Tiled Labels To Annotation tool to convert labels to annotation for layers in a project based on a polygon index layer.

If you encounter the map graphics storage limit of 4,000 elements or 10 MB when converting labels to graphics, only convert the labels for a single layer instead of the entire map, convert labels for a smaller extent, or create an SQL query to label and convert fewer features.

Convert labels to annotation

The Convert Labels To Annotation tool converts labels to annotation for a single layer or for the entire map.

To convert labels to annotation, follow these steps:

  1. Add the data to your map that helps you determine the best size, placement, and appearance of the labels you want to convert to annotation.
  2. Zoom to the scale at which you will normally view the annotation, regardless of whether you'll view it in ArcGIS Pro or on a hard-copy map.
  3. In the Contents pane, right-click the map name and click Set Reference Scale. This sets the reference scale to be equal to the scale you zoomed to in the previous step.
  4. Symbolize features.
  5. Display labels and set their size, position, and appearance.
  6. Choose label priority, label and feature weights, and label placement options to increase the number of labels that are displayed before converting.
  7. Some labels may not be currently displayed on the map because there is no room for them. You can still convert these labels, but to display them with the new annotation, you must manually place each one after the conversion.
  8. Open the Convert Labels To Annotation tool and convert the labels to annotation. Click Convert Labels To Annotation Convert labels to annotation in the Labeling group on the Map tab, or open it from the Annotation toolset in the Cartography toolbox.

    You can also open the tool by right-clicking a layer in the Contents pane. This defaults the setup of the tool to convert for a single layer.

  9. Specify whether you're converting labels to annotation for all labeled layers in the map or for a single layer.

    If converting for a single layer, that layer must be specified and be present in the map.

  10. Decide which extent contains all the labels you want to convert. Specify this on the Convert Labels To Annotation tool.

    • Default—The full extent of the map or the custom full extent, if set.
    • Union of Inputs—The extent is based on the maximum extent of all input layers.
    • Intersection of Inputs—The minimum area common to all input layers.
    • As Specified Below—Specify the minimum and maximum extent values.
    • Current Display Extent—The extent is equal to the map or visible display.
    • Same as Layer—The extent for a layer or dataset on disk is used.

  11. Decide whether to convert the labels from all layers into a single output feature class or to create a single output annotation feature class for each layer. If the Convert labels from all layers to a single output feature class option is checked, you can specify whether to merge similar label classes or to maintain all label classes. These options are only available when creating annotation that is not feature linked.

Place unplaced geodatabase annotation features

By default, unplaced annotation is not displayed on the map. Complete the following steps to place unplaced geodatabase annotation features:

  1. To draw the unplaced annotation, right-click the annotation feature class in the Contents pane and click Symbology to open the Symbology pane. Then check the Draw unplaced annotation check box to draw the annotation using the specified color.
  2. On the Edit tab, click the Attributes button in the Selection group to open the Attributes pane.
  3. Select the unplaced annotation feature to place and then change the value of the Status field from Unplaced to Placed in the Attributes pane.
  4. Optionally, use the editing tools from the Tools gallery to edit the annotation feature.