Work with a legend item

In a legend, layers in the map are represented as legend items. Legend items contain a patch showing an example of the map symbols and explanatory text.

Modify legend item properties

You can work with an individual legend item by selecting it in the Contents pane after expanding the legend. Legends are listed with a legend Legend symbol while legend items are listed with a legend item Legend Item symbol in the Contents pane. You can also set properties for items simultaneously by selecting multiple legend items.

To access legend item properties, right-click a legend item and choose Properties from the context menu. This opens the Format Legend Item pane. Then choose Legend Item from the Properties drop-down menu.

From here, you can do the following:

  • Show or hide the layer name, group headings, labels, or descriptions.
  • Change the arrangement of patches, labels, and descriptions.

Legend items can be preformatted using default settings. Right-click the legend item and click Save as Default to change the default settings. When additional legend items are added to the legend, they will conform to the last saved default.


Legend items always display the legend patch set for the feature layer. You can change the patch by adjusting the layer's symbology.

Legend item properties

With the legend item selected in the Contents pane, you can modify its appearance from the Format Legend Item pane. Once you've modified a legend item, you can save it to a style to use again in future projects without needing to redo the formatting. A saved legend style item can be applied to one or more selected items by choosing one from the Legend Item Gallery Legend item gallery drop-down list on the Format tab.

To make changes, right-click the legend item and click Properties. The following sections in the Format Legend Item pane allow you to choose which parts of the item are shown, so you can modify their arrangement, sizing, and indenting.


The following check boxes switch on or off parts of the legend:

  • Group Layer Name—Show the group layer name as a heading.
  • Layer Name—Show the layer name as a heading.
  • Headings—Show the headings specified in the layer properties.
  • Labels—Show the label for each legend class.
  • Descriptions—Show the description for each legend class specified in the layer properties.


The arrangement drop-down menu allows you to change how the pieces of a legend item are organized. The pieces are Patch, Label, and Description.

Depending on the fitting strategy set for the entire legend, optional check boxes may be available for further adjustments to your legend item. New column moves the legend item into a new column. Keep in single column prevents the legend item from displaying across multiple columns.


You can modify the space between the patch label and its description from the Patch Width and Patch Height drop-down menus or adjust it manually.

By default, point symbols are drawn at the size they display on the map. You can scale point symbols to fit inside the specified patch size by checking the Scale to fit patch size check box.

Feature display options

Check Only show features visible in the map extent to include a legend item only if the feature is visible in the map extent. If the legend item is for a feature with multiple classes, such as a layer symbolized by unique values, only the classes that appear in the map extent are included in the legend. Additionally, if a spatial map series is enabled on the layout, you can choose to show only features within the map series shape instead of within the whole map extent. If no features from that legend item are in the current extent, the entire item does not appear in the legend.


Only show features visible in the map extent is not available for certain layer symbology types or for layers with the clustering aggregation type applied.

You can add feature counts to the legend by checking Show feature count. The number of features from the legend item class that are in the current extent appears adjacent to that class's label. If a legend item does not include labels, the count appears adjacent to the patch. Use the text boxes to customize the text that surrounds the feature count. Check Show thousands separator to display a thousands separator if your feature count is more than 1,000.


You can change the indenting for the Layer Name, Headings, and legend Classes by selecting an indent value from the drop-down menu or typing it manually.

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