Add and modify map frames

Maps are added to layouts using map frames, which can point to any map or scene in the project or to no map at all. A map frame without a map is useful when creating layout files to use as templates, where the same layout will be used in different projects. Once a map frame has been created the map it points to can be updated at any time. Extent indicators and grids can be added to the map frame, providing additional information to the layout.

The extent of the map in a map frame is unique and independent of any map view that is open in the project, so zooming or panning in a different map view does not change the extent of the map on the layout. To change the extent, or make other modifications to the map contained in a map frame, you must activate the map. For more information about interacting with maps in the layout view, see Work with a map on a layout. You can also control how the extent is changed by setting a map frame constraint.


While the map extent of each map frame is independent of other map frames, the contents of a map frame's map are not. A map frame is just like having another map view open. For example, if you select some features on a map, those features are selected in all open views of that map—including in map frames. Likewise, if you turn off a layer in one view, it turns off in all views. Layer properties cannot be set per view.

Insert a map frame

Complete the following steps to add a map frame to your layout:

  1. On the Insert tab, in the Map Frames group, select a map frame shape from the drop-down menu.

    A rectangular or square map frame of any dimensions. This is the default.


    A map frame composed of connecting straight lines sketched on the layout.


    A map frame composed of a continuous curved line or straight lines sketched on the layout.


    A circular map frame of any dimensions.


    A curved map frame in which the vertical diameter is longer than the horizontal diameter or vice versa.

  2. On the Insert tab, in the Map Frames group, click Map Frame Map Frame.

    A gallery of maps and scenes from the project displays, including all open map views and bookmarks associated with each map. Choose <None> Empty Map Frame to create an empty map frame. Empty map frames can be useful when creating layout files.

  3. Choose the map view, scene view, or bookmark for your map frame.
  4. On the layout, click and drag to create the map frame.

    The map frame is added to the layout at the extent chosen.


    The scale of the map may change to preserve the extent. You can adjust the scale by clicking the Scale drop-down menu at the bottom of the layout view and choosing or typing a new scale.

You can also create a map frame by dragging a map from the Catalog pane onto the layout. This map is added as a rectangle map frame at the default map extent.

Change the map in the map frame

You can change the map referenced by a map frame at any time. Many elements, such as north arrows and scale bars are linked to map frames on the layout. If you change the map referenced by the map frame or adjust the map extent, these elements automatically update. To change the map, right-click the map in the Contents pane and choose Properties. The Format Map Frame pane opens. On the Options tab MultiPatch Model Properties under Map, choose a different map or scene from the drop–down menu. You can also choose <None> to create an empty map frame. When you change the map referenced by a map frame, the map draws at the default extent. You can then activate the map to adjust the extent.

Modify a map frame

After you've inserted a map frame, you can make changes to its appearance and properties. A map frame can be reshaped, so a rectangular map frame can become circular and vice versa. To reshape a map frame, select the map frame in the Contents pane. On the Insert tab, in the Map Frames group, click the Reshape drop-down menu, choose a draw tool, and draw a new shape for the existing map frame. The extent of your map frame adjusts to the new map frame shape. If you have a map frame constraint set, the extent adjusts according to the constraint.

As with other layout elements, a map frame can have a border, background, and a shadow. Backgrounds can be important because the background color of a map is not displayed in the map frame. Instead, the background of the map frame is used. Backgrounds are also useful when layering the map frame on top of other elements. A background avoids having the other elements show through on the map.

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