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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.

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.


While the extent is independent, the contents of the map are not. It's just like having another map view open. For example, if you select some features in a map, those features are selected in all open views of that map—including any in a 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

A map frame can be added to your layout in a variety of shapes. Complete the following steps to add a map frame to your layout.

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

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


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


    A map frame made up 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 then 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> to create an empty map frame. Empty map frames are useful when making templates.

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

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


    The scale of your 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. The map will be added as a rectangle map frame at the default map extent.

Modify a map frame

After you've inserted a map frame, you can 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, and shadow.


Change the map

Point the map frame to another map in the project.

In the Format Map Frame pane on the Options tab, under Map Frame, choose a different map or scene from the drop-down menu.


Change the shape of an existing 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 on your existing map frame.

Extent indicator

Place a polygon or point showing the extent of one map frame on a different map frame. This option is only available when at least two map frames are present.

Select a map frame in the table of contents. On the Insert tab in the Map Frames group, click the New Extent Indicator drop-down menu and choose the map to draw the extent indicator for.

Border, background, shadow

Give the map frame a border, background, and shadow.

In the Format Map Frame pane on the Display tab Display, use the Border, Background, and Shadow controls to change the symbols, offset or gap, and rounding for each.


If a map contains a background color, it will not be displayed. Instead, set a background for the map frame on the Display tab Display.

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