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Work with a legend item

Modify legend item properties

You can work with an individual legend item by selecting it in the Contents pane after expanding the legend. 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 will open 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 pre-formatted using default settings. The default settings can be changed by right-clicking the legend item and clicking Save as Default. 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. The patch can be changed by adjusting the layer's symbology.

Format a legend item

When legend items are selected, you can use the Format tab and Format Legend Item pane to format the text for layer names, headings, labels, and descriptions.


If you want to work with the text of all legend items at once, you can either select them all or work at the legend level. When changes are made at the legend level, they are pushed down to all applicable legend items. To learn more, see Work with a legend.

You can work with individual pieces of a legend item or all its text at once. The following example walks you through changing the font of all text in a legend item and italicizing only the descriptions.

  1. Choose one or more legend items in the Contents pane.
  2. On the Format tab on the ribbon, choose Legend Item from the drop-down menu in the Current Selection group.

    This will allow you to work with the entire item.

  3. In the Text Symbol group, choose a new font from the drop-down menu.

    This will update the font type for layer names, headings, labels, and descriptions of the selected items.

  4. Go back to the Current Selection group and choose Descriptions from the drop-down menu.

    You are now only working with descriptions.

  5. In the Text Symbol group, set Italic as the font style.

    This will italicize only the legend item descriptions.

  6. Note that you will only be able to set Italic as the font style if it is available for the current font.

You can also perform this workflow using the Format Legend Item pane. Using the pane instead of the ribbon will give you access to advanced text symbol properties.

To learn more about using the Format tab, see Add and modify graphics and text.

Legend item properties

With the legend item selected in the Contents pane, you can make modifications to its appearance from the Format Legend Item pane. To make changes, right-click the legend item and click Properties. The following sections in the Format Legend Item pane let you toggle which parts of the item are shown, their arrangement, sizing, and indenting.


The following check boxes toggle on or off parts of the legend.

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


The arrangement drop-down menu allows you to change the order of legend parts by order of appearance. The parts 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 will flow the legend item into a new column if all parts do not fit. Keep in single column prevents the legend item arrangement from flowing into multiple columns.


The space between the patch label and its description can be modified from the Patch Width and Patch Height drop-down menus, or entered manually.

Point symbols can be scaled so they fit inside the specified by patch size, by clicking the Scale to fit patch size check box.

Feature Display Options

If the Only show features visible in the map extent is checked, a legend item class will only appear in the legend if a feature from that class is in the current extent. If no features from that legend item are in the current extent, the entire item will be removed from the legend. You can also add feature counts to your legend by checking Show feature count.

The number of features from the legend item class that are in the current extent will appear after that class' label. If a legend item does not have labels, the count will appear after the patch. You can set the text that will appear before and after the feature count by typing in the text boxes. You also have the option to display a thousands separator by checking Show thousands separator.


The Layer Name, Headings and legend Classes can be indented by changing their indent value from the drop-down menu, or typing it manually.

Converting map elements to graphics

You might want to convert a map element, such as a legend, to graphics if you want more precise control over each item that composes the map element.

Once you convert a map element into a graphic, it is no longer connected to its original data and will not respond to changes made to the map. For instance, if you decide to add another layer to the map after the legend has been converted to a graphic, the legend will not automatically update. Therefore, it is a good idea to convert elements to graphics only after your map's layers and symbology are finalized.

You can further ungroup the legend graphics so the individual elements (the patches, text, and so on) that compose the legend can be edited individually.

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