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Text on a map

Maps convey information about geographic features, yet displaying only features on a map—even with symbols that convey their meaning—isn't always enough to make your point. Adding text to your map improves the visualization of geographic information on your map.

There are various kinds of text you can add to your map. Descriptive text can be placed near individual map features. For example, you might add the name of each major city in Africa to your map. You can also add text to draw attention to an area of the map, such as the general location of the Sahara Desert. You can also add text that improves the presentation of your map. For example, a map title provides context; you might also consider adding other information such as map author, data source, and date.

Kinds of text

Because text serves so many different mapping purposes, ArcGIS Pro offers several different types. The main types are labels, annotation, text map notes, and graphic text. A label is a piece of text that is automatically positioned and whose text string is based on feature attributes. Labels offer the fastest and easiest way to add descriptive text to your map for individual features. For example, you can turn on dynamic labeling for a layer of major cities to quickly add all the city names to your map.

ArcGIS Pro has two labeling engines: the Standard Label Engine and the Maplex Label Engine, which provides further capabilities for placing your labels.

The second option when working with text is to use annotation. Annotation can be used to describe particular features or add general information to the map. You can use annotation like labels to add descriptive text for map features or just to add a few pieces of text manually to describe an area on your map. Unlike labels, each piece of annotation stores its own position, text string, and display properties. Compared to labels, annotation provides more flexibility over the appearance and placement of your text because you can select individual pieces of text and edit their position and appearance. You can use ArcGIS Pro to convert labels to annotation.

Text map notes are annotation feature classes that are added as templates to the map. These annotation feature classes are stored in the project's geodatabase.

Graphic text is useful for adding information on and around your map that exists in page space—as opposed to annotation, which is stored in geographic space. Dynamic text is a type of graphic text that, when placed on a map layout, will change dynamically based on the current properties of the map.

Options for storing your text

Before you begin working with text, you should understand the text storage options in ArcGIS Pro.

First, labels are not stored; they are generated dynamically, and only labeling properties are stored—the settings used to create labels on the fly. If you are working in a map, your labeling properties will be saved when you save your project (.aprx). Labeling properties can also be stored in layer files (.lyrx). Use layer files to transfer labels between two maps without having to set up labeling again in the new map.

Geodatabase annotation is stored in a geodatabase in annotation feature classes. You can think of geodatabase annotation as a special type of geographic feature, stored together with other geographic data in a geodatabase. Like point, line, and polygon feature classes, annotation feature classes can be used in many different maps.

What kind of text should I use?

The type of text you should use is based on where you are starting from with your text and how you want to use text on your map. If you only want to add a few pieces of text and what you want to identify might not be based on attributes, you can use text map notes or geodatabase annotation. If, however, you want feature-descriptive text, use labels to add text based on your feature attributes. You then have the option to convert these labels to feature-linked annotation for further editing of their placement.

Common text-related tasks

Below are some common tasks you can perform with text. Instructions are provided to complete each task with labels, and geodatabase annotation.

TaskLabelsGeodatabase annotation

Create a new set of labels, or a new annotation feature class.

By default, each feature layer in ArcGIS Pro has one set of labels. You can create label classes to subdivide these labels or to label a feature multiple times.

Create a new annotation feature class in the Catalog pane.

Insert text map notes from the Insert tab.

Convert labels to annotation

In ArcGIS Pro, view the list of label classes, or annotation feature classes.

Listed in the Labeling view of the Contents pane.

Listed in the ArcGIS Pro Contents pane.

View the attribute table for text.

Labels are generated from feature attributes and do not have their own attributes.

Open the layer attribute table in ArcGIS Pro.

View the reference scale.

In ArcGIS Pro, on the General tab of the Map Properties dialog box.

In ArcGIS Pro, on the Source tab of the Layer Properties dialog box.

Also on the Annotation Feature Class Properties pane

Set the reference scale.

In ArcGIS Pro, on the General tab of the Map Properties dialog box.

The reference scale is set when you create a new annotation feature class.

Create new text on your map.

In ArcGIS Pro, right-click a layer in the Contents pane and click Label Features.

Start editing and use the templates to add annotation. If you have feature-linked annotation, new annotation will be automatically created as you add new features.

You can also use Annotate Selected Features.

Select and move text in ArcGIS Pro.

You cannot select or move labels.

Start editing and use the Modify tool.

Change the appearance of text in ArcGIS Pro.

On the Labeling ribbon or Label Class pane.

Start editing and edit the annotation symbol attributes.

Use symbol substitution to temporarily change the appearance of annotation for the map.

Link text to features.

By definition, all labels are linked to features.

Only annotation stored in feature-linked annotation feature classes can be feature linked.

Improve text performance.

Use the Summary to ensure there is no duplication of SQL queries in the label classes. Also, use feature weights sparingly and set the visible scale ranges for the labels.

Use geodatabase annotation to store large amounts of text.

Text-related tasks in ArcGIS Pro