Add a legend

Legends are a layout element that tell the map reader the meaning of the symbols used to represent features on the map. Legends can point to any map frame in the layout, but each legend can only reference a single map frame. Layers in the map are represented as legend items with a patch showing an example of the map symbols and explanatory text. Legends always display the legend patch set for each feature layer. In the Contents pane, legends are listed with a Legend symbol, while legend items are listed with a Legend Item symbol.

Legends can be static, displaying all the layers in a map, or dynamic, updating to show only layers visible in the current map frame extent. Legends can also be configured to update based on changes on the map, for example, automatically adding new layers as legend items.

To add a legend, complete the following steps:

  1. Open a layout with at least one map frame. A legend can only be added to a layout view.
  2. Select the map frame in the Contents pane.
  3. Optionally, expand the map in the Contents pane to select a subset of layers. If no layers are selected, a legend is added containing all applicable layers from the map contained in the default map frame.
  4. On the Insert tab, in the Map Surrounds group, click the Legend button Legend.

    Click the upper half of the button to insert the current default legend style. Click the lower half of the button to choose from a gallery of legend styles.

  5. On the layout view, click and drag to create the legend.
  6. Format the legend. See Arrange a legend for information about formatting options.

Add or remove legend items

Once a legend has been created, you can add, remove, and reorder its legend items.

To add items, select a layer in the Contents pane and drag it to the legend group in the same pane.


A legend can include items from a single map frame only. You cannot drag layers from multiple map frames onto a legend.

To remove legend items, expand the legend in the Contents pane to see the items. Right-click an item and click Remove. Uncheck a legend item to turn off its visibility without removing it from the legend.

Reorder legend items by expanding the legend in the Contents pane to see the legend items. Drag items up or down in the list to reorder them.

If the Layer order option is checked for the legend, reordering is disabled. Instead, the legend items are kept in the same order as the layers on the map.

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