Layout and the Contents pane

The Contents pane lists all the elements in a layout and allows you to manage them. It also lists all the layers contained in any map or scene on the layout. From this pane, you can manage element grouping, set element visibility, control element drawing order, and navigate map series pages.

You can control which elements are visible on the layout at any time using the check boxes next to the element names in the Contents pane. Press Ctrl and click to check and uncheck all boxes simultaneously. The display settings are saved with your project and persist when you reopen it. Right-click one or more selected elements to access a menu of additional commands.

You can also lock an element. Locking an element prevents selecting, moving, or interactively resizing the element on the layout, but you can still make changes to the element in the Element pane. Switch between locked and unlocked views by clicking the Lock button Yellow lock next to the element in the Contents pane.

Use the Filter button Filter and Search box to limit the number of items that are visible in the pane, without removing elements from the layout. You can filter the pane to show all elements (default), or only elements of a specific type: graphics, groups, legends, map frames, north arrows, scale bars, or text. Click the Filter button Filter to choose a filter. Only one filter can be applied at a time. To see all elements, change the filter to All. You can search for a specific element by typing the element name in the Search bar.

You can view elements in various ways: by drawing order List By Drawing Order, by element type List By Element Type, and by map frame List By Map Frame. If the layout contains a map series, you can list map series pages List Map Series Pages.

Drawing order

Click List By Drawing Order List By Drawing Order to list all the elements according to how they display on the layout. This is the default way of listing elements in the Contents pane and follows a top-down approach, so the elements at the top of the list draw on top of elements at the bottom of the list. You can change the drawing order by selecting one or more elements and dragging them up or down the list. Some elements such as maps, legends, and table frames include subitems (layers, legend items, and table fields). These subitems can also be reordered.

The element drawing order can also be changed in a Layout view by right-clicking an element on the page and choosing Options from the context menu. There are four available options:

  • Bring To Front Bring To Front—Move to the top of the drawing order.
  • Bring Forward Bring Forward—Move up by one in the drawing order.
  • Send Backward Send Backward—Move back by one in the drawing order.
  • Send To Back Send To Back—Move to the bottom of the drawing order.

To copy elements in the list, you can right-click an element and choose Copy, and then click Paste, or press the Ctrl key while dragging the element up or down the list.

You can also use List By Drawing Order to create groups of elements. Grouping allows all elements in the group to be moved, resized, or locked simultaneously. To create a group, select all the elements you want to include in the group, right-click, and choose Group Group. You can ungroup the elements at any time by selecting the group, right-clicking, and choosing Ungroup Ungroup.


For elements in a group, the Bring To Front Bring To Front, Bring Forward Bring Forward, Send Backward Send Backward, and Send To Back Send To Back options apply within the group. For example, Bring To Front Bring To Front brings a grouped element to the top of the group drawing order. The element is not taken out of its group.

Element type

Click List By Element Type List By Element Type to view the elements organized by type. The types of elements—graphics, groups, legends, map frames, north arrows, scale bars, and text—are listed alphabetically with the elements of that type listed below the type name. If there are no elements of a specific type in the layout, that type is not listed.

Map frame

Click List By Map Frame List By Map Frame to view the elements organized by map frame. Only elements associated with map frames, such as scale bars, legends, and north arrows, are shown. Elements not associated with a map frame, such as text and graphics, are not listed.

Map series pages

Click List by Map Series Pages List Map Series Pages to view the pages in a map series. You can select any page in the list to view it in the layout. This option is only applicable when the layout has a map series. To learn more about navigating map series pages, see Search and navigate a map series.

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