Set up a layout

Use rulers, guides, and printer margins to help arrange items on the page. Snapping can be configured to help place elements more precisely. You can also customize additional aspects of a layout by updating layout properties in the Layout Properties window.


Use rulers to show the size of a layout page and place elements at specific positions. As you zoom in and out on the layout, the ruler intervals update to match the zoom level. You can switch their visibility on the Layout tab in the Show group. When rulers are visible, you can turn them off by right-clicking the ruler and unchecking Rulers.

Rulers can be customized to show specific units per layout. Changing the ruler unit changes the page unit as well, so the size and position of all elements match the ruler displayed. Similarly, changing the page units for the layout updates the ruler units. The minimum interval shown on the ruler can also be set.

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To customize the ruler, complete the following steps:

  1. Right-click a ruler and click Ruler Properties.

    The Ruler Properties dialog box appears.

  2. Select a unit from the Units drop-down list.
  3. Use the Smallest interval box to set the smallest interval the ruler displays.

    Setting the smallest interval doesn't mean that only that interval is shown on the ruler. As you zoom in and out, the ruler updates to reflect intervals appropriate to the zoom level. Adjusting the smallest interval means the ruler never shows a value smaller than what is set.


Add guides to help position and size elements on the page. Guides are lines drawn vertically or horizontally at a specified location on the page for visual reference. They are not included when the layout is exported or printed.

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To add guides, right-click the ruler and choose Add Guide or Add Guides. Choose Add Guide to create a single vertical or horizontal blue guide at the location you right-clicked the ruler. Choose Add Guides to open a dialog box with options for placing guides at exact locations.

The Add Guides dialog box allows you to choose the orientation and placement of guides.

  • Orientation
    • Horizontal—Create horizontal guides
    • Vertical—Create vertical guides
    • Both—Create both horizontal and vertical guides simultaneously
  • Placement
    • Single location—Place a guide at the specified position
    • Evenly spaced—Create evenly spaced guides across the page starting at 0
    • Center—Place a guide at the center of the page
    • Offset from edge—Place guides at a given distance from the edges of the page

For Single location, Evenly spaced, and Offset from edge, you can specify a Position in page units for the guides to draw.

To move a guide, hover over its position on the ruler until a slider control appears. Click and drag the slider to move the guide to the desired position.

You can switch the visibility of guides by checking or unchecking Guides on the Layout tab in the Show group. To remove a guide entirely, right-click the guide along the ruler and choose Remove Guide or Remove All Guides from the context menu .


While rulers must be visible to add guides, rulers do not need to be visible to view existing guides.

You can customize the color of all guides by completing the following steps:

  1. Click Project on the ribbon to see additional application settings.
  2. Click Options to open the Options dialog box.
  3. Choose the Layout page.
  4. Select a color from the color picker.

    This color is applied to all existing guides, as well as guides added in the future across all your projects.

Printer margins

Printer margins can be displayed on the layout as dashed lines. Generally, printers have a set margin and cannot print to the very edge of a page. To avoid losing elements when a layout is printed, all the elements should be drawn within the printer margins.

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The printer margin varies for different printers. To display the printer margins on the layout, the layout size must be based on a printer paper size. Use the Select page from printer option when creating a blank layout to add margins when creating a layout. If a layout has been created, you can add margins by doing the following:

  1. On the Layout tab in the Page Setup group, click Select page from printer Select Page From Printer to open the Select page from printer dialog box.
  2. Choose the printer you are using from the Printer drop-down list.
  3. Select the layout's page size from the Paper Size drop-down list.
  4. Set the Paper Source and Orientation options.
  5. Check Include margins from printer to add the printer margins to the layout.
  6. Click OK to create the layout with the dashed printer margins.

Printer margins draw by default. You can turn off their visibility by unchecking Margins on the Layout tab in the Show group.


Printer margins are static and only apply to the printer the page was selected from. If you switch printers, you need to select the margins from the new printer to ensure they are accurate.


Layout elements can snap to guides or to existing page elements. If snapping is enabled, when you create, move, or resize a layout element, it snaps to a guide once the pointer is close enough. This also applies to the dynamic, temporary guides that appear based on the pointer's position relative to an existing element's geometry. This is helpful when aligning elements with each other.

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The following snap modes are available on the layout:

Snap modeSnapping behavior

Guide Snap to guides

Elements snap to the nearest guide.

Element Snap to smart guide

Elements snap to temporary guides that appear when an element is aligned with the edge or center of other elements on the page.

Page Snap to page boundaries

Elements snap to the edges of the layout page.

Margin Snap to margins

Elements snap to the dashed printer margins on the page. This option only applies when the printer margins are included in the layout.

To turn snapping on or off, click the Snapping button List By Snapping at the bottom of the layout view.

To enable or disable snap modes, hover over Snapping List By Snapping and click them to turn them on or off.


You can temporarily disable snapping by pressing the Spacebar.

Layout properties

After a layout has been created, you can view and modify its properties at any time. To do this, right-click the layout name in the Contents pane and choose Properties to open the Layout Properties window. Layout properties are grouped into five categories:

  • General—The name of the layout.
  • Metadata—A subset of metadata properties for the layout.
  • Page Setup—The Page units, Page size, and Page orientation options for the layout. Here you can also use Select Page from Printer Print Layout to set the page size based on printer page sizes.
  • Map Series—The map series definition for the layout. See Map series for more information.
  • Color Management—The color model and color profile settings for the layout. See Use color management for more information about color management.

Changing page units also changes the ruler units and the size and position units for layout elements.

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