Symbols graphically describe, categorize, or rank geographic features to locate and show qualitative and quantitative relationships. Text symbols graphically display labels, annotation, and other text elements in maps and layouts.
You typically choose symbols from a gallery. Galleries show symbols that are stored in styles. Styles are collections of symbols and other map and layout components. Use them to organize and share these assets.
When you choose a symbol, you can apply it as is, or you can make changes to it first, then apply it. There is no connection maintained back to the style when you apply a symbol. You are using and applying a copy only. Any changes you make to a symbol do not update the originating symbol in the style. Conversely, changes you make to a symbol in a style are not transferred to instances of that symbol that have been applied to features or elements.
The properties of symbols come mainly from the properties of the symbol layers in them, but there are also some global properties you can adjust for the symbol as a whole. Access these from the three tabs on the Properties tab in Format Symbol mode of the Symbology pane:
Access all the basic properties that apply globally to the entire symbol. These are the only properties available when you have more than one symbol selected.
Access all of the properties of each symbol layer that makes up the symbol. This is where you control the most detailed properties of the symbol's appearance and behavior.
Modify basic symbol properties
You can use the basic properties of a symbol to make common changes without having to work with the entire set of symbol properties. The basic properties differ depending on symbol type. When you have more than one symbol selected, you can access the basic properties of the symbols only. To make complex edits to individual layers of a symbol, you must work with only one symbol at a time.
You access the basic symbol properties from the Properties tab in the Format Symbol mode of the Symbology pane, on the Symbol tab .
The basic properties of a symbol are also important because they are the properties that get modified when you vary the symbology by attribute. There are a few ways to do this, depending on how a layer's symbology is defined. You can vary the transparency, rotation, size, or color.
The following table outlines the basic properties for each symbol type:
Color—The color of all color-unlocked fill symbol layers in the polygon symbol. If more than one color is referenced, an indeterminate color is shown.
Outline color—The color of all color-unlocked stroke symbol layers in the polygon symbol. If more than one color is referenced, an indeterminate color is shown.
Outline width—The width property of the widest stroke symbol layer or the height of markers placed along the outline in the polygon symbol, whichever is larger. Changes are applied proportionally to all stroke symbol layers, symbol effects, and marker placements. Outline width can be sized dynamically by scale.
Color—The color of all color-unlocked stroke symbol layers in the line symbol. If more than one color is referenced, an indeterminate color is shown.
Line width—The width property of the widest stroke symbol layer or the height of markers placed along the outline in the polygon symbol, whichever is larger. Changes are applied proportionally to all stroke symbol layers, symbol effects, and marker placements. Line width can be sized dynamically by scale.
Shape fill symbol, the polygon symbol used to fill the shape. The subproperties of this property are also accessible:
Size—The size property of the largest marker symbol layer in the point symbol. Changes are applied proportionally to all marker layers (and to the width of stroke layers, if they are present in the point symbol). Point symbol size can be sized dynamically by scale.
Angle—The collective rotation of all marker symbol layers in the point symbol, measured in degrees and applied counterclockwise. When there is more than one marker symbol layer in the point symbol, changing the Angle basic property updates the angles of each marker symbol layer.
Angle alignment—Point symbols are either oriented up relative to the monitor and page, or they are oriented up relative to the coordinate system of the map. This property is ignored in a 3D context.
Halo—A shape drawn with a polygon symbol, radiating outward from the symbol a set distance.
Billboard (when in a 3D context)—A billboarded point symbol is one that faces the camera, regardless of where you navigate in the scene. With full rotation means the symbol always faces the camera. With signpost rotation means the symbol always faces toward the camera as though spinning on a vertical post.
Rotation order (when in a 3D context)—Defines the order in which rotation operations are applied to point symbols in 3D.
Color—The color of the fill symbol layer, provided it is color unlocked.
All text properties available.
The basic properties include color for all symbol types. When you change the color of a symbol here, it propagates down into all the layers of the symbol, changing the color there, unless the symbol layer is color locked. You control color locking of symbol layers from the Properties tab in the Format Symbol mode of the Symbology pane, on the Layers tab .
The color of this layer is protected from global color changes made at the basic property layer on the Symbol tab .
The color of this layer changes if global color changes are made to the symbol on the Symbol tab .
The symbol contains complex symbol layers such that the color cannot be updated globally. An example is a polygon symbol with a gradient fill layer; the gradient symbol layer is more than one color. Modify the color of symbol layers independently on the Layers tab .
Automatically apply symbol edits
Some complex symbol editing workflows require multiple edits across a number of properties and symbol layers for the symbol to look correct. This is especially true when symbols incorporate chained symbol effects or rely on altered anchor points. In these cases, you make the modifications, then click Apply to see the results. Each apply is a single action that can be reverted with the Undo button on the quick access toolbar to get you back to the previously valid state of the symbol.
In workflows with simpler symbol editing, you can turn on the Auto Apply toggle button at the bottom of the Format Symbol pane to automatically apply symbol edits as they are made. The map layer refreshes each time a symbol is changed as though the Apply button was clicked.
Certain symbology options, including some defaults, can result in a long refresh time or other performance issues depending on how the map and layer symbology are configured. Keep this in mind when using the Auto Apply option.