Labeling basics

In ArcGIS Pro, labeling refers specifically to the process of automatically generating and placing descriptive text for features in maps and scenes. A label is a piece of text on the map that is dynamically placed and whose text string is derived from one or more feature attributes.

In ArcGIS Pro, the following are true:

  • Label positions are generated automatically.
  • Labels are not selectable.
  • You cannot edit the display properties of individual labels.

Labeling is a fast way to add text to a map because you don't add text for each feature manually. This is useful if the data is expected to change or you are creating maps at different scales.

ArcGIS Pro has two labeling engines: the Standard Label Engine and the Maplex Label Engine.


The default label engine is the Maplex Label Engine. The default font is Tahoma, the default font style is Regular, and the default font size is 10 points.

Learn about setting the default label engine and font properties

Turn on labels

To turn on labels, select a feature layer in the Contents pane. On the Feature Layer tab set, click the Labeling tab. In the Layer group, click Label Enable Labeling. For further control over which label classes are labeled for that layer, change the displayed label class, and uncheck Label Features in this Class.

To see and change the visibility of all label classes, in the Contents pane, click List By Labeling List By Labeling. List By Labeling shows all label classes and allows you to reorder the label classes, change the labeling properties for multiple label classes at a time, or copy and paste labeling properties between label classes.


Press Ctrl while clicking to check or uncheck labeling visibility for all layers or label classes simultaneously.

Access the basic labeling properties on the Labeling tab. Change the size and color of the labels in the Text Symbol group.

For more advanced properties, open the Label Class pane by clicking the pane launcher Launcher in the Text Symbol or Label Placement group or by clicking the Expression button Label expression or the SQL Query button SQL Query. You can also access the Label Class pane from the Contents pane by right-clicking a feature layer and clicking Labeling Properties.

Reference scale

By default, labels do not scale as you zoom in or out on a map; that is, they stay the same size on the page regardless of the map scale. Because they stay the same size on the page, they take up more geographic space on the map as you zoom out and less space as you zoom in. Once you've decided on a map scale, you can set the labels to scale as you zoom in and out by setting a reference scale for the map.

Labeling properties at the map level

Several labeling properties are available at the map level. They affect, or can be used by, all label classes in the map.

You can access these properties from the ribbon through either the Labeling group on the Map tab or the Map group on the Labeling tab.

From either place, you can access the Pause, Lock, and View Unplaced interactive label tools. On the More menu, you can access tools to prioritize and weight the labels, change the label engine, and (when using the Maplex Label Engine) set up abbreviation dictionaries and key numbering groups.


When labeling in a scene, not all of the properties are available. You can only change the label engine when working in a scene.

Labeling buttons and their functions


Pause labeling


Suspend the drawing of labels.

Lock labels


Lock labels at their current size and position at the current extent. This allows you to navigate around a map without waiting for the label placement to be recalculated each time you pan or zoom.

View unplaced

View Unplaced

Display the labels that could not be placed on the map.

You can change the color of the unplaced labels on the Labels tab of the Map Properties dialog box.

Labeling buttons and their functions

Set label placement ranking

The More menu contains the Priorities and Weights parameters.

Priorities Label priority opens the Label Priority Ranking dialog box so you can change the priority order of labels.

Weights Label weights opens the Label Weight Ranking dialog box so you can change label and feature weights.

Change the label engine

When you switch from the Standard Label Engine to the Maplex Label Engine, the placement properties are converted to the advanced Maplex Label Engine placement model. No placement information is lost, since there is a one-to-one correspondence between the basic placement properties used by both engines.

The More menu contains the Use Maplex Label Engine option.

You can access the More menu from the ribbon through either the Labeling group on the Map tab or the Map group on the Labeling tab.

When you switch from the Maplex Label Engine to the Standard Label Engine, you lose any advanced label placement settings you've made. These settings cannot be recovered.

Learn more about setting the default label engine

When you're using the Maplex Label Engine, additional tools become available in the Labeling group. Three new commands are added to the More menu: Abbreviation Dictionaries Abbreviation Dictionaries, Key Numbering Key Numbering, and Draft Quality.

Abbreviation Dictionaries Abbreviation Dictionaries allows you to create, delete, and modify abbreviation dictionaries for a map.

Key Numbering Key Numbering allows you to create, delete, and modify key numbering groups for a map.

Draft Quality allows you to control the quality of placement that the Maplex Label Engine performs. The draft quality placement algorithm doesn't spend much time finding resolutions to label conflicts so it does not place as many labels on the map.

Maplex Label Engine general settings are available on the Map Properties dialog box on the Labels tab.

Controls for space characters and line breaks are available at the bottom of the Label Expression tab.