Prevent labels from overlapping certain features

Some features on a map may be more important than others. With feature weights, you can indicate the relative importance of feature classes or features being labeled by a given label class. You can reduce the chance that important features from a given class are overlapped by labels by assigning the feature class a larger feature weight than other feature classes. Features with feature weights are always passed to the Maplex Label Engine as barriers even if they are not labeled. If there is an SQL query that limits the number of features displayed, only the subset of features is added to the placement engine as barriers. The remaining features are not displayed or used as barriers by the Maplex Label Engine.

The maximum feature weight is 1,000. Features with weights of 1,000 are treated as unavailable space for labels.

The images below show a before-and-after scenario using feature weights for roads. The image on the left has a feature weight of 0 for the roads. You can see that several of the labels cross over the road features. The image on the right has a feature weight set for the roads. The labels now try to shift their positions so that they are not overlapping the road features. If it is not possible to place labels where they do not cross a road feature, they are moved to a position where they only cross one road instead of several.

Using feature weights to prevent labels from overlapping roads

Feature weight

The feature weight ranks the importance of features labeled by a given label class, compared to other features, on a scale of 0–1,000. The Maplex Label Engine places labels to avoid overlapping important features. A feature weight of 0 indicates that the feature should be treated as available space, while a weight of 1,000 indicates that the feature should not be overlapped by labels. The Maplex Label Engine first attempts to place labels in an area of free space. If there is no free space available and a feature must be overlapped, a location with the lowest total feature weight is chosen.

You can set a feature weight for point and line feature classes. Polygon feature classes have two weights, interior weight and boundary weight, which are set separately.

Interior and boundary weight

Polygon features have two types of feature weights. With the Interior weight, you can specify how important the interior of the polygon is relative to other features. With the Boundary weight, you can specify how important the edge of the polygon is relative to other features. You can allow labels to overlap the interior but not the edges of a polygon or vice versa.

  1. Ensure that the Maplex Label Engine is enabled.
  2. Ensure that List By Labeling is the active method of displaying the Contents pane. Click the List By Labeling tab List By Labeling.
  3. Choose a label class in the Contents pane and click the Labeling tab.
  4. On the Labeling tab, in the Label Placement group, click Label Placement Properties Launcher.
  5. In the Labeling pane, click Position and click the Conflict resolution tab Conflict resolution.
  6. Expand Feature weight.
  7. Specify a weight for the features, using separate weights for the interior and boundary of the polygons.

    Weights can range from 0 to 1,000. Features with high weights are less likely to have labels placed over them.

On the Map tab in the Labeling group, click More > Weights to access the rankings for all the feature layers at the same time. On the Label Weight Ranking dialog box, you can also set barrier weights for annotation, dimension, and graphics layers.

Learn more about setting label and feature weights