How symbology works in ArcPad

ArcPad has two levels of symbology: simple and complex. Simple symbology refers to the basic style of the symbol. For example, a line layer’s simple symbology can be set in ArcPad as a dashed line, a thickness of three pixels, and the color red. Complex symbology refers to symbology that is specified using a choice of marker (point), line, and fill (polygon) symbols from standard style sheets or in the ArcPad Layer file (.apl) using the ArcPad Data Manager for ArcGIS Desktop. ArcPad supports most of the symbols available in ArcGIS Desktop therefore making the transition from your desktop GIS to the field much easier.

Some ArcGIS complex symbols reference TrueType fonts that are not default to Windows, Windows Mobile, or ArcPad. You can copy TrueType font files from your Windows PC to your Windows or Windows Mobile field devices to ensure the symbology appears the same as in ArcGIS.

Simple symbology

Simple symbology is specified and changed in ArcPad using the Point, Line, or Polygon Style page of the Symbol Properties dialog box. The Symbol Properties dialog box is accessed via the Legend in the Table of Contents, the Symbology tab in the Layer Properties dialog box, or via the Symbology page in the Feature Properties dialog box.

The Style page can be defined for point (marker), line, and polygon (fill) layers. Once the style is set for a layer, or for a subset of features within a layer, all the features in that category will have the same symbol.

The following styles can be set depending on the type of layer:

Simple symbols

Use the Set to Default Point Style button (or for Line or Polygon) to clear any symbology setting for the layer before setting new simple symbology settings.

Complex symbology

ArcPad supports a wide range of complex symbols, making the transition from your desktop to the field much easier. With the capability to use the same symbology from your desktop GIS in the field with ArcPad, you can maintain a mapping standard across your office and mobile GIS applications.

ArcGIS Desktop (ArcView 9, ArcEditor 9, or ArcInfo 9) includes more than 18,000 predefined symbols, the majority of which can be used in ArcPad either via predefined styles or via styles exported with the ArcPad Data Manager for ArcGIS Desktop.

Working with styles and symbols

Styles are a collection of predefined colors, symbols, and properties of symbols that allow you to maintain a mapping standard and promote consistency in your organization’s mapping products, whether you are working on the desktop or in the field. By default, ArcPad includes the text, marker, line, and fill symbols from the ESRI.Style, allowing you to select from an extensive list of commonly used symbols. Changes to symbology can be made directly in ArcPad with the use of Styles.

Complex symbols

In addition, you can create your own styles or export any of the other styles that are available in ArcGIS Desktop including commonly used symbols for conservation, forestry, and utility applications or projects. This gives you field access to almost all of the symbology available in your desktop GIS applications. Refer to Using ArcMap for more information about styles and the range of symbols supported by ArcGIS Desktop.

Style Manager in ArcGIS

Exporting symbology from ArcGIS Desktop

Complex symbology can also be created by exporting the legend information from ArcGIS Desktop to an ArcPad Layer file (.apl) using the Export shapefile symbology for ArcPad or the Get Data for ArcPad tools in the ArcPad Data Manager for ArcGIS Desktop. This enables a seamless integration between the maps you create on your desktop to ArcPad and the field. Refer to the section ‘ArcPad Data Manager for ArcGIS’ for more information on how to export symbology from ArcGIS Desktop.

ArcPad Data Manager

Copying a TrueType font to your Windows or Windows Mobile field device

Complex symbology from ArcGIS can reference any TrueType font (TTF) available on your PC. When you use an Exported Reference Style for ArcPad on the same PC where ArcGIS is installed, all TTFs will be automatically available for use by ArcPad. If you copy an Exported Reference Style for ArcPad to a Windows device that does not have ArcGIS installed, you may find that the Esri fonts are not installed on that device. In this case, you must copy the required TTF to your Windows device.

The full collection of TTFs (either Esri or non-Esri fonts) is likewise not available on Windows Mobile by default. You may need to copy these to your Windows Mobile device for your chosen symbols to display as expected.

TrueType fonts can be found in the \Windows\Fonts folder on your Windows PC. This folder does display the files in a custom style. It is advisable to copy your desired TTF to another location on your PC before copying to Windows mobile. Your copied file will now be displayed as a file with a .ttf extension.

Copy your TTF to any location on your Windows or Windows Mobile device. From within your device's File Explorer window you can then move the TTF to the device's Windows\Fonts folder. Once the font is in this location, you will see the symbols display in ArcPad on the device, as they do on the desktop.


When using Active Sync 4.5 (for Windows XP), ensure that you do not have File Conversion enabled when copying your TTF. To ensure file conversion is not enabled go to Open the Active Sync window, select Advanced Tools from the Tools menu, then select Edit File Conversion Settings. On the General tab, ensure the Convert files when synchronized, copied or moved is unchecked. This check is not required when using Windows Mobile Device Center (for Windows Vista or 7).