A quick tour of page layouts

A page layout (often referred to simply as a layout) is a collection of map elements laid out and organized on a page, designed for map printing. Common map elements that are arranged in the layout include one or more data frames (each containing an ordered set of map layers), a scale bar, north arrow, map title, descriptive text, and a symbol legend.

A layout in ArcMap

Layout view is where you add map surrounds, frames, graticules, and other finishing touches to a map. What you see on the layout is what you get if you print or export the map to the same page size.

This topic describes some of the key concepts and tasks for working with layouts in ArcMap.

Process for working with a layout

The first step in ArcMap is to change your map view to layout—either by selecting Layout View from the View menu or by clicking the Layout View button on the lower left of the map display.

Changing to the layout view

Once you are working in layout view, you can set up your page dimensions and begin to add map elements. You use the Insert menu to select map elements to add to your layout.

As you add map elements, you can edit their properties, size, appearance, and so forth, and arrange them on the page with other map elements. Once you have completed this work on your layout, you can print your map or create other types of output formats—PDF files, PostScript files, or Illustrator files.

Questions to consider when designing your layout

Here are some design considerations for working with map layouts:

The following sections will cover these in more detail.

Creating a map layout

Below are the general steps for laying out a map in ArcMap:

  1. Before starting in ArcMap, it's wise to design the arrangement of the elements onto the map page and plan your layout.
  2. Start by setting your layout's page size and dimensions. See Setting the page size of your map layout below.
  3. Create, edit, and symbolize your data as appropriate in your data frame(s).
  4. In layout view, click the Insert menu to add elements onto your layout. If you have more than one data frame in your map, the elements you insert will relate to the active data frame (to activate a data frame, right-click its name and choose Activate).
    The Insert menu is used to add various elements to your layout

    When you add map elements (for example, a scale bar), the map reflects your updates. You can select, reposition, and modify map elements. Right-click a selected element to access its shortcut menu and set additional options.
  5. Add other text or graphics, such as notes, borders, and frames, using the Draw toolbar. You can use guides, grids, and rulers to help you precisely position elements on your page. See An overview of working with graphics for more information.
  6. Print or publish your map. You can read more about printing at About map printing and about map export at Exporting your map.

Setting the page size of your map layout

Since a layout is the arrangement of map elements of various types on a page for printing, one of the obvious initial steps in building your layout is to set the desired page size using the Page and Print Setup dialog box. By default, when you create a new map in ArcMap and choose Blank Map, the layout page dimensions are set to your default printer's page size.

Steps for setting the layout's page size

  1. Click File > Page and Print Setup on the main menu to open the Page and Print Setup dialog box.
  2. You can set your layout page size as shown here.
    Using the Page and Print Setup dialog box to set the layout size
    By default, the page size of your layout for a blank map will be set to the printer's paper size (for example, 8.5 by 11 inches).
    You may want to change the printer to a large format printer (plotter) in your organization. Use the Name drop-down to set the current printer.
  3. To set your own page size, uncheck the Use Printer Paper Settings check box to set the page size of your layout. If you uncheck this option, you can choose any page dimensions you want, but the printer name will not be saved with the map document (.mxd).
  4. Set the page size by typing the preferred page dimensions into the Width and Height boxes.
    Setting a custom page size for your layout
    Alternatively, you can select a standard page size from the Standard Sizes drop-down list, such as ANSI C, Architectural D, or ISO A2.
    Choosing a standard page size for your layout
  5. Once you change your layout's page size, you will need to resize and reposition all the map elements to fit the new page dimensions. This is necessary even if you are working with a brand new map and have yet to begin adding any map elements or layers.

    Map Page Size is linked to the Paper Size of the current printer whenever the Use Printer Paper Settings checkbox is checked. By default, this option is checked for new maps created via the Blank Map option in the New Document or ArcMap - Getting Started dialog boxes. In the example below, the printer setup Paper Size used as the default by ArcMap is 8.5 x 11 inches. However, the Map Page Size has been unlinked from the original 8.5 x 11 size and set to a larger page, 22 x 34. The initial data frame was placed on the layout based on the original, smaller, page size. So, after changing the Map Page Size, you need to use the layout view in ArcMap to rearrange your layout. Reposition the data frame and layout elements so that they will work well with the new page size.

    Why you must reset your data frame to fit your new layout size

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