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overlapping labels with Maplex

September 23 2008 | 1 comment
Categories: Maplex, Symbology

I've been stymied with Maplex and creating non-overlapping labels for point features. (I'm running ArcMap 9.3.) It seems that no matter what options I set in the "Label Offset..." dialog of the "Label Position" tab, I keep getting labels that overlap their own points and other labels. I'm only trying to label one feature, so this seems counterintuitive.

I don't know if you can provide any insight, but I'd be very grateful.

I'm attaching a stripped-down version of the map; I'm trying to label the "wells_all" layer, with particular interest in the "congested" region. (Wells MW-A, MW-B, etc.)

Many, many thanks!

Mapping Center Answer:

First--I did a bit more with this than what we'd normally do--but you went to the effort to give a rich example of a situation I think a lot of people have found themselves in. So, I hope it helps.

The Never Remove Labels option was checked (wells_all layer).  That is what is causing any label that cannot be placed properly to be placed in the default position, regardless of whether that overlaps another label or feature. Ironically, we almost always end up advising people never to use this option.

Your Max Offset for leader lines was way way way too big, I changed it to 1200 from 1000000.  This was causing the map to draw very slowly and produce leader labels that were located somewhere in Tennessee (versus on your map in Michigan).

I also made your leader line symbol match your text symbol.

Your text symbol's 2.0 pt white halo was covering up your point symbols--halos are not accounted for in offsets, so you would have to do that by bumping up the offset.  Though generally a 2 pt halo is too big, 0.5 to 1.2 is good rnage if you feel compelled to do a halo.  (I tend not use halos as they tend to make my maps look like they have an unsophisticated quick & dirty 'mash-up' look to them).

I also changed the Maplex placement mode from Fast to Best.

I made a ZIP file that contains two MXDs, based on yours.  The first with just "_fixed" appended to the name is just the labeling fixes I suggested above--you should see that this map now labels properly.

The second MXD "_fixed_sym" also contains some adjusted symbology that alleviates the need for the halos--though I did leave a white drop-shadow.  The general idea is to symbolize the base map items on the map in a subdued or less bright/bold fashion--then that leaves the color black, in particular to be used on your well outlines and well labels--making them pop off the map.

The following images show the progression:

Initial Map:

Initial Map

After Maplex Labeling fixes:

Initial Map

After Symbol fixes:

Initial Map

Note I made the watershed polygon a solid since I couldn't easily tell which side of the line was inside versus outside--granted if I thought about it being a watershed I could have figured it out based on the drainage, but why make people think?

Thank you, thank you! posted by Andrew Henderson on Nov 2 2008 11:30AM
Please accept my belated thanks for a wonderfully helpful reply. Your efforts to clean up my work -- and to explain what I had done wrong -- were above and beyond the call of duty, but they are much appreciated. My map labeling skills are much-improved, thanks to you!

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