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ESRI Lunch Specials: Labeling Streets on a Large-Scale Map
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Example of precisely aligned street name labels.
Example of precisely aligned street name labels.

What: The street labels for this map were produced from a street centerline dataset that is not symbolized on the map. Why: The labels needed to fit generally between the block polygons on the map and be easy to read. By making street name labels black against the light gray of the streets and the light beige of the city blocks, the street labels stood out sufficiently and could be made large enough to be easily read even if they overlapped the blocks a little. The major streets, e.g., Market St. and Harbor Blvd., which were differentiated by an attribute value in the database, were given a larger symbol than the rest of the streets. In Cartographic terms, this is called feature hierarchy, learn more about feature hierarchy on page 72 of Designing Better Maps.

We designed for placement of street labels to show one set of labels in the Gas Lamp District, where they would be most needed. The other labels were either pushed to the edge of the map in rows that made them easy to scan, or set in regular rows across other regions of the map, again for ease of finding and scanning.

How: The street labels needed to be placed in a highly specialized way (See page 88 in Designing Better Maps for details), so first we automatically placed the labels and then converted the labels to annotation which could be edited by hand in order to achieve the very refined look we wanted. We used automated labeling with the Maplex Extension to initially place the labels in a fashion that would be easiest to edit and have the fewest labels needing to be created from scratch. The only Maplex settings we used beyond the defaults were:

When converting the labels to annotation, we used the feature-linked option to automatically facilitate the follow feature mode in annotation editing. Most labels just needed to be dragged a little way into their final position, though a few had to be copied and pasted in order to have enough to clearly label a street.

We found a technique that works well when you need to make neatly aligned rows or columns of street names. We started by finding common elements amongst the names and used them to align the street labels, rather than using left or right justification. To do this, we created a graphic line (using the “New Line” tool on the Draw toolbar) that crossed the blocks on an axis we wanted to use for aligning the graphics. Figure 2 illustrates this technique to align all the streets with the abbreviation Ave. on the A, which is the most prominent of the reproduced elements in those labels.

The horizontal line (a graphic element) drawn across the top of the map.
The horizontal line (a graphic element) was drawn across the top of the map and used as a guide to precisely align the annotation features.
What about the guides? posted by Lynn Gionette on Aug 23 2007 1:07PM
You don't really need to draw a graphic line. Just use the guides that ESRI built into ARCMap because I am pretty sure it's purpose is to line up things.
posted by Charlie Frye on Nov 19 2007 12:08PM
The guides are only available in Layout View; but that's a good tip. Thanks.
labeling posted by Lynn Gionette on Feb 29 2008 7:44AM
Hi Charlie, I rarely label in the data view. I find that when I switch over to the layout view to finish up my map, that I most often have to then resize the labels to make them fit the map. It's less effort to just label and move labels in the layout view. Is there a trick to making it work?
Interesting comment posted by Charlie Frye on Sep 14 2010 3:16PM
So, my first reaction is that you're doing the right thing--if you're in the process of finishing the map, i.e., last fine tuning touches.

For larger maps in particular with more going on in the layout, I've found it intolerably slow to edit annotation in layout view when near the edge of my data frame--such that other elements need to draw.

I also try to address size for text in my labeling rules--wanting as little variation as possible--making it easier for the reader to know which text corresponds to which features. Basically after making many maps, I have found that tweaking labeling rules is faster than making the same tedious edit to dozens (or more) annotation features.

So, I guess I'm really saying that it depends on the map, and if what you're doing is working for you, then it can hardly be wrong.


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