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Gulf of St. Lawrence: Creating stacked scale bars with different units of measure
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Stacked scale bars showing units in kilometers and miles.
Stacked scale bars showing units in kilometers and miles.

What: Sometimes it is useful to show a scale bar that shows more than one unit of measure, especially if your map readers will be from places that use differnt types of units. The scale bars for this map show kilometers and miles. The kilometers scale bar is placed under the miles scale bar because it is longer and serves to anchor the map element on the page. Why: If the audience for your map comes from places that traditionally use different units of measure, or if your audience wants to consider the relationship between different units on the map, you should include scale bars with each unit of measure. Stacking the scale bars aids in this unit comparison and also has the benefit of economizing the space on the page.

How: To create stacked scale bars with different unit of measure we created multiple scale bars. To do this we created one of the scale bars, copied it, and pasted it; then changed the units and the position of the numbers. We took this approach to avoid repeating the assignment of symbols, which would have added minutes to the effort of making this map and would have left open the possibility of us accidentally missing one of the parameters.

To set the scale bar properties like the one in this map:

  1. In Layout view, click on the Insert menu and choose Scale Bar.
  2. In the Scale Bar Selector window choose Alternating Scale Bar 1 and click OK.
  3. We used the Draw toolbar, to change the text size to 6.0 points.
    TIP
    • The text styles: bold, italic, and underline and colors for text, fill, line, and marker can be applied to many layout elements, including scale bars and legends, in addition to simpler drawing objects like text and shapes.
  4. Open the properties for the scale bar you just inserted onto your map and set the following:
    1. On the Scale and Units tab, change the Gap to 1.0 pts.
    2. On the Format tab, set the Symbol of the bar to have an outline width of 0.2 points and an RGB value R:224, G: 217, B: 213 (for a warm light gray).
    3. On the Format tab, set the Symbol2 of the bar to have an outline width of 0.2 points and an RGB value R:242, G: 242, B: 242 (for a very light gray close white; as pure white was a little too bright for this map).
    4. On the Format tab, set the bar’s Size to be 4 pts (the height of the scale bar).
    5. Click OK to apply these changes and close the scale bar properties dialog.
  5. Change the width of the bar so that you get a nice round number that is neatly divisible to accommodate the leftmost subdivision label.
  6. At this point copy and paste the scale bar. We could have repeated steps 1-5 and used Alternating Scale Bar 2, but we would have done more work. Next, change these properties:
    1. On the Scale and Units tab, change the Division Units to Miles.
    2. On the Numbers and Marks tab, change the Numbers Position to Below bar.
    3. Since these scale bars abut, the text for Miles will overlap the Kilometers scale bar. To adjust that, edit the scale bar properties, and on the Format tab, under Text, Symbol, set the Y offset to 1.0 points.
    4. Click OK to apply these changes and close the scale bar properties dialog.
  7. Now move the scale bars into position.

You may find it useful to group the scale bars so you don’t accidentally move one out of position.

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