Spatial Analysis Lab (SAL)

Setting a Reference Scale for Annotation


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See also Converting Labels to Annotation


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Text within a data view in ArcMap can be either Labels or Annotation. Labels are automatically placed by ArcMap using attributes from a layer's attribute table (and remain dynamically linked to the table). Annotation is manually entered (or can be converted from Labels) and allows much more control in terms of customizing individual pieces of text (color, font, size, angle, etc.).


A common setting for annotation is to specify a Reference Scale. Once set the relationship between the size of the text and the size of the features will remain the same, even when you zoom in or out...


Annotation is controlled by settings in the Data Frame Properties (from the View menu choose Data Frame Properties and then select the Annotation Groups tab) (typically working in the data view not the layout view at this point). By default all of the annotation you create goes into the <Default> annotation group - which is fine except for the fact that you can't set the properties for the default annotation group rendering it sort of worthless. Instead, you need to create a New Group (named whatever you like). Once you create an annotation group you can enter a Reference Scale for that group (by opening its properties).

Creating a New Annotation Group
    From the View menu choose Data Frame Properties

    Select the Annotation Groups tab

    Click on the New Group... button

    Enter a name for your new annotation group

    Click OK to close the Annotation Group Properties dialog box

    Click OK to close the Data Frame Properties box


Set the Reference Scale for an Annotation Group

    (see notes below for help in determining what Reference Scale to set)

    Select the Annotation Groups tab of the Data Frame Properties

    Click once on an annotation group to highlight it

    Click on the Properties... button

    Enter a Reference Scale for your group (no commas)

    Optionally enter an Associated Layer or Scale Range while you're at it

    Click OK to close the Annotation Group Properties dialog box

    Click OK to close the Data Frame Properties box


Setting an Annotation Group as the Active Annotation Target

Having created a new annotation group the first thing you want to do is set it as the 'Active Annotation Target' (i.e., the place to put new annotation, as opposed to putting everything into Default still).

    Turn on the Draw toolbar (from the View menu choose Toolbars and make sure there is a check beside Draw)

    From the main drop down/up arrow of the Draw toolbar (beside Drawing), go to Active Annotation Target... and choose your newly created annotation group.


Any newly created annotation will now be stored in your new group until you change the annotation target.

Moving Existing Annotation

If you have existing annotation (in the default annotation group) that you wish to move:

    Set the annotation target to your new group

    Select any text you want to move (using the Select Elements tool)

    from the Edit menu choose Cut

    From the Edit menu choose Paste.

This will paste in a new version of the old text into the new annotation group (and thus subject to its properties...). When you Paste the text back into the map it may be moved a little bit to the south and east of where the text was originally... if you've copied a whole bunch at once you can move it all at once back into position while its still all selected...

Setting / Using the Reference Scale
Assuming that you have an Annotation Group created, setting a Reference Scale will allow you to control the relative size of your text to the features in the map.

    In ArcMap (Data View) zoom in/out as desired (noting the Scale of the data frame)

    Adjust the font size of your text as you wish to get a good 'fit'

    Open the Annotation Group Properties (from the Data Frame Properties) and set the Reference Scale to match that of your data frame (so if you are in data view and the map scale is currently 1:80,000 and your text looks good (in terms of a fit with the data at that scale) you would enter 80000 (no comma) for the Reference Scale.


Then whatever you do in terms of zooming in/out in the data view or a layout view the text will still be the same relative size to the spatial features...

When setting a Reference Scale you'll probably have to play around a bit with the reference scale and/or the size of the text, etc. to get it to all work right, but once you have the game begun you at least can start the tweaking process...


Relative Scale for Labels
A similar effect can be achieved using Labels (automatically placed) by first checking the box for Scale symbols when a reference scale is set (found on the Layer Properties under the Display tab) and then also setting a Reference Scale (found on the Data Frame Properties under the General tab) -




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