4 Simple Tricks for Easy Map Making

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Every GIS person knows that making maps can be a tedious often times repetitive task. We are usually asked to make maps of a certain area over and over again or we are asked to replicate a design standard from another map made elsewhere, to name a few. Below are a few simple steps you can take to reduce time and make maps quicker and easier.

1. Use .lyr files

One of the most repetitive tasks is symbolizing data over and over again for each new map created. One way to reduce time creating uniform and consistent maps is to create layer files once a defined design style has been established. You can then easily import this symbology into several maps delivering a polished look to all of your products. To take it one step further, if the file is maintained in a database you can import this layer file as a representation and it will automatically be displayed and symbolized that way every time it is loaded into a map.

2. Create Bookmarks in Layout View

One of my favorite all time tricks is really quite simple. In order to get a consistent and repeatable print one should create your bookmarks in layout view instead of data view. By creating your bookmarks in layout View you get a true representation of what the map will look like when you are ready to print. We have all had the circumstance where we created what we though were perfect bookmarks for map printing but when the map was switched views our layout view is actually at a much smaller scale than the data view bookmark.

3. Create a Legend grouped layer

Once you have established all of the layers and how they will be defined create a group layer of all the files in the map. You can then use this as the files for your legend. By setting the properties, such as “Do not add new layers to the legend when added to the map” and “Only display layers checked in the table of contents, one can quickly adjust the legend without much effort. Whatever you do in the map doesn’t matter because the Legend is not changing dynamically anymore.

4. Have the scale text available outside of the map frame window

As a general rule of thumb I always add the scale text in miles and feet to my layout view and then drag them out of the view pane, but where I can still see them. This gives me easy access to quickly know what scale the map view is at and adjust the scale bar accordingly. You’ll never need a calculator again!

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