Exercise 3a: Converting labels to annotation

Complexity: Beginner Data Requirement: ArcGIS Tutorial Data for Desktop Data Path: \ArcGIS\ArcTutor\Editing

About annotation features

Annotation is a way to store text to place on your maps. With annotation, each piece of text stores its own position, text string, and display properties. Labels, which are based on one or more attributes of features, are the other primary option for placing text on maps. If the exact position of each piece of text is important, you should store your text as annotation in a geodatabase. Annotation provides flexibility in the appearance and placement of your text because you can select individual pieces of text and edit them. You can convert labels to create new annotation features.

In this exercise, you will convert labels into geodatabase annotation so you can edit the text features.

Preparing the labels for conversion

The map you will use in this exercise contains roads and water features in Zion National Park. The layers in the map have dynamic labels, but some of the map features could not be labeled due to space constraints. When you convert the labels to annotation, you can position each piece of text manually.

  1. Click the Open button Open on the Standard toolbar.
  2. Navigate to the Exercise3.mxd map document in the Editing directory where you installed the tutorial data. (C:\ArcGIS\ArcTutor is the default location.)
  3. Click the map and click Open.
  4. If you still have the map document open from the previous exercise and are prompted to close it, you can do so without saving your changes.
  5. Each feature layer has dynamic labels, and the Streams layer has label classes based on the layer's symbology. Label classes let you create different labels for different types of features in a given layer, so for example, intermittent streams can be given smaller labels than perennial streams.
  6. Click Customize, point to Toolbars, then click Labeling.
  7. To view which labels do not fit, view the unplaced labels. Click the View Unplaced Labels button View Unplaced Labels.
  8. The labels that could not be placed are displayed in red. It might be possible to fit these labels by adjusting their size, changing the feature and label weights, or making the map larger. However, for this exercise, you will convert the labels to annotation and place or delete the unplaced annotation.
    Unplaced labels shown in red
  9. Click the View Unplaced Labels button View Unplaced Labels again to hide the unplaced labels.
  10. Annotation features have a fixed position and size, so when you zoom in to the map, they appear to get larger. Labels are dynamically drawn according to their layer’s label properties. If the map does not have a reference scale, they are drawn at their specified font size regardless of the map scale. To make labels behave more like annotation, you can set a reference scale for the map. The labels are drawn with their specified font size scaled relative to the reference scale. When converting labels to annotation, you should specify a reference scale. If you do not, the current map scale is used as the reference scale for the annotation.
  11. Type 170000 in the Map Scale box on the Standard toolbar and press ENTER.
  12. In the table of contents, click the List By Drawing Order button List By Drawing Order, if it is not already the active way to sort layers. Then, right-click Layers (the name of the data frame), point to Reference Scale, then click Set Reference Scale.
  13. Now if you zoom in or out, the labels become correspondingly larger or smaller. You are ready to convert these labels to annotation.

Converting labels to annotation

Annotation can be stored in a map document or in feature classes in a geodatabase. You will convert these labels to annotation stored in a geodatabase. The Convert Labels to Annotation dialog box allows you to specify what kind of annotation to create from the labels, which features to create annotation for, and where the annotation will be stored.

  1. In the table of contents, right-click Layers and click Convert Labels to Annotation.
  2. ArcGIS for Desktop Basic users can view feature-linked annotation, but they cannot create it or edit datasets that contain it. If you have an ArcGIS for Desktop Basic license, the Feature Linked column of check boxes is unavailable. In this exercise, you will create standard annotation features. Skip the next step if you have an ArcGIS for Desktop Basic license.
  3. Uncheck the check boxes in the Feature Linked column.
    Convert Labels to Annotation dialog box
  4. Small folder icons, the browse buttons, appear beside the annotation feature class names as you uncheck the Feature Linked check boxes. Feature-linked annotation must be stored with the feature class that it is related to in the geodatabase. Standard annotation feature classes can be stored in other geodatabases; after unchecking the boxes, you have the option to specify a new location for your annotation. Standard annotation feature classes are stored in the same dataset as their source feature class by default. If a feature layer on the map was based on a shapefile or coverage feature class, the browse button would have been visible and you would need to browse to a geodatabase to store the new annotation feature class.
  5. Verify that Convert unplaced labels to unplaced annotation is checked. This gives you a chance to manually place the annotation for the features that could not be labeled.
  6. Click Convert.

    The labels are converted to annotation. The process should take less than a minute, though the speed depends on your computer. When the annotation feature classes are created, they are added to ArcMap.

    Each layer's label classes are stored as separate annotation classes within a single annotation feature class. For example, the two label classes for streams become two annotation classes, Intermittent and Perennial, within the StreamsAnno annotation feature class. These annotation classes can be turned on and off independently, and they can have their own visible scale ranges.

  7. To continue to the next exercise, click Exercise 3b: Editing annotation features.

You have converted labels to annotation features. Next, you will place them on the map and edit their positions.