Working with the Maplex Label Engine

When you use the Maplex Label Engine, you have access to a new set of label placement properties that let you control the following:

In addition to the standard feature types, the Maplex Label Engine provides label placement options for features such as streets, contours, rivers, boundaries, and land parcels.

Learn how to set the Maplex Label Engine as the default label engine

Label Position

The first tab of the Placement Properties dialog box, Label Position, helps you answer the question, Where does the label go? This tab controls how a label is positioned with respect to a feature. Point, line, and polygon feature classes have different label position options. You can specify curved or straight label placement, align labels with features or with the projection graticules, and set the word and character spacing within labels. These options combine to offer a wide variety of label placements.

Label fitting strategies

The second tab, Fitting Strategy, helps you answer the question, What can I do to a label to make it fit on the map? This tab allows you to control if and how the Maplex Label Engine will alter a label's placement or format when placing labels in crowded areas of the map. These parameters allow you to maintain the overall clarity of the map while increasing the number of labels that are placed on it. The label-fitting strategy parameters control label stacking, feature overrun, font size reduction, label abbreviation, and key numbering. In addition, the Maplex Label Engine allows you to specify a preference for the order in which these strategies will be applied to the placement of the label.

Learn more about using label fitting strategies

Label density strategies

The third tab, Label Density, helps you answer the question, How densely do I want my labels to be placed? You can decrease the number of labels placed per label class by spacing out the labels that are placed. Do this by setting a buffer size to control the space around labels or by removing duplicate labels. You can also control label density by labeling features based on their size or their connection to other features.

For small-scale maps where you may have larger features that display over the extent, you can increase the number of labels placed for features. This is useful when dealing with large meandering polygons, such as in geologic maps, or long highways that span the extent of a map.

Learn more about using label density strategies

Label conflict resolution strategies

The fourth tab, Conflict Resolution, helps you answer the question, What wins a space when multiple labels are competing for it? This tab contains parameters that order the importance of label classes and their associated features. The Maplex Label Engine has a number of label conflict resolution strategies to solve label problems in congested areas. Feature weights let you indicate which feature classes may be covered by labels. Background labels may be overlapped by other labels.

Learn more about using conflict resolution strategies

Preventing labels from overlapping certain features

Some features on a map may be more important than others. Feature weights let you indicate the relative importance of feature classes or features being labeled by a given label class. You can reduce the chance that important features from a given class will be overlapped by labels by assigning the feature class a larger feature weight than other feature classes. Features with feature weights will always be passed to the Maplex Label Engine as barriers even if they are not labeled. If there is an SQL query that limits the number of features displayed, only the subset of features will be added to the placement engine as barriers. The remaining features will not be displayed or used as barriers by the Maplex Label Engine.

Feature weight

The feature weight ranks the importance of features labeled by a given label class, compared to other features, on a scale of 0–1,000. The Maplex Label Engine places labels to avoid overlapping important features. A feature weight of 0 indicates that the feature should be treated as available space, while a weight of 1,000 indicates that the feature should not be overlapped by labels. The Maplex Label Engine first attempts to place labels in an area of free space. If there is no free space available and a feature must be overlapped, a location with the lowest total feature weight is chosen.

You can set a feature weight for point and line feature classes. Polygon feature classes have two weights, interior weight and boundary weight, which are set separately.

Interior and boundary weight

Polygon features have two types of feature weights. The interior weight lets you specify how important the interior of the polygon is relative to other features. The boundary weight lets you specify how important the edge of the polygon is relative to other features. You can allow labels to overlap the interior but not the edges of a polygon or vice versa.