If a (printed) map is created with an small map in the corner showing the extent of the main map frame in relation to the state/province etc. with a box. What is the proper cartographic term to label this box? I am specifically referring to the red box in attached picture.

Map Extent? Inset map? Anything else?

enter image description here

  • I've flagged this as primarily opinion based, as there are several viable options and, AFAIK, no correct answer. Map Extent, Enlarged Area, Detail Map Shown Below are a few that I've come across on a quick flip through my bookshelf. Your example of "Inset Map" doesn't work, as the rectangle is likely ON the inset map.
    – phloem
    Mar 4, 2015 at 18:31
  • this would commonly be called an overview or overview frame
    – Brad Nesom
    Mar 4, 2015 at 18:58
  • 1
    Although it is pretty clear to me from looking at the image, you should probably edit your question to state that this question is not asking about locator maps. Mar 4, 2015 at 19:14
  • It's now called an Extent Indicator in ArcGIS for Desktop but was previously called an Extent Rectangle there. To keep this question from being closed I think you should look for a term other than "best" because that usually comes down to opinion. A question like "what is this called in software X" is more answerable and less likely to attract opinions.
    – PolyGeo
    Mar 4, 2015 at 21:43
  • Note that it's not an inset map - it's in (or on) an inset/overview map.
    – Chris W
    Mar 4, 2015 at 22:14

2 Answers 2


Well, as far as the inset map itself, I would agree with @cl3 answer of "Locator Map". Now, if you're talking about the red box in your image marking the extent of the related map, I don't know if its the academically officially correct term or not, but ArcGIS Desktop software calls it an "Extent Indicator".

  • As PolyGeo and John both note, the current Esri term is Extent Indicator. I've seen that term (as well as rectangle) used in non-Esri contexts as well, and I thought I had even seen it as a glossary term in my cartography textbook, but I can't find any official references or citations at the moment. Map extent, per phloem's comment, can also work, but the other two terms suggested more refer to what it does or indicates, rather than the name for the actual cartographic element (like legend, inset, overview, scale, etc.).
    – Chris W
    Mar 4, 2015 at 21:51
  • I used the examples "Enlarged Area" and "Detail map shown below" because the question is, "How would you label the red rectangle?" not "What is the rectangle called?". These are real examples from cartography books, so I trust they are suitable. I don't think you would label the box "Extent Indicator" - too technical.
    – phloem
    Mar 6, 2015 at 0:06
  • @phloem The question title and the question in the body are a bit at odds with one another. I was interpreting 'label' as 'call' (or perhaps when you give elements in a layout 'labels'), but you're right that your other terms would be much better to label such a box on a map, assuming calling out the parts of a map isn't the goal.
    – Chris W
    Mar 6, 2015 at 4:17

A "locator map" is what I have most commonly heard it referred to as.

  • 1
    The locator map is the inset map itself, not the rectangular extent indicator on the inset map.
    – phloem
    Mar 4, 2015 at 18:26

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