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I don't know if this is possible, but can I have a layer in an ArcMap MXD which is loaded from a layer file, and if that layer file changes, the MXD layer updates to those changes next time I launch the MXD?

For example, Document1 has a point layer symbolized as a square, I save that layer as a layer file. I open Document2 and load that layer file, seeing the point show up as a square. I change the symbology from a square to a triangle and re-save the layer file. I go back to Document1 and reopen it, and now the point layer shows up as the triangle.

The use case is trying to get multiple users working off the same symbology, and have a way to centralize control of the symbology changes so that I just have to change something in one place, but have that change show up in multiple MXD's for multiple users.

Is that possible in ArcMap?

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Short Answer: Yes you can, but Layer Files alone aren't the way to do it.

Long Answer: You can manage a Layer's preferred symbology using Cartographic Representation rules. Then when you update the representation rule, (example: from square to circle) all MXDs with that layer (and using the representation symbology) will indeed automatically update.

Disclaimer: What you are changing is the DEFAULT layer symbology...remember that users can always change/override the symbology to their hearts/minds content.

For more information on Cartographic Representations, attend these online courses:

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