I'm using a huge database on arcgis desktop 9.3.1 and every time I do a pan/zoom I have to wait 0.5-1 minute for the whole database to redraw itself. Is there any way to decrease the amount of redraws ( like making the program redraw only once every five pan actions)?

8 Answers 8


Be sure to have all your layers spatially indexed. Then ArcMap (or any other GIS software) fast can pick out what is inside the rectangle you are trying to draw.

Next is to make every layer visible only in a scale where they make sence. If you are drawing a layer made for scale 1:1000 in scale 1:100000 it will take a lot of time and you will probably not see the details anyway.

The third thing is to not have many layers visible that are covering each other. Then all of them will be drawn (I think that is valid for Arc software too) but you only see the one in the front.

If it still is slow you are probably sending the data from another computer with a too bad connection.

Alternatively you are pushing the database to far. Then, maybe you should look at other software solutions (they might be open and free ;-) )

I guess you could stop it from redrawing automatically, but I am not sure that is what you really want to do.


  • 1. What does Spatial Index actually do? as I'm not familiar with it, I'll check if that improves the redraw speed. I've seen it shows in the same section as attribute idex, but I'm guessing that attribute index doesn't relate to the redraw speed but only to query speed (like the indexing in access).
    – jonatr
    Oct 18, 2010 at 6:45
  • 1
    2. as for the visible/non-visible - it is a good solution but only partly, as the speed decreases only a little bit. 3. Many layers not covering each other? how can any GIS commit to that? 5. As for software solutions - what do you mean ( I'd appreciate some "keywords" or software type that will help me look for them)?? Thanks a million !!!
    – jonatr
    Oct 18, 2010 at 6:50
  • 1)If you don't have a spatial index the software have to scan all the geometries in the layer to dermine what to draw. Most spatial indexes works in the way that they arrange the bounding boxes of the geometries in a multidimensional index. In that way it can very fast find what bounding boxes are intersecting with the extent you are trying to draw and from that only consentrate on the geometries that makes sense for that extent. Oct 18, 2010 at 8:41
  • 2) about visible and not visible the trick is to find what layers are slowing things down and keep them hidden when not used. Some layerd will not affect speed at all. It can be one single layer giving you problem. Find that one and deal with it. Antother issue I didn't mention before is complicated symbols. They tend to slow things down very much. Try the slow layers with one color filled symbol and see what that gives. Oct 18, 2010 at 8:44
  • 3) About other software... I wrote som lines in your other question:gis.stackexchange.com/questions/1398/…, But for rendering ArcMap are supposed to be a fast one I think. QGIS as I usually use is not that fast. But I think uDig is quite fast. But when it comes to analysing, processing and webmapping I think the open alternatives mentioned in the other question often is beating Arc even without comparing the costs. Oct 18, 2010 at 8:50

Instead of toggling the pause drawing button, you can use the escape key to cancel drawing. That way, you can allow enough of the map to redraw for the next navigation operation.

  • 1
    That is a good trick I use a lot (sadly, as it is a bit offhand and not a real solution).
    – jonatr
    Oct 18, 2010 at 7:00
  • Hey, I did not know that. Good to know!
    – LarsH
    Oct 18, 2010 at 20:05

If you are using a database alongside other data, it may be worth having them all in the same projection. This way, ArcMap doesn't have to reproject on the fly. Also ensure that the data within the database is all in the same projection (this will be enforced in Feature datasets, but projections can vary throughout other divisions of geodatabases).


Pause labels and pan to features instead of zooming to features (zoom may change scale while pan will not).

  • by "pause labels" do you mean turn off labels? Oct 18, 2010 at 21:46
  • no, matt. on the "label" toolbar there is a pause button which freezes the redraw of labels (good answer, +1, but as I said to jay, sadly, this too is a bit of an offhand solution, and not a direct dealing with the problem).
    – jonatr
    Oct 19, 2010 at 5:05

There are a couple of options I think may help you.

1- You can simply pause drawing (the || symbol in the lower left corner of the data view window). When you do this you can still pan and zoom, although obviously you can't see what you are panning or zooming to.

2 - You can use visible scale ranges to limit the rendering of specific layers to only when you are zoomed in/out of certain ranges. If you are repeatedly panning or zooming to similar locations you can make spatial bookmarks as well (and at those scale levels set the applicable layers you want rendered). (Nicklas's answer beat me too this point)

I imagine others can give suggestions about reducing file complexity, it may also help others if you describe the type of data you are rendering.


I like to use the MXDPerfStat tool when working with 9.x MXDs to analyze where performance improvements with drawing can be made. In 10.0, there are some similar functions with the Map Service Publishing toolbar that analyze layer performance with the goal of optimizing maps for ArcGIS Server.


Scott La vanne gets the prize. "Toggle Draft Mode" is key when using multiple data frames in a large layout.
Unlike the pause button, which grays out the whole screen, it grays out each data frame individually, allowing movement, resizing, and text/graphic/legend/north arrow manipulation.
Until I discovered that I was pulling my hair out when making large maps because of the slow redraw speed at EVERY SINGLE CLICK.


Another option is to use the "Toggle Draft Mode" button on the layout toolbar. This is only useful if you're in layout view though. Unfortunately you can't actually see the data you're panning and zooming around. I have found this very helpful though when adjusting my sheet layout.

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