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I'm currently going through the GIS 20 essential skills book where I have to fix labels. I have changed the setting from simple to Maplex and now I couldn't figure out how to assign buffers to label using conflict detection tab in Maplex. Usually, I would assign "2" to a simple label. So how do I do that in Maplex? It has two choices; Interior boundary features and exterior boundary features. I tried entering the same for Maplex but the results are still chaos.

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Make sure the maplex labelling engine is enabled.

When a label buffer is specified, the Maplex Label Engine uses this buffer as a guide for the trial positions and places the labels with their buffer if there is space available. If creating a buffer for a label would result in unplaced labels, the label engine will not create the buffer, resulting in closely placed labels. In this situation, no labels will be dropped from placement.

If the Hard constraint check box is checked, the buffer is respected regardless of available space. This results in well-spaced labels but also in the possibility of many unplaced labels.

key part is to modify the label buffer value as a percentage of font height. The default is 15%, and the maximum is 50%.

full detials http://desktop.arcgis.com/en/arcmap/latest/map/working-with-text/specifying-a-label-buffer-distance-to-change-the-s.htm

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