I am using ArcGIS 10.1, I am just wondering if there is a way to maintain constant the selected symbols for some shapefile. The scope is to use the same shapefile with the same chosen symbols also in other map projects avoiding to select every time again the symbols.

2 Answers 2


To preserve symbology you can right click on the layer in ArcMap and Save as a Layer. This creates a lyr file that references the source shapefile. This file needs to go with the shapefile, but it can be loaded in different map documents. You can change the source of the layer in the layer properties to switch different shapefiles if you need to.



I love Layer Files and Packages, but I usually reserve their use for Layer Groups and not individual Layers (barring some situations with extensive labeling sub-classes). A Quick simple way to add a new layer to the map with pre-defined symbology ...

  1. Open a blank Map
  2. Add the data you want to symbolize
  3. Double Click the symbol in the Table of Contents and modify to your liking
  4. Before Closing the 'Symbol Selector' Click 'Save As' and name the symbol EXACTLY as the layer name appears in the Table of Contents.
  5. Close the map without saving.
  6. Open a new map and add the previous data.

If the feature class being added to any map has a Layer Name name that matches a pre-defined style ... that layer will be added to the map using that pre-defined style.

Some may argue that this isn't portable and I'm not sure if that was a requirement. But, if you need portability, look into 'Exporting Map Styles' to take your pre-defined symbolgy with you wherever you go.


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