I'm not new to GIS, but just learning ArcGIS 10.

I have been led to believe that the standard labeling engine doesn't allow any overlap: http://help.arcgis.com/en/arcgisdesktop/10.0/help/index.html#/Positioning_labels_with_the_Standard_Label_Engine/00s800000020000000/

however, I am seeing significant amounts of overlap between labels in just one layer. This is the image I get:

alt text

This is within a Data Frame with a fixed scale (1:2500) and no reference scale . I wondered whether that had anything to do with it, but playing around with either of these parameters doesn't seem to have any effect. Is there anything I'm missing in the label manager options - I have checked and double checked that the "Place Overlapping Labels" check box is off. When I increase the buffer size, I get fewer labels, but some of them still overlap.

  • TOIDs are a pain - remove the 10000- which save a lot of space use a smaller font 8pt to 6pt. maplex labelling would help if have the extension (you should have it if on ArcInfo Level Licence as it is bundled with it now.) Switch it on and use BEST at that scale
    – Mapperz
    Nov 15, 2010 at 18:47

2 Answers 2


Ensure that the "Place overlapping labels" check mark is unchecked. This will not re-position or rotate labels but rather remove labels that overlap other labels. If you would like you can create a "static" annotation features class and export both placed and unplaced annotations. This way you can "turn-on" the overlapping labels and place them manually one by one. The default labeling engine only has basic functionality so if you need a more "intelligent" control over the dynamic placement of labels you might need to get the Maplex extension. You can also try it out for free for a limited time.

  • 2
    Ditto... The standard label engine leaves much to be desired.some of the workarounds I have used. 1. create annotation and spend a "bunch" of time moving the labels you want, placing unplaced and moving overlapping (quite a bit of diff between 9.3 and 10). 2. If you have autocad map, I have created a static drawing of text placed where it needs to be and then display that in arcmap. 3. buy maplex, it provides 96% (that's just a guess) of the correct labeling functionality you want.
    – Brad Nesom
    Nov 15, 2010 at 15:11
  • The biggest beef I have with arcmap labeling (in both standard and maplex) is that when you make a layer with place overlapping (i.e. section labels, because you want them all to place) then any text boxed tha tyou place in the map will be overposted by those overlapping labels no way around it.
    – Brad Nesom
    Nov 15, 2010 at 15:13
  • OK, I've just added what I'm seeing as a PNG. I'm definitely not checking the overlapping box. I guess what I'm asking is whether this is expected behaviour? I thought ArcGIS was supposed to have very good label placement. I actually have access to maplex, so maybe I'll try that. As far as I can see though, in no way does this conform to the manual: "When you turn on dynamic labeling, the ArcMap Standard Label Engine fits as many labels as possible, without overlap, within the available space on the map".
    – Stev_k
    Nov 15, 2010 at 15:23
  • 1
    Any chance you have label classes defined and another label class is being drawn? Make sure that on the Labels tab of the Layer Properties the Method is "Label all the features the same way" Nov 15, 2010 at 17:52

I guess that I would say seeing your data that I would expect arcmap to behave that way. I hadn't read the manual I guess. Saying that I would expect that the statement in the manual is still almost true with reasonable data. (your data kinda falls wihtin the exception. Long values and polygons don't mix well. Now seeing that there is another set of ticks you might try. you could set up some you could define classes of features and label feature differently (select the label all features the same) and then define display thresholds for each. becoming more restrictive as you zoom out. Several ways to restrict.

  1. sql defining polygons > area
  2. select the only place labels inside polygons on the placement page.
  3. use several levels and set a scale range for each (i.e. 100-999, 1000 - 4999, 5000 - 199999)

Another trick you should be aware of... I often make a copy of a layer and "turn off" the symbol in the copy. then the polys and the labels can be displayed seperately. At that point you could define a definition query and only display labels for "Certain values, or types".

Trick No 2. When in the dialog (and on the webhelp page) look at the help and see options for Round(myvalue,0) or Left (myvalue, 3first three char) and many other options for display one, or more values or partial values, or calculated values. HTH

  • I respectfully disagree with this statement: "Long values and polygons don't mix well." Normally ArcMap handles this "As Advertised". There is something else going on here; "label classes" are used instead of "Label All Features the Same Way", labels were exported to annotations and are also showing along with the dynamic labels, display/video issues or something else. Nov 16, 2010 at 1:13

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