I would like to use key numbering when labeling specific layer. But the tricky thing is I want to label every feature in this way.
By default, key numbering is last option in Strategy order (source). And there's no possibility to change it.

Is there any workaround to force ArcMap to use key numbering for every feature?

2 Answers 2


Belated workflow here. Assume you're working with a point layer or with centroids of your polygon/polyline in the northern hemisphere:

  • Calculate a latitude field if it's not already present
  • Export your point layer's attribute table and open it in Excel, etc.
  • Sort your latitude field descending (largest [northernmost] values on top, smallest (southern) values at the end)
  • Add a new field named Lat_Order
  • Calculate =Row()-1 for each record in the dataset (data beginning on row two will have a value of 1. This will be your key numbering label
  • Save the spreadsheet, and add it to the ArcMap project as a standalone table
  • Join the table to your point layer based on the OBJECTID field
  • Label based on the the Lat_Order field
  • Go back to the spreadsheet and grab the Lat Order and your point's name field to display the lookup list/key legend in your map

Does this help (years later)?

  • If you have the license for it, Sort by Peano Curve or similar would give "nicer" results. After all, consider a road running N/S with point addresses on each side.
    – Paul
    Nov 6, 2015 at 4:39

Good question. Not really an answer here but the comment was too long - Have you tried removing all strategies but the Key Numbering? You will probably not be able to force this on every feature as it is a "Fitting Strategy" rather then a "Label Position" parameter. There are also no other options for Key Numbering such as the placement distance. It seems to be putting my label lists too far from the numbers. Since this is a new feature i would think future improvements are coming. Forcing Key Numbering for every feature would be a good idea.

  • Thanks for answer. There's no possibility to remove strategies from Strategy Order. So it left me to create numbering as attribute and manually add table with numbers and description.
    – Marcin
    Mar 1, 2013 at 7:59
  • That's the only way I can see you can do this. ESRI is on the right track with this tool but it needs some work. What I meant by removing strategies was to uncheck them. If uncheck the strategy is not applied even if it is still in the order list. This way you can make maplex ignore all fitting strategies but the Key Numbering. It will still only do this in very dense area after placement has failed so I don't see any other way but manual. You could have another point layer with the list string in a field then un-check stacking and use vbnewline in the expression. Mar 1, 2013 at 14:38

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