Is there any way to tweak ArcMap to make the loading of the Symbol Selector and Symbol Editor dialogs faster?

I have a lot of symbols in my style files and I want to keep it that way since it is essential for my workflow. I understand that style files are access mdb databases so i compacted them but that didn't help although it did reduce the size of the databases. There is a lot of lag (5 - 6 seconds) between clicking the "Change Symbol" in the "Properties dialog" and another 5 - 6 seconds between clicking the "Edit Symbol" button in the "Symbol Selector" and the Editor dialog coming up.

Another place where things get quite slow is editing custom symbols, especially complex symbols composed of many layers - the properties in the Symbol Property editor take a while to refresh and it refreshes after every single change.

I am planning on going through my symbols library and purge any that are unused but i have doubts it will help much. This is a common issue even in with a new install of ArcGIS with only the dafault style file.

Does anyone know a way to fix this?

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  • 1
    I have noticed this as well, but I doubt there is much if anything that you can do about it other than use fewer and simpler symbols, break them up into smaller style files, etc.
    – blah238
    Commented May 24, 2013 at 15:33
  • I keep hoping that they will improve all the symbol selector dialog boxes i.t.o usability and performance :-/ as @blah238 said, try to keep them as simple as possible. Commented May 24, 2013 at 15:37
  • Agreed - lots of room for improvement there - small things like changing a simple line of a certain thickness and a custom colour from simple to cartographic and having to thickness and colour reset to default black and point 1 drives me crazy... Commented May 24, 2013 at 15:40
  • I am not aware of a workaround for this because you say that you want to keep a "lot of symbols in [your] style files" but, in any event, I recommend that you add your vote to the existing ArcGIS Idea to address Change Symbols / Edit Symbol Dialog Speed. Alternatively, you could watch out for whether it is addressed in the new ArcGIS Professional application.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 10:05

1 Answer 1


As best I can determine, the delay is due to ArcMap querying Windows for the installed fonts. The more fonts you have installed, the longer that query takes, and that query is not cached (so every time you push Edit Symbol it happens all over again).

So I aggressively uninstall every font I don't use regularly, and repeat the process with every new software install. This can be a painful exercise as it's hard to determine exactly which fonts are in active use by programs and documents, especially if they haven't been used in a while. This is compounded by the fact that many programs, especially ArcMap, don't complain if they can't find the typeface they've been asked to use and will just silently substitute another one.

There are number of font/typeface managers out there, some are very good, and expensive, and many are just not. My current preference is for NexusFont, which is free, fairly feature rich and nimble. It does occasionally crash or otherwise behave unexpectedly. Of the commercial ones we've evaluated Suitcase Fusion comes out on top.

Whatever font management system you use, arrange your fonts in folders -- mapping, word docs, websites, etc. -- and link to the files instead of copying them to the Windows Fonts folder. This facilitates turning them on/off as needed. Here's how I have mine setup in NexusFont:

my Nexus font sets

The numbers are bit faint in the screenshot, but hopefully you can see that the default set (that is, what was put there before I started managing the fonts) is a hefty 757 typefaces while what I use most of the time is "only" 170. I'm sure I could cut even that in half or more but so far I've lacked the willpower to analyse further. (That would make a great open source project, a public listing of all the required vs desireable vs fluff font files!)

  • Makes a lot of sense. I do have a lot of fonts. I will take a closer look at NexusFonts. Thanks! Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 2:14
  • I have not done anything beyond observing the behavior today and I can confirm that only those dialog boxes that load fonts are slow. Those that only load symbols are not affected. Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 18:42

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