Is there a way to change ArcGIS's default shapefile label Font: Aerial Size: 8 to something we are using over and over again? As shown in attached screen shot, I'd like to include a label expression in addition to a saved text symbol:

enter image description here

It would be very helpful to save the couple of steps it takes to change labels as I am working with hundreds of maps / shapefiles.

3 Answers 3


The default symbol for labeling cannot be set in ArcGIS. You get what you get. This is a common enhancement request though and I suggest voting for it on ideas.arcgis.com.

  • Yeah, this is what appears to be reality... yet another example of Esri's planned obsolescence. It would be awesome to get a copy of Esri's "common enhancement requests" log going back a decade or two and see how it compares to their software releases. If i sound bitter about Esri's business practices, it's only because i am. QGIS is looking more and more attractive all the time. google.com/…
    – sirgeo
    Mar 17, 2011 at 15:50
  • I made my ideas.arcgis.com comment sincerely. We take entries on ideas.arcgis.com seriously and incorporate them into our development. Mar 17, 2011 at 20:58
  • Thanks Craig, is there a tool in ArcMap allowing users to click and submit ideas while in the middle of the issue they are working with? Also, i found an interesting link on Esri reviews that may be of interest here glassdoor.com/Reviews/…
    – sirgeo
    Mar 19, 2011 at 17:49
  • ArcMap does not have an in-app feedback mechanism at this time. Mar 21, 2011 at 17:58

In ArcGIS 10 click advanced on the expression

Function FindLabel ( [difference] )
  FindLabel = "<FNT name='Gill Sans MT' size='20'>" & [difference]& "</FNT>"
End Function

enter image description here

Save and that will save you time - can be automated with arcpy

  • Thanks Mapperz, I tried both but defaults labels are unchanged. I read through Advanced Settings Utility and Advanced Settings Registry Keys but didn't see anything about changing default label settings.
    – sirgeo
    Mar 15, 2011 at 12:57
  • Screenhot to help explain for you label to change - rather than the default aerial it is no Gill Sans MT and size 20pt.
    – Mapperz
    Mar 15, 2011 at 13:51
  • i think i didn't explain fully... I already have a label expression i need to use every time called [FAC_TYPE] & " " & [ROUTE] & " " & [SEGMENT_NO] in addition to using a saved label and having "Overlap Labels" turned on as well. exampleWhen i check "Advanced" it goes back to the old default next time i add a new shapefile to the mxd (i am adding hundreds) Unless i am missing how adding your code Function FindLabel ( [difference] ) FindLabel = "<FNT name='Gill Sans MT' size='20'..... would change the defaults i'm at a loss to understand how this works.
    – sirgeo
    Mar 15, 2011 at 14:26
  • Is the Advanced box ticked? as that Function FindLabel ( [difference] ) FindLabel = "<FNT name='Gill Sans MT' size='20' is VBScript not a basic expression.
    – Mapperz
    Mar 15, 2011 at 16:18
  • Yes, Advantaged is turned on with Function FindLabel ( [FAC_TYPE], [ROUTE], [SEGMENT_NO] ) FindLabel = Function FindLabel ( [FAC_TYPE] & " " & [ROUTE] & " " & [SEGMENT_NO] ) FindLabel = "<FNT name='Gill Sans MT' size='20'>" & [FAC_TYPE] & " " & [ROUTE] & " " & [SEGMENT_NO]]& "</FNT>" End Function End Function which gives error.... I really wish there was an affordable alternative to Maplex
    – sirgeo
    Mar 15, 2011 at 19:30

You may have to do two things since you are wanting the expression to be saved, because I haven't tested this out...

Once you set everything up, the label placement properties, expressions, font size/colour etc..., from the Labels tab in that layers Properties window, click the Label Styles button and then click Save.

That will save the label style with its current placement properties and everything you set up and can be used on another layer when you need it, but as for the expression, I am not so sure this will save that. From the label expression window, you may be stuck with using the Save/Load buttons to constantly import your previous expression for use again.

Sorry I can't answer the 'default' setting part of the question.

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