If I remember correctly, in ArcView 3, after a scale bar had been created, you could change its properties so that it would show the scale for a different data frame than the one that was used to create it. I think the same applied to north arrows.

In ArcGIS 10, when you create a scale bar, it displays the scale of the data frame that is active when you create it. Is it possible to change that association after the scale bar has been created? As far as I know, if you want to use that scale bar (and whatever customizations you've made to it) with a different data frame, you can't, you need to delete it and insert a new one, re-creating any modifications you've made to the scale bar.

I'm asking because I have an MXD which has a layout I like, and I want to paste a data frame (containing a map I need) into it. But I can't re-use the scale bars and north arrow which already exist in the MXD, I'll need to recreate them.

  • Why can you not just add the layers to the data frame that is tied to the scale bar and north arrow that you want to keep?
    – artwork21
    Dec 6, 2013 at 20:44
  • @artwork Because I also have annotation and other things in the data frame that are harder to copy over. I can (and have) just save the style of the scale bars and recreate them using the new data frame, but this was a handy feature (if rarely used) in ArcView 3, I was just wondering if it was hiding somewhere in ArcMap.
    – Dan C
    Dec 6, 2013 at 20:55
  • Technically, you wont need to delete the first scale bar. Just add another and move one outside your layout when you don't want it. Depending on how you have set up your mxd, it might also be possible to save it as a template and open the other data frame in that template. Then things like scale bar and north arrow will be associated with the new data.
    – Martin
    Dec 7, 2013 at 7:43

2 Answers 2


I was able to copy the scale bar I wanted to use, activate the data frame I needed it for, then paste. The new one retains all the formatting of the old. You can then set aside or delete the old one.


In this situation, I would use the "Change Layout" tool on the Layout Toolbar. Open the MXD that contains the data frame you want to use and then use the "Change Layout" tool. In the tool, choose the MXD that contains the layout, scale bar, etc. that you want to use as your template and click Finish.

This will insert the data frame you want onto the map layout you want and should preserve the features such as the layout, north arrow, scale bar, etc.

Here is the tool:

enter image description here

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.