How do I speed up the process of redrawing layers in a MXD?

I have already tried reloading and indexing the layers.

The layers were created from shapefiles.

  • 1
    are you in a database of any kind right now? or are you strictly calling shapefiles into your mxd?
    – MDHald
    Jan 17, 2014 at 14:30
  • For discussion on shapefiles versus databases, please read here.
    – Martin
    Jan 17, 2014 at 14:32
  • Clear your cache and see improving speeds "You'll need to devise a strategy to manage how your local cache is managed, either layer by layer or for all the contents in your display cache." resources.arcgis.com/en/help/main/10.1/index.html#//…
    – Mapperz
    Jan 17, 2014 at 15:27

3 Answers 3


If you don't need to edit or change symbology in your layers (too often), you can use Basemap layers. It will keep the data in-memory after drawing it for the first time.

But, as mentioned, the price to pay is that the only thing you can do with a layer in a Basemap layer group is turn it on or off. Everything else is disabled.

Another thing you can do is to save all your data on disk instead of a remote server, if you haven't already done so.


Some points to improve display performance of vector data:





  • Use simple cartographic symbols/styles.
  • Use only one symbol layer to create your symbol. Symbols created of multiple layers decrease performance.

for points:

  • Use simple or character marker symbols.
  • Do not use picture marker symbols.
  • If you can’t avoid picture marker symbols then use wmf. Do not use bmp.
  • Don’t use a “mask”.

For lines:

  • Use simple solid lines.
  • Marker, cartographic Lines, offset and others will decrease performance

For polygons:

  • Use simple fill with simple outline.
  • Fill marker, picture fill, character marker fill and others will decrease performance


  • Turn labeling off.

  • use display range for labels and annotations

  • Use label classes to display only a subset of features with Labels.

  • Using of label weight will decrease Performance

  • Label expressions decrease performance

  • Annotations are faster than labels

  • Store annotations in Geodatabases, not in MXD


I recommend the use of a file geodatabase. This clearly improves the speed at which the layers are drawn.

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