The out-of-the-box labeling engine does a fine job with forcing all labels to display despite of overlap. The same cannot be said of Maplex.

I have a polygon layer obtained from the Ontario Provincial government which is solely used for labellings geographical features. (Geographic Name Extent) This is a polygon layer that contains all known "Geographical Name" features along with attributes such as various categories and names in English and French. (Federal government CanVec/NTDB uses a point layer for a similar purpose)

I have a layer that I maintain in which i store the Label schema; all the label 30 definitions and symbols. I simply just import the label schema and turn the labels on. (export and manually correct if needed) I am in the process of updating this layer to work with the Maplex engine but I am unable to place all the labels.

  • I have 30 label classes
  • each class is defined by a simple SQL query
  • each class has a different symbol
  • each class has different placement properties depending on type
  • all label classes are set to "Never Remove (Allow Overlap)"
  • classes with highest priority have a weight of 1000, lowest priority 0

Still many labels are not placed.... Any ideas?

EDIT: I moved the layer to an empty map and I can confirm that when Maplex is off everything is labelled. Turning Maplex on un-places all SMALL POLYGON labels. However, if I zoom extremely close the label appears. I am beginning to feel like Maplex might have been a waste of money. I tried to bring in the layer in question from scratch and creating just one default label class using Maplex - turned on "Never Remove" with same results. All small polygons indicating a location of a town or a bay will not label until over-zoomed. A bug?

EDIT 2: It gets better! I exported all to annotations and out of 1002 features only 429 annotations were created. (Out of which 4 are unplaced) 573 annotations Which I was hoping to "place" manually are missing.

  • have you already tried changing labeling strategy from "Fast" to "Best" on the Labeling toolbar?
    – Paul
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 21:41
  • 1
    I would convert all labels to feature-link annotation (use the un-placed option to get all labels)
    – Mapperz
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 23:02
  • @Paul Yes. Still does not place many labels. @Mapperz I will be converting to annotations but was hoping to visually optimize the placement before I do. Thanks though, i think I will just do that rather then struggle with this Commented May 10, 2011 at 2:42
  • 1
    Even with Maplex Engine it only does 80% of the final work - 20% needs to be done manually as human eyes and experience is far better than any automated algorithm - The original Maplex [Standalone] application had many more options to improve text placement shame on ESRI for not bringing the into ArcGIS Maplex Engine.
    – Mapperz
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 13:50
  • True. And I was expecting to do some of the work manualy. I was not expecting features not to be labelled though. The maples extension is not worth the money. They should not be asking the same they do for say the spatial analyst. Commented May 10, 2011 at 14:08

3 Answers 3


That's a tough one.
The absolute best way to force every label to display is to use an autocad drawing with labels in it. (don't expect you to use this method)
But I have fought many a fight to "force" ESRI label engines (all of them) to label everything.
Next best method is to create a feature annotation in a gdb, and then show unplaced labels, and move them and turn on the status to placed.
Next best is what you are doing.
Click on every button in the dialog changing sizes (also don't forget to change the document scale up or down a little to manage some of this) and priority levels until you find one that is closer than where you are (far away).

  • Thanks Brad. As I mentioned in my response to Mapperz above, I am planning on eventually exporting this to annotations and doing the necessary manual corrections as needed. I was hoping to tackle a lot of dynamic placement tweaking to eliminate as much manual work s possible because I use this layer to store the label definitions. Thanks though, seems like exporting to annotations and placing all unplaced still seems like the best workaround. Commented May 10, 2011 at 2:52
  • artwork21 has a good point. I use the advanced placement in maplex for multiple lables at one point. and then set the offset distance to maybe 500ft.with a preferred distance of 150% and use the geometry to measure from. it looks a little strange when there are only a few labels around a point but with a leader or balloon callout it makes it easy enough to read.
    – Brad Nesom
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 4:45
  • Avoid leader lines at all costs! text placement should just be that. extra lines and or 1990's ballons (arcview 2) is just making more clutter on a map - and looks ugly. Text with halo is the best alternative.
    – Mapperz
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 13:54
  • Added a new edit to the post. Maybe i can return Maplex because honestly it does not really same me any time at all. Commented May 10, 2011 at 17:02

Another option that will complement maplex is to use leader lines. This method will alleviate areas where labels are overlapping or not labeling. See link below where I describe how to implement this method.

Label points at regular intervals using ArcGIS for Desktop?


Sounds like you might have some bad geometries. Never Remove will place everything otherwise. Can you check the geometries to ensure they are simple (Check geometry/repair geometry tools)?

  • Thanks Craig. All geometry is good. Never Remove positively does not place everything especially in situations like this one where i have 30 different label definitions each with different settings in one layer. Works a lot better with Maplex turned off but then I loose all the advanced placements. Commented May 10, 2011 at 2:57
  • I'd like to take a look at this myself if possible. Anyway you can get me the data/mxd? Also, why are you weighting the higher priority classes 1000? That is a feature weight which makes them a barrier. Commented May 10, 2011 at 5:30

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