Layers Pane and Layouts

The Layers pane is a primary interface when working with layouts.    When used with layouts, the layers pane applies to frames and folders.   The Layers pane is especially useful when working with Legends in layouts, because legends are made up of frames and folders.


 Substantial changes have been made in Legends in build 9.0.179, making this topic out of date.  Until this topic has been updated, see the First Look - Legends in Maps and Layouts video for a quick introduction to new legend capabilities.


The Layers pane provides so many capabilities that several topics are required.   See also:


Layers Pane


Folders in the Layers Pane


Layers Pane and Tables


With the focus on the opened layout, choose the Layers pane to manage how  frames are displayed in the layout.








We start with a layout that has seven frames:  one frame is a North arrow frame, three of the frames are text frames, two are frames showing Bing satellite or street map web servers, and the bottom frame is a map that shows buildings and roads in Monaco.  The map frame, which shows roads, railroads, and buildings, is the largest and appears at the bottom of the display stack.  If it were moved up in the display stack, it would hide any frames below it.



Clicking show/hide boxes in the Layers pane will turn off any frames we do not want to appear.  In the illustrations above, we have turned off two of the text frames as well as the Bing streets layer.

Using Folders with Frames in a Layout

Folders within the Layers pane apply to frames in layouts just as it they apply to fields in tables or to layers in maps.    We use the Monaco layout above as an example: we would like to group all of the text frames together in one folder, and we would like to group the Bing inset frames together in another folder.  We can then manipulate all frames in the same folder together.


Using folders with frames is easy: we begin by using the New Folder button twice to create two new folders, one called Text, and the other called Servers.   



We first click the Monaco row and press the New Folder button to create a Text folder, and then we click the Bing satellite row and press the New Folder button to create a Servers folder.



We Ctrl-click the three text frames to select them. We then press the Move to Folder button and choose Text from the dropdown menu.  That moves the text frames into the Text folder.  The illustration at right above shows the three frames within the folder, after we have pressed Shift-Ctrl-A or Edit - Select None to deselect them.



Next, we Ctrl-click the two Bing layers to select them.  We then press the Move to Folder button and choose Servers from the dropdown menu.  That moves the two Bing frames into the Servers folder.  The illustration at right above shows the two frames within the folder, after we have pressed Shift-Ctrl-A or Edit - Select None to deselect them.



Having created two folders, we can now use them. We turn on all text layers, and then we show how to use the folder to quickly turn off all text frames, to better demonstrate the effect of using a folder.



We click the on/off box for the Text folder to switch the folder off.



Instantly, all of the text frames within the folder are hidden.   The prior on/off status of the text frames is remembered, to be restored if we turn the Text folder back on.



If we like, we can collapse the Text folder to hide the frames it contains.   We can turn all the layers on and off by clicking the on/off button for the Text folder.



Next, we click the on/off box for the Servers folder, to turn the folder off.



Both of the Bing frames are hidden.



A keyboard shortcut:  We can turn all frames within folders on/off at once by Ctrl-clicking both folders to select them, as seen above with the folders collapsed.  We then press the spacebar to toggle them on/off.




Instantly, all frames within the folders are toggled on.   Note that the frames within the Text and Servers folders are shown in the layout with red selection color, because selecting a folder also selects everything within the folder.


 Although the most frequent use for folders is to hide or show all items in a folder together, since the essence of being in a folder is that items are selected with a single click together, we can do anything to those folder members that can be done with selected items:  in layouts, we could also change the opacity of all frames in a folder together, or move them up and down in the display stack together.   


Filter Button


When working with layouts that have many frames, we may want to reduce the number of frames shown in the Layers pane to only those frames that interest us.


With layouts, the Filter button in the Layers pane toolbar  is used to restrict the Layers pane list to only showing frames of the desired type:



For example, if we want the Layers pane to list only those frames that contain images, that is easy to do.



For example, if we want the Layers pane to show only frames that contain images, we click the filter button and then choose Images.



Only frames with images in them will be listed. If those frames are grouped inside a closed folder, the folder holding the images will be listed.  We can open the folder to see the image frames within, such as the frames containing image server images.



To show all frames in the Layers pane, click the Filter button and choose All.



Read-only data - The Layers pane recognizes when the data it displays is read-only, and disables controls and commands that cannot be used with read-only data. Temporary layouts and temporary maps are always writable. Tables and queries always appear writable with changes to tables on read-only data sources being kept in the window and being discarded after the window is closed.


Widths in printer's points - Why are the widths of columns in tables specified in printer's points as a unit of measure?  Tables display text in fonts that are specified in printer's points, with displays and printouts normally scaling to show those fonts in reasonably accurate real-world sizes.   Setting the width of columns using the same units of measure allows table column sizes to scale the same way as the fonts they contain.


Folders only with consecutive layers - In the Layers pane, all layers within a folder are consecutive layers.   Using consecutive layers as part of a folder repeats a familiar metaphor, as used in outlines, to group together layers under a folder in a simple, clear, easily-understood interface.


Selecting layers follows folder hierarchy - Selecting or deselecting a folder also selects or deselects everything within that folder, including all layers and subfolders.   Deselecting a layer or a subfolder within a folder hierarchy, deselects all folders above it in the hierarchy.  That follows the rule that if a folder is selected, all of the layers and subfolders are selected as well.


Moving layers follows folder hierarchy -  Moved layers using move up/down commands in the Layers pane never change their folder level, and layers never move between folders as a result of move up/down commands.


Grouping layers in the Layers pane preserves folder selection - Actions that attempt to create folders with a selected parent and unselected children are denied.


Missing or Invalid Z Order - Table fields, layout frames, and map layers with invalid or missing Z order info are placed last in the display stack (at the bottom).


No redundant layers - A given layer can appear just once in a map.   For example, a drawing of roads can appear only once as a layer in a map.  We cannot have a map that has two layer tabs that both refer to the same roads drawing.   It is possible using programming or by manually changing a map's properties to add two layers to a map that both refer to the same roads drawing.  However, in that case only one layer tab will appear in the map window.   Both "roads" layers will appear in the Layers pane but only the first, upper layer will be valid and will be usable.   Any additional layers referring to the same roads drawing will be invalid and will not be usable. The invalid layers will appear in the Layers pane so we can select them and delete them, a useful way of cleaning up programming errors.


See Also

Layers Pane


Folders in the Layers Pane


Layers Pane and Tables


North Arrow


Scale Bar














Layer Opacity




Info Pane


Style Pane


Example: Layers Tutorial - We take a tour of the Layers pane, learning how to manage layer display order, select layers, turn several layers on and off at the same time, alter opacity settings for one or more layers and how to change background color.


Example: Style Pane Quickstart - A tutorial introduction to using the Style pane to apply color, symbology, size and rotation to areas, lines and points in drawings.


Example: Create Maps - Maps are used to show layers that can be drawings, images, and labels.  This topic shows how to create new, blank maps, how to create maps from existing components, and how to create maps from other maps.


Example: How Not to Format a Drawing - When using Style to format a drawing it is a really bad idea to use the same color for objects that is used for the background color.   It can also be a bad idea to use transparent color for objects.   This topic illustrates why.