Legends provide a visual guide to symbology used in maps, drawings, images, and labels.  Legends are created within Layouts.  Please review the Layouts topic before proceeding with this topic.


A legend may be created automatically for the content of a frame in a layout, or legend can be constructed manually by creating individual legend items.  The two processes can be combined, for example, by creating a legend automatically and then adding to that legend individual legend items created manually.


Automatically create a legend for a frame:


  1. Open the layout.

  2. In the main toolbar, choose Create Legend in the Cursor Mode toolbar button's pull down menu.

  3. In the New Legend dialog, specify a Caption for the legend, if something other than the default Legend is desired.  If no caption is specified, the caption frame for the legend will not be created.

  4. Uncheck or check Base frame or Ignore unused geometry types option boxes as desired.

  5. In the pull down box listing frames, choose the frame for which the legend should be built.

  6. The lower pane in the New Legend dialog shows all the layers in the component for that frame.  Uncheck those that will not participate in the legend.

  7. Press Create Legend.  

  8. The legend will appear within the chosen frame, aligned to the frame's margins.



See the New Legend topic for details on the New Legend dialog.  For details on creating other types of frames, see the Layouts: Create Commands topic.


Do not miss:


Legends: Tutorial Example - A step by step, illustrated tutorial showing how to create a legend for a map.


Legends: Raster Images - All about creating legends for images (rasters).


Legends are Frames

Legends that are automatically created are made up of frames.   The frames are automatically positioned, aligned to each other, and stacked to create desired effects.   To make it easier to manage legend frames in the Layers pane, the frames are grouped within folders, which correspond to different sections of the legend.   Those folders in turn are grouped within an overall folder for the legend, which makes it very easy to select the entire legend with a single click or to turn it on/off with a single click.


The frames in legends are various types of frames, such as text frames and sample frames.  For example, the legend seen at the beginning of this topic is made up of text frames and area sample frames.   Sample frames are a specialized type of layout frame that are designed to show formatting for images, for points, lines, or areas in drawings, and for text labels.   Area sample frames show the formatting (style) of areas in drawings.



If we could imagine the legend seen in 3D perspective view, we could see that it consists of seven frames, with six of the frames arranged above the seventh frame.



The Layers pane shows all of the frames in the layout.   This layout has a map from which the legend was created.  The lowest legend frame is the text frame just above the Map.   The various sample frames in the legend are part of a folder called buildings, the name of the drawing in the map for which they were created.   The overall legend folder is called Legend, taken from the text in the caption.



The lowest legend frame is called a Base frame.  It is just a text frame like any other text frame, but by convention when a frame intended to be used as a background frame is created as part of a legend it is called a base frame.   When a legend is created automatically, if the Base Frame option is checked in the New Legend dialog, a base frame will be created that is a text frame with no text in it, a background color of white, and a thin border in black.


A text frame is created for the caption text, with text in white color against a black background.   Sample frames will automatically be created to show the Styles in the layers used in the legend.   In this example, the buildings layer in the map has thematic formatting for areas in five intervals, which are shown in the area sample frames used.   


This particular legend started out with additional text frames, including a text frame with the word buildings in it.  Those frames were selected and deleted, to provide a very simple illustration, hence the absence of a frame in the stack between the Legend text frame and the area sample frames.  


Sample frames by default do not show borders.   The margin lines shown are drawn as guidelines but do not appear in the printout.



When viewed in the layout, the various frames that make up the legend are aligned to give a finished look.  The illustration at left above shows the default margin guidelines that appear in layouts, to show the boundaries of frames even if they do not have borders.  


 We can click the Margins button to turn off margin guidelines to see what the legend will look like when printed, as seen in the illustration at right above.  If we wanted border lines to appear for the area sample frames, we can easily change the border color for those frames from transparent (the default, so border lines are not visible) to black.


 The legend shown above is a simplified legend.  Legends can be very elaborate and sophisticated, with virtually every aspect of the display being customized.


Tips for Working with Legends








Next Steps:


New Legend - Overview of the New Legend dialog for automatically creating legends.


Legends: Tutorial Example - A step by step, illustrated tutorial showing how to create a legend for a map.


Legends: Raster Images - All about creating legends for images (rasters).




Style overrides excluded - Legends created using Create Legends will capture formatting in the Style pane, but will not capture style overrides used to style objects individually if such have been applied.


See Also

Cursor Mode






Layers Pane


Info Pane




Layouts: Info Pane


Layouts: Create Commands


Layouts: Alignment Commands


New Legend


Legends: Tutorial Example - A step by step, illustrated tutorial showing how to create a legend for a map.


Legends: Raster Images - All about creating legends for images (rasters).




Style: Thematic Formatting


File - Page Setup


File - Print


File - Print Preview


Example: Layout Properties - Editing properties which appear in the mfd_meta table for a layout changes the content of that layout.   We can exploit that effect to create standardized layouts which are then re-cycled for different content.