Symbolising data with lost data links

By Charlie Frye, Esri Chief Cartographer


I frequently come across data which has lost data links (a red!). This occurs when the data has been moved or no longer exists, thus breaking the link. On some occasions, even after I tracked down the data and repaired the data source, the symbology still didn’t draw — it exists, but the wrong field is listed on the Layer Properties Symbology tab. Usually the draw category (Value field) has defaulted to a non-matching field. Simply changing the Value field does not do the trick.


You now begin to envision hours of work to “Re-source” the data. The symbol for each value will have to be saved to a style, and then that symbol will have to be re-matched to the attribute. Of course, you can save some time using the Match to Symbols in a Style option.

However, there is a faster and easier solution! On the Fields tab of the Layer Properties dialog, temporarily turn off all but the required draw fields.


Click on the Symbology tab. The Value Field has now been “forced” to take the field you want to use to symbolize the data. At this point, go back to the Fields tab and turn fields back on. The job is done!


BEFORE: The graphic below shows the map before the data were symbolised corectly.


AFTER: The graphic below shows how the data will look after the edits are made.


Note that if you plan on distributing your maps to others, you might choose to reference data using relative paths. See Referencing data in the map.

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  1. kimo says:

    Excellent tip. Now how do you recover logos lost on a layout? Once the path has been lost, a tooltip shows the lost path, but there is no way to fix it and restore the link. I have to delete and recreate each icon.

  2. abuckley says:

    One possibility is to open the picture’s property dialog in ArcMap, go to the Size and Position tab, and edit the Element Name to match the correct path. This works in some cases. If that doesn’t work deleting the picture element and re-inserting it from the correct path is the way to go.