Displace symbols with leader lines

Question: Hi,
I need to displace 100s of symbols on 180 maps and insert leader lines. Is there an automatic tool available for this? Or can I somehow convert my symbols to fonts and use Maplex to do labels with leader lines? It would probably save me a month of work.
Thanks so much!

Answer: I am going to assume that you are talking about point symbols. If this is the case, then I can think of two solutions that will automatically add the leader lines for you; however, I will warn you up front that there is no conflict resolution for leader lines like there is for symbols and labels. So if you have a very congested map, then perhaps you really need to rethink from the outset what your approach will be — either reduce the map scale (and subsequently increase the amount of space that the mapped are is shown in) or employ inset maps to show the congested areas in greater detail — again at smaller map scales. If you use either of the two approaches I suggest, you may have to convert to graphics to manually edit any leader line conflicts.

On to the two solutions.

One is to use a character from a font as the symbol. With this approach you essentially “turn off” the feature symbol and instead use a feature label which looks like the point symbol you want to show. Because it is actually a label, you can apply label properties for placement, conflict resolution and – yes – leader lines.

To take this approach, you would NOT symbolize the features (one easy way is to set the symbol color and outline both to No Color). Find the font that has the symbol you want. To do this, use the computer’s Character Map (I found this in Windows 7 by clicking Start > Search and typing in Character Map then clicking on the utility to open it. Here you can change the font to the one you want to use. Once you find the symbol, click the Select button at the bottom and you will see it in the Characters to copy area at the bottom of the Character Map dialog. Highlight the symbol and click Control+C to copy it to the clipboard. In ArcMap, open the Layer Properties dialog for the layer, and in the Expression click Control+Z to paste the character you selected earlier. Then enclose it in double quotes. Change any of the label properties you want (e.g., color, size, and leader line options).

The other solution is to use the chart symbol renderer which also has a leader line option.

In this case, you would add a short integer dummy attribute to your feature class and calculate it so that all values are the same (e.g., 1). You would use the Pie Chart renderer on the Symbology tab of the Layer Properties. You would set the Value Field to the dummy attribute, then you would set the symbology properties for the point symbols (2D, color, size, outline, etc…)

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