Centralizing Page Layout and Element Management

Do you have a lot of map elements on your page layout? Are your page layouts large, making it difficult to visually locate and update map elements? If you answered yes to one or both questions, Esri Production Mapping’s Layout Window can help centralize and efficiently manage your map elements.

Layout Window

Within the Layout Window, map elements are listed in their draw order. Each map element has an icon that represents that element type.  For example, the Layers data frame has the same layers icon found on ArcMap’s Table of Contents window.

The key capability of the Layout window is the ability to search for a map element in a crowded map layout. There are two ways to search in the window – by looking at the icons in the element list or by typing the name of the element in the search text box. Once you find the element you can use the context menu (by right-clicking) to lock, group, change its order, and so forth.

Context menu options when right-clicking on a map element


If you have a cluster of map elements of the same type (let’s say, all your north arrows) you can use the group option to manage them as a single grouped element. Simply select the map elements in the Layout Window that you want to group together by holding down the Ctrl key on your keyboard, right-click and select Group. Then name the group appropriately. To ungroup, you can right-click on the grouped element and choose Ungroup.


You can change the map element’s draw order within the element list (which will automatically be applied to the element on the page layout).  You can choose Bring to Front (move element to top of the draw order), Send to Back (move element to the bottom of the draw order), Bring Forward (move element up one position in the draw order), or Send Backward (move element down one position in the draw order). You can change the draw order either using the context menu or by simply dragging and dropping the element within the Layout window.  As you can see in the image below, I dragged the “Grouped” map element from above to below the “Scale Text” element.

Drag and drop an element to change its draw order


Locking is particularly useful when you want to prevent certain elements from being modified. Once locked, a red lock symbol appears next to that element. You cannot move, resize or delete that element as long as it’s locked.

Red lock symbol appears next to an element when locked

Draft mode:

Setting an element in Draft Mode allows you to turn the element off – the element remains in position on the page layout but does not render. In the image below, the Layers data frame has been set to draft mode in order to edit other map elements.

Element set in draft mode does not render

As you edit/move/resize other map elements the data frame doesn’t constantly redraw each time, which makes it easy to quickly edit your page layout. We can unset draft mode by right-clicking on the Layers data frame and choosing Draft Mode. If you have multiple data frames use the Activate Data Frame option to activate them one by one.

This concludes a quick overview on using the Layout Window to centrally and efficiently manage your map elements!

Content contributed by Heather Eisan

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