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Top 5 reasons why I made the switch to ArcGIS Pro (4 of 5)

December 2, 2016

by Robert Krisher
Senior Consultant at POWER Engineers
This article was originally published as a LinkedIn Article

Reason #4: Smarter Symbol Sizing

In the previous article we looked at a new feature in ArcGIS Pro called “Scale Ranges” and how to put it to good use removing clutter from our map document.  If you want to catch up on the previous articles you can find the links here:

First Article – Graphics Engine

Second Article – User Interface

Third Article – Scale Ranges

In part four of this series, we’re going to explore another set of new features that allow us to fine tune and add a lot of polish to our map document.

Scale Range Symbology

When we build our maps we have tendency to do that while zoomed in very close.  The problem is that sometimes the symbols that look good when zoomed in can start to overlap when we zoom out, even after we apply filters and scale suppression.

The following map looks good at 1:50,000.

But at 1:100,000 we can see that some of our symbols are starting to overlap with one another.

The solution to this problem is to use smaller symbols when we’re zoomed out.  There are a few ways to deal with this, so first I’ll walk you through how to use our scale range slider in the symbology tab to define new symbol ranges.  We can then define a completely different symbol for each value class at each scale.  In our case, Esri has provided three different sized symbols for each of our markers, and we can use smaller symbols when zoomed out to reduce clutter while still maintaining our larger symbol when zoomed in.

Symbol Layer Drawing

First, we’ll add a roads layer to our map then apply the standard Esri highway, major road, and minor road styles.  The resulting map does not look good to say the least, but don’t worry, we’ll get it cleaned up soon enough.

The first thing we want to do is turn on Advanced Symbology.  This is similar to how ArcMap allows you to define advanced symbols and will allow us to give our lines the appearance of merging / joining.  Because each of these road symbols is actually two lines, an inner line and an outer line acting as an accent, by placing all of the outer lines in their own symbol group that draws last I can create the appearance of merged lines.  There is some fine tuning that can be done with these scales; for example, if I wanted to have lines between primary/secondary roads, I would have the casing of the primary draw before the interior of the secondary.

Scale Based Sizing

Our map is starting to look pretty good, but if we zoom out we can see that our smaller lines aren’t drawing well.  It would be well within our rights to turn off minor roads at this level, but I propose that instead we adjust the line symbol at this scale.  Our first instinct would be to just do exactly what we did in the previous section and create a new line and manually adjust both line weights.  Of course this means that any changes to the color or style of our line need to be maintained on all the resulting symbols.  Instead, we will enable scale-based sizing for the line and define the line thickness we want to use at each scale. However, we will still use scale ranges to have our roads turn off at anything higher than 1:50,000.

The Benefits

While everything we’ve achieved here could have been done using different techniques in ArcMap, it would have required creating and maintaining many different layers, and therein lies one of the greatest strengths of ArcGIS Pro: less is more.  Because we can do the same thing using just a fraction of the number of layers, it allows us to very quickly create and experiment with different configurations and scales until we can find the right combination that makes our maps look amazing. Couple this with an improved user experience in the application as the user only has to keep track of a smaller number of layers, the application requires less memory, and you’ll see a reduction in the load on your database.


I hope you all have been enjoying the series so far and have learned a few new useful techniques.  In the next article, I’m going to switch things up a bit and instead of talking about a feature in ArcGIS Pro I want to use all of the information we learned in the previous articles to put together a basic map for use in the final chapter of the series.

About the Author:

Robert is a Senior Consultant in POWER’s Geospatial and Asset Management group with over 10 years of industry experience. Robert excels at pushing the boundaries of what is possible with GIS and related technologies at utilities, often by re-purposing proven technologies and methods in clever ways. As an active member of many early access programs across the industry and author of more than a dozen published articles, Robert is a recognized expert with Esri’s latest technology including ArcGIS Pro and the new Utility Network. He loves finding innovative solutions to complex challenges and sharing his insights with the GIS community. If you have any questions or comments for Robert, you can contact him at robert.krisher@powereng.com.