Problem: Bitmap picture fill symbols causing ArcMap performance problems


When working with an ArcMap layer which has many symbols based on bitmap files these performance problems may occur:

1) If applying symbology for a layer that uses bitmap picture fill symbols, ArcMap will process for upwards of 5 to 10 minutes.

2) If opening the Symbology tab in the Layer Properties dialog box for an existing layer that uses bitmap picture fill symbols, ArcMap will open the dialog box only after several minutes have transpired.


Internally, ArcMap is inefficiently managing each bitmap picture fill symbol. As a layer references more of these symbols, ArcMap operates slower.

Solution or Workaround

Do not use the Layer Properties Dialog Box > Symbology tab to create or edit layer symbology that references bitmap picture fill symbols.

  • When creating new symbology, first build new unique values symbology that use the default set of symbols. Next, apply this symbology to your map. Finally, locate the layer in the ArcMap Table of Contents (TOC), and change each symbol to the proper bitmap picture fill symbol by single clicking on it's TOC entry.
  • To change symbology for existing layers that reference bitmap picture fill symbols, do so via the Table of Contents. Doing this avoids having to open the Layer Properties Dialog Box for that layer.

    This issue is resolved in ArcGIS Service Pack 1.
    <a href='http://support.esri.com/en/knowledgebase/techarticles/detail/24854' target='_blank'>[O] ArcGIS 8.1 Service Pack 1</a>