How To: Transition from multiple layout documents in ArcView GIS to single page map documents in ArcMap


The content in this article pertains to ArcGIS versions 8.x and ArcView GIS 3.x only. Later versions of ArcGIS may contain different functionality, as well as different names and locations for files, menus, commands and geoprocessing tools.

In ArcView GIS 3.x, a single project file could contain multiple page layout documents. An ArcMap document, on the other hand, contains a single layout representation. Many of the tasks done with multiple layout documents in ArcView 3.x can be accomplished in ArcMap, but you will need to alter your workflow slightly.


In ArcView 8.1, you can use Map Documents and Map Templates to accomplish many of the same tasks as having multiple layouts in ArcView 3.x. It may be easiest to think of a map document as a layout. There are some advantages to ArcMap's single document user interface. First you avoid "project bloat" where in ArcView GIS you may have had several views and layouts in one project, which caused opening that project to take a rather long time--just to get to one layout. Second, sharing maps is easier and simpler with ArcMap. Maps are distributed and documented on a per map basis. With ArcView GIS, you would have to potentially removed extra documents from projects and explain how your project worked, just to stage your documentation of the layouts.

ArcMap's map templates are a new concept for ArcView 8.1, and afford a greater number of possibilities than the layout templates in ArcView 3.x. When you create a new document in ArcMap, templates can automatically load default data as well as functionality and user interface components. They can also set the default page size, and define locations and properties for layout page elements, such as legends, logos, and north arrows. Thus, ArcMap's templates offer solutions to some of the more subtle workflows that multiple layouts factilitated in ArcView 3.x. This is illustrated by the following examples:

Example 1: Two views, both of which are in three layouts.

Suppose you need to create three maps for a city, each containing two views (data frames). One is an E sized portrait-orientated planning map with charts and a logo, another is a C sized landscape-orientated map with a fixed scale, and the third is a letter sized map with logos.

In ArcView 3x, you would create a separate layout document for each page size and orientation you want. You then would add the view frames to each layout and add any additional graphics. Then as the views would change the individual maps would change. If you needed to create the same maps using data from another project, you would have to import the project files into each other and manually edit the layout.

In ArcMap, you create your base map with two data frames with your data symbolized as you want. Then you modify the layout to look like the first map and save this as a template, and then you do the same for the other templates. As you want to use/print the other map layout, you simply select the template you want in the ‘Change Layout’ tool and the map automatically updates accordingly. An added benefit of the template approach is at any point you can use these same map templates with any map you make; they are not tied to a specific map. Therefore, you can now reuse your layout configuration between maps and data sources.

Example 2: Three views, each in a separate layout.

In ArcView 3.x you can have an ArcView project with three views where each view was used in a different layout, resulting in three layouts. In ArcMap this becomes three separate map documents.

Other key points:

Data frames can be copied between maps. This allows you to create a data frame and copy/paste this into another document. This would be similar to being able to copy a view from one project file to another (which ArcView 3.x did not support). With this feature you can create a base map once and share it with any other map you create subsequently.

Layers can be saved to disk (.lyr files) and then inserted into other maps. This allows you to save the symbology, labeling properties, scale dependencies, definition, and so forth, to a file that others can use when creating maps. This allows you to set standard symbology and labeling for all layers. This is particularly convenient if group layers are used as an entire basemap, which can be saved as a single layer file. While this is similar to an ArcView legend file (.avl), but layers are better because they allow you to preserve all the properties mentioned above.

ArcMap templates can also be applied to an existing map.

In layout view:

1. Click the Change Layout tool from the layout toolbar
2. Choose and apply a map template you want to use.

This will apply the layout's elements, page size, and other characteristics from the template you chose to your current layout.

Tasks that ArcMap cannot do because it does not support multiple layouts

There are three significant issues that ArcMap does not address with regards to supporting ArcView 3.x workflows as the relate to map documents. ESRI will be providing solutions to these at the earliest opportunity.

  • You cannot print more than one map document at one time.
  • In ArcView GIS you could have several layouts, each with one or more view frames that referenced the same view document.
  • Dataframes do not have the option to not live-link to the data view.

Last Published: 4/4/2019

Article ID: 000002727