Maplex-placed font symbols in the legend

A friend in the industry asked me for an ESRI ArcGIS workaround to correctly add symbols to the legend when they have been set as labels on the map.

So I created this solution and thought I might as well share it with the rest of you.
Note: This was a solution for ArcMap 10.3, I haven’t tested it in ArcGIS Pro.

People, with symbols as a font, sometimes use the labelling engine to place symbols in ArcGIS because it offers better placement and scaling options than standard point symbology options. I am familiar with this workaround as we use this technique for our OS OpenData maps.

The problem was to replicate these in the automatically generated legend panel and to show both the symbol and an associated description label.

‘How better to spend a Saturday afternoon?’ I thought! I had a little experiment and came up with the following procedure:

Stage 1

• Right click on the map layer containing the font symbology, go to Properties and go to the Symbology tab

• Keep it as showing no symbol (so keep your labels) but you’ll see a box called Description…

• Click to open this dialogue

• Every character of your symbol font will have a corresponding key on the keyboard, for example the London underground symbols I have correspond to an uppercase U, you will have used this before in the label settings but in quotes

• Enter your character as the description (on its own, so this time without the quotes)

Stage 2

•         Create your automated legend through the wizard as usual

•         Right click on the legend and go to Properties and the Items tab

•         Change the dropdown below Font to ‘Apply to the class descriptions’

•         Change the font to your symbol font et voila! You have your symbol in the legend

You will notice the symbol is on the right not left of the later name though. Not a problem 🙂

•         In the same Legend Properties window (Items tab) you’ll see your layer listed on the left

•         Double click on it and you can change the order to put the symbol first

Screenshot based on OS OpenMap Local data


Hope this proves useful to some others. If my instructions don’t seem to work for you, then the ESRI version that was my starting point is here: ArcGIS Resource Centre: Adding mixed-format text to legend descriptions


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