Formatting Individual Labels

By default, the format settings used in the Format toolbar for labels apply to all labels in a labels component. If we change a format setting, all labels in that labels component will be changed.


There are two ways to individually format labels within the same labels component:


·      For bound labels components only, we may use Thematic Formatting to change the format of labels based upon the values of data fields in their parent objects. See the Thematic Formatting and Labels topic for more information on this method.

·      For both bound and standalone labels components, we may use Per-Label Formatting by turning on the Per-Label Format option and manually specifying the format for any labels we want to be different from the overall format specified for the component.


This topic deals with the latter method, the use of per-label formatting.


To individually format a label:


1. Open the labels component, or click on a labels layer in a map.

2. In the Labels menu, make sure the Per-Label Format option is checked.

3. Choose settings in the Format toolbar that will apply to most labels in the component. All labels will be formatted with these values.

4. Using any Selection method, select one or more labels to be individually formatted.

5. Change the settings in the Format toolbar to the desire format for the selected labels. These labels will now be uncoupled from the overall settings for the component and will retain their selection setting until they are reset to the default or until they again are selected and formatted differently.


When a labels component has Per-Label Format turned on, there may be two types of labels in the component:


·      Those labels that use the default format specified by the toolbar for default use in the component. If there is no selection made, changing settings in the format toolbar when per-label formatting is turned on for a labels component will change the default format for that component. All labels using the default format will be changed.

·      Those labels using a custom format that have been selected and re-formatted while they were selected. When labels are selected, changing settings in the format toolbar will change the custom format for those labels.


To change a label from using custom formatting back to using the default format, select the label and then use the Edit - Reset Format command to reset that label back into default format.


Adding a new label to a labels component assigns that label the default format.




Let's look at per-label formatting in action. We begin by creating a bound labels component from the Mexico sample drawing using the Place_name field to create labels of place names. We open that component in its own window.




The labels component opens showing default formatting for the labels.




In the Edit menu we make sure the Per-Label Format option is checked.




If we make a change in the format toolbar, such as by changing the default Tahoma font to Times New Roman...


images\eg_perlabel_03.gif will be applied to all labels in the component.




To apply a custom format to some subset of labels we first select the desired labels. In the illustration above three labels have been selected using visual selection with the Select Box tool.




If we now change the Format toolbar, such as by pressing the Bold button to boldface text...




...the new format will be applied only to selected labels, which are now shown in boldfaced text. These labels have now been detached from default formatting and will be formatted only according to their custom format.




We can see this by deselecting the three labels and making a change in the format toolbar.




For example, we can change the font back to Tahoma.




Note that now the change in the default format does not affect the three labels which have been detached from the custom format and assigned their own custom formats. All of the other labels now use the default Tahoma text format but the three labels assigned custom formats have not changed.




At any time we can see what custom format a label uses by selecting it.




The format toolbar will show the settings used by that label. For example, in the previous two illustrations we have selected the Nayarit label and can see from the format toolbar it uses boldfaced Times New Roman font.




If we would like to reconnect a label to the default format we can select it and choose Edit - Reset Format.




This will immediately restore whatever is the default format for the labels component to that label and re-attach it to the default format.




By selecting labels and then applying different formats we can create an immense range of different label formats within the same labels component.


Custom Label Formats do not Use Thematic Formatting


Thematic formatting can only be applied to the default format. If a label is detached from the default format and assigned a custom format, that custom format cannot be a thematic format.


It is possible to select some labels and then specify a thematic format by choosing Theme in the format toolbar's sample wells. However, when the thematic format is applied to one or more labels using a custom format the correct format for each particular label will be computed on a one-time basis and applied to that label. Thereafter when the label is selected the format toolbar will not report a thematic format for that label but will simply report the settings that were computed and applied on a one-time basis, as if they had been manually selected and applied.




Use per-label formatting with restraint. It is annoying to viewers if too many different label formats are in use within the same visual display. Usually it is best to stick to a handful of label formats.


Do not use per-label formatting as a lazy way to avoid taking the time to organize labels into subsets that are displayed in different labels components, which are then stacked up in a map to achieve the desired composite effect. It is much quicker to change the format toolbar once and thus change the formatting of all labels in a layer than it is to hunt down and change by hand each label's custom format.


In a large, complex project it can be easy to forget that a particular label was once formatted with a custom format and is now no longer attached to the default format. One technique to find labels that are not attached to the default format is to deselect all labels and then choose transparent color for the label foreground color. This will cause all labels attached to the default format to disappear. We can then select all of the remaining labels using a visual selection method like Select Box to thus select all labels that use a custom format.


Avoid using transparent color for foreground color when per-label formatting is enabled and any labels are selected. If we select a label and then change foreground color to transparent color, the entire label will disappear. This will make it difficult to select that label using the usual visual selection tools like Select Box, since visual selection tools don't work on invisible labels.


If this happens, don't panic. Zoom out so that all labels are in view. The label may be retrieved by first hitting CTRL-A to select all labels (CTRL-A selects all labels whether they are visible or not). Next, change the Selection Mode to Select Subtract and then use Select Box to draw a selection box covering all visible labels. This will deselect them because selection mode is set to subtract. What will be left in the selection after all the visible labels have been subtracted will be any invisible labels. We can then change foreground color in the format toolbar to some visible color and the invisible labels will pop back into view.


Keep in mind if things get completely out of hand and we lose track of what formats have been applied to what labels it is always possible to start over by forcing all labels in a given component to be attached to the default format: Select all labels with a CTRL-A and then choose Edit - Reset Format.


Because selected objects are shown by default in red selection color it can be difficult at times to imagine how a new format will appear when the red selection color does not obscure the colors chosen in the format. That can interfere with our ability to choose pleasing color schemes. We can avoid this problem by using None for Selection Style in the selection toolbar so that selected objects are not redrawn in red color while they are selected. This does require paying closer attention to which labels are selected since red selection color will no longer make them stand out; however, usually the changes in formatting make it obvious which objects have been selected and are now being re-formatted.


Changing the formatting of labels can move labels about and cause some labels to disappear because Display Options to resolve overlaps or to optimize horizontal or vertical positioning are active. These options may be clicked off if their result is annoying or otherwise unwanted.


See Also



Formatting Labels

Thematic Formatting and Labels

Label Display Options