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When labeling many streets and putting text on a path...

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Charlie Frye

Charlie Frye

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I agree with many of your comments, especially with respect to the black box quality of Maplex. In fact I think the more you know about what you want with respect to your cartographic standard, the more frustrating that black box becomes. However, that said--a brutally transparent system would be daunting for the vast majority of folks.

When boiled down, Maplex and really any other labeling engine are a system of settings that can be combined in varying ways to produce specific effects in terms of label placement. So, the presentations you've seen this year from me, in particular, were to do with one pretty specific area of labeling that was hard to automate, but also very narrow in terms of the number of labels on maps that it might be useful for. Essentially, it was adding another dimension to the system while taking advantage of the existing settings.

The reason I advocate polygons (phenomenologically adequate polygons in my particular case) for the purpose of storing features with indeterminate boundaries in GIS versus using lines is pretty straight forward. Lines will support a single map product and purpose very well as you asserted. However, if you want to support more than one kind of map, more than one scale, or map extents that will clip those features then you will see that lines cannot support the set of circumstances that result. Basically, its a little more work on the front end for a lot more benefit on the back. Though if you're not producing that many maps its probably a wash--but if you're producing a map series with hundreds or thousands of sheets, it is a huge time saver.

So, the lines as magnets idea is just an idea for a completely different kind of requirement for labeling other kinds of features (parcels, PLSS, and other fairly continuous or reglarly occuring features). Thus, I suspect it's probably not useful for labeling physigraphic or hydrographic features.

We are working on some additional documentation (out by early next year) for common map making tasks, including labeling that will give specific uses and examples for the label engine settings (making those settings indexable and thus searchable in our online knowledge base. That should help some of the ink-i-ness off of the black box. Generally speaking the Knowledge Base has a lot of that kind of stuff in it already to get to it, just go the ESRI main web page click the support tab, which will show a menu that contains a choice for the Knowledge Base.


Charlie Frye
Chief Cartographer
Software Products Department
ESRI, Redlands, California




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When labeling many, many streets in a dense suburban area (with lots of developments and roads with curves), do you manually create the curves for each text path, or do you copy the streets, simplify, and then use that as a path?

I've done both before, but what do you consider the most efficient method?

Talking Illustrator here. I always use the pen tool: To smooth the curves, because labels are usually longer than streets in these areas, and because you may have to veer away from the street alignment to fit it in. I also start with the street/s that connect the development to the larger road, then do other through streets and leave the culs de sac for last. If the CT has the same name as the DR, I'll sometimes just label it with the generic. Labeling streets with numbers and an adjacent list should be done only if someone other yourself will be revising the map next time around! (The open space where you stuck the typeblock is sure to be next year's development.)




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Here is an example where Maplex was disappointing:

Danielle, I took your two maps (and data) when I went to see the Maplex development team last week, to discuss priorities and scope for future work. It triggered some useful discussion over control of polygon label placement, which will feed into future releases. Thank you.

Charlie's comments are very true however - good ideas as how to provide the contextual information for 'sympathetic labelling' are needed.

My experience with Maplex always left me feeling like it was too much of a black box with not enough options for telling the software what the user wants...exactly what it wants and to force certain rules at the expense of others if there were choices. I was always surprised by some of the software's placement.

Martin, we also discussed how to give the user more control over the order and priority of labelling strategies (e.g. preferring line wrapping to font size reduction), without overwhelming them with too many options, so this too should get better in future versions.
Paul Hardy
ESRI Europe (phardy@esri.com)

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