Copy and paste legend

05-12-2011 05:02 PM
Status: Open
Occasional Contributor
It would be nice to be able to copy-paste a legend within an MXD (and also between MXDs) without it defaulting to the basic legend structure (i.e., all layers in the map, default spacing, etc.). I want the newly-copied legend to have the exact same structure and items (layers) that the original legend has.

When copying between MXD's the newly-copied legend should only include the layers with the same names as in the original legend (if any). --Some of my maps are very similar (possibly with different objects and images shown on the layout) and changing the legend in one map means I have to make the same changes across all maps.

It would be nice if copying legends copied every detail of the structure.
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Legends are the most miserable, the most unpredictable and unstable elements in a map document. Their behavior is very strange and mostly uninfluenceable. Significant software redesign is needed for user to have absolute control over legend generation and manipulation.
Instead of copying and pasting a legend between mxd's have you looked at storing your elements withing a geodatabase?  There is a piece of functionality called Database Elements available in Production Mapping extension which allow you to store elements such as a legend in a geodatabase and you can then insert the legend onto any mxd page layout.  Another piece of functionality in Production Mapping is the Graphic Table Element which allows you to create dynamic legends as an alternative to creating a standard legend.  Some other options to think of. 
I don't personally see why one should have to buy an exension for legends to not change when copying between documents. If ESRI didn't want legends to be copied between documents then they should disable the function.

I haven't seen any improvement on this for the last 5 (probably 20) years! Are there any plans on improving this functionality? I was just praising ArcMap compared to QGIS for better mapping/layout options but soon QGIS will overtake ArcMap in this!


A alternative to this idea - which should accomplish the same goal - would be to allow users to save a "Legend Layout File".  Basically a "layer file" for Legends. 

In other words, if you create a new layout (I'm working in Pro so using this as my example), and you create a Legend in your layout, you should be able to save the Legend properties as a file.  As long as a new layout contains the same feature classes/shapefile/etc that you used when creating the original "Legend Layer File", you should be able to import this schema into a new layout and apply it to your legend.  This way you'd avoid setting all of your properties again.  

I like your original idea of being able to copy and paste legends but I also realize that the dynamic nature of legends and how they update with maps might present problems with copying and pasting.  Granted you could convert your legend to graphics and copy and paste all day long if you don't need to dynamically update or change the legend, which might be another alternative?