Creating multiple dataframes in map view to do equally attached extent rectangles in layout view.

Question: I’m trying to breakdown a 36X48 page map into 12 or so 11X17 data frames and I just forget how to do it. I forget if I have to create the frames in map view (not layout view) and then do extent rectangles.

If someone could give me a hand with this that would be great.

Thank you.

Answer: There are a couple of ways to do this.  One is to have multiple data frames that you position on the page and then for each you set the map extent that you want to show. If this is the approach you take, then copying and pasting the first data frame will assure that any properties you set, like the background or the border, will carry over to the others. In addition, you will not have to recompile the map — you can simply move the map extent to the area that you want to show on the next map.

Another is to use Extent Rectangles, which in ArcGIS version 10 have been updated to Extent Indicators. These are a property of the data frame and you can add multiple extent indicators to your layout. Again, copying and pasting the data frames will save you time and assure that your many maps have the same look.

The difference between the two approaches is that with Extent Indicators, you can show on an overview map where each of the data frame extents are. This is a property of the data frame for the overview map and the Extent Indicators are set on the tab of that name when you open the data frame properties dialog.

To save some time and assure that your data frame extents are all the same size and that your whole map extent is covered, you could use the Grid index Features tool to create a polygon feature class that divides your extent into 11×17 chunks, then select each polygon one at a time in each data frame and select Zoom to Selected.

If you wanted to show each map on a DIFFERENT page, there is some new functionality in ArcGIS 10 that is set up to do just that – it is called Data Driven Pages.  You might also want to check that out.

Formerly a Mapping Center Ask a Cartographer  Q & A.

About the author

Dr. Aileen Buckley is a cartographer who’s been at Esri since 2003. She finds and shares best practices for mapping and analysis with ArcGIS, which leads her to publish widely and present world-wide.


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