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Using text formatting tags

Release 9.3
Last modified September 29, 2009
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About text formatting tags

ArcGIS text formatting tags let you modify the formatting for a portion of a piece of text. This lets you create mixed-format text where, for example, one word in a sentence is underlined. Text formatting tags can be used almost anywhere text is placed on or around the map in ArcMap. You can use the tags anywhere you can specify both a text string and a text symbol. For example, you can use tags in dynamic label expressions, annotation, legend text, map titles, and in the values of fields used to label features. Tags aren't resolved by the ArcMap table of contents, Table window, or Identify Results window, so tags added to field values will be visible as tags in those windows.

View a table of the text formatting tags available in ArcMap.

Tag syntax

The following syntax rules apply to formatting tags in ArcMap.

How to use text formatting tags in map document annotation and graphic text

Adding formatted text

  1. Click the Text button Text button on the Draw toolbar.
  2. Click the mouse pointer over the map display and type the text string.
  3. As you type formatting tags into the string, you will see the tags as plain text on the display.

    Bold formatting tag

  4. Press Enter.
  5. The formatted text appears on the display.

    Formatted text


  • If the string you enter has any syntax problems, formatting will be disabled and all the tags will appear as plain text on the display. To correct syntax errors, edit the text by double-clicking it with the Select Element tool Select Elements tool or clicking the Text button New Text button and clicking once inside the text.
  • If you are creating geodatabase annotation text, use the tools on the Annotation toolbar.
  • Learn more about creating new annotation features

Editing formatted text

  1. Click the Select Elements tool Select Elements tool on the Draw toolbar and double-click the text element you want to edit.
  2. The original text is shown below:

    Original formatted text

  3. Modify the text shown in the Text box on the Text tab.
  4. Formatting tags will appear as plain text.
  5. Click Apply or OK to apply your changes and see any formatting changes on the display.
  6. In this example, italic formatting tags have been added to the word "north":

    Formatted text (bold and italic formatting)


  • If you have geodatabase annotation, use the ArcMap editing tools to edit your annotation strings.
  • Learn more about editing geodatabase annotation
  • With geodatabase annotation, the Attributes dialog box has a formatted preview and lets you create mixed-format text without entering tag syntax.

Adding mixed-format text to legend descriptions

  1. Symbolize your layer by choosing a symbology option that supports class descriptions, for example, unique values, graduated colors, or graduated symbols.
  2. Edit the class descriptions and enter some formatted text.
  3. Click OK on the Layer Properties dialog box to apply the symbology to your layer.
  4. Switch to layout view.
  5. Click the Insert menu and click Legend. Follow the steps in the Legend Wizard.
  6. A legend is inserted onto your page with formatted text in the class descriptions.
  7. Edit the descriptions on the Symbology tab if desired and click Apply.
  8. The legend will automatically update.

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