Often, making small changes to map symbology and the properties of layers can significantly reduce a map's drawing time. Here are some tips for map optimization:

  • Confirm all data are in the same projection. On-the-fly projecting can make your map take twice as long to load.
  • Data should be representative of viewing scale: generalized data (e.g. county boundaries, lakes, highways) can show at full extent, detailed data (e.g. parcels, local streets, imagery) should show only when zoomed in.
  • Use simplified data at smaller scales. For example, a detailed coastline may draw slowly at full extent. If it is simplified to have fewer vertices and line segments, it will draw much faster with little difference in appearance at full extent. The more detailed data can be used at closer zoom.
  • Set minimum scales (maximum zoom level) for all layers, and set MXD project full extent.
  • Minimize use and extent of labels.
  • Minimize use of offsets and masking.
  • Avoid serif fonts, as the "twiddly bits" take longer to draw.
  • Avoid using joined data. Instead, export the data to a new feature class that contains the joined data. If you must use joined data, check out the performance tips for using joined data in the ArcGIS Desktop Help.
  • Use queries where possible to remove features that are not required on your map.
  • Point, line, polygon draw order is generally preferred – note that transparent polygons may be best displayed as topmost layer.
  • Use the “ESRI optimized” symbol set for lines and polygon fills: