Labelling and Text Basics

Change the Label Attribute
Change the Label Attribute

There are 2 main sorts of labels and these are different from the so-called map furniture mentioned earlier (Titles and legends etc):

  1. the label attribute associated with an object and
  2. free standing objects or labels in their own right.

A further label type, the marker, is a temporary aid that can be useful during the drawing process.

The attribute label associated with an object is accessed via a single click (CTRL+E and select the object). The properties of the object are called up where you make changes to any of the properties of the object. Click the basics tab, if this is not your default, and rename your object. Remember that this label is only shown if the layer in question is set to show labels. You can select a different style for the label or create your own style in the Styles tab.

Label Insertion Point
Label Insertion Point

If you want to move the position of the object label, you must go into Edit mode (CTRL+E). Double click the object and the label insertion point should be highlighted clearly in the middle of the object. You can pick it up, alter the angle of the text and adjust the justification. It is a bit fiddly at first, but persist because it works quite well.  When you are done simply click off the object. You can perform all the other edit operations, like rotate, move and stretch at the same time.

Other annotations are done via the Draw options, in the context menu – we’ll deal with symbols separately.  We have:

  1. Text
  2. Arrow
  3. Dimensions
  4. Note

Adding Labellings
Adding Labellings

Text objects are essentially vector objects, with a beginning and end used for on-map annotations.  You can obviously set a text style and you can alter the text height (in metres!) and the justification, which opens up neat options such as stretching the text between the to end points or following an S or other shaped curve.

Arrows allow you to label a complex object with ease. Both Text and Arrows can be edited and moved just like other objects. Arrows and text will be rendered in print and on screen.

Dimensions are handy because they automatically measure the distance between points and then render the measurement on the screen and a printed map.  Dimensions, like text, can be styled.

Notes are a different sort of label, and although are very versatile are only of use to the map maker as the Notes are not visible on the printed or otherwise published map.  Notes can be anything from a text document to an image or a web page.

Finally Markers: use these only to set out temporary points that you want to join up during a drawing session.  You can edit labels, and join them up or delete  via the Actions tab.  To add marker place the cursor on your map and click M.  To edit a marker and access the Actions tab:  CTRL+E and click on the marker’s base.

Editing lines and polygons basics

Edit Map Maker Object
Edit Map Maker Object

You’ve created some lines or polygons and now you need to correct them.

(If you’ve saved your data, you will have to first reload it into the Live Layer.)

There are three dimensions to think about: selecting objects, editing objects, and editing attributes.

Selecting objects is an option from the Context Menu, under Edit or just click on the left hand toolbar button.

There are 2 tools the Select tool and the Edit tool.  The Select tool is quite powerful and handy for quick deletes and a host of other operations.  Selection options include

  1. select a single object
  2. drag a square net
  3. hold down SHIFT key to select several objects (and perform operations)
  4. hold down CONTROL key and draw around a selection
  5. hold down C key and draw a circle around a number of objects

Operations that you may perform include:

  1. copy the selection
  2. cut selection (for use in a new project)
  3. delete the selection
  4. save the selection

The selection manager can be invoked from the Edit Menu and provides a wide range of additional options, which will be described later.

Editing object options are available from the left hand toolbar or short-cut CTRL+E takes you to edit object.  Double click the object.

The main Edit options are described below:

  1. drag the blue circle rotates the object
  2. the blue squares stretch the object
  3. the blue diamond to move the object


  1. the info button calls up the object parameters
  2. the blue label locator justifies, rotates and sizes the label, if shown
  3. the red vertices can be added to or deleted (click and drag;  select delete)
  4. the corder vertices are important in rotation

But you can also change the shape of the polygon by selecting a vertex and dragging it, delete a vertex by hovering over it, create a vertex by clicking  on a line.

To complete your edits click somewhere outside of the edit area and you are done.

Editing object attributes is a single click away if you are in Edit mode.  If not, click CTRL+E and single click the object whose attributes you wish to edit.

Drawing polygons with style

Polygons Styled on the Fly
Polygons Styled on the Fly

Drawing polygons is much like drawing lines.  Click the polygon draw tool and click each vertex (corner, or suitable bend in a curve) until you are ready to close the polygon with a double click on the start node, OR just right click and automagically it will find the start node. As with line drawing you can correct errors using backspace.  Esc(ape) will delete your current drawing, but not the earlier polygons.

Once you’ve closed a polygon, you can chose the basic attributes as with a Line feature. In the Line example, we didn’t explain the edit project style set option, or how to create a new style.

When you create a set of lines or polygons you will want to extend the preset styles or re-style the default style set entirely.  Take care not to inadvertently overwrite your default style, the modifications will alter subsequent projects you create. Either permanently modify the project’s defaults, call up another style to use or create a specific set to use / re-use in this and future projects.

The presets are handy but basic, but making your own requires a bit of thought, simply, because each style set must be designed with presentation in mind. When entering data, it is tempting to style as you go, but unless you are entering a very small amount of data it pays to devise your styles before you start entering data or apply a set after you have entered it (but only if the number of styles matches your defaults).

In the dialogue box, instead of picking an existing style you edit the project style set.  Then, remembering to first go to the Style Management tab, add or delete styles to match the number you need.  Unless you are recycling a style set, you may as well delete the lot bar one (the last one cannot be deleted.)

Once the new styles are added, they won’t look right straight away, you need to configure each one.

You need to go to the Style Edit tab to edit them.

Take care, because each style carries details across other vector types.

A bit confusing but your line style influences the polygon boundary style with the same name.  The best way to think about this is that Trees can occur as a polygon (a woodland), a line (a field boundary or hedge), a point (a single tree, or cluster of trees).

Drawing your first lines

Drawing options are available from the tool bar and extended options are in the Context Menu > Draw > Etc (remember: right click pulls up a context specific menu.)  Here under Draw you’ll find Pencil, Rectangle, Circle, and Measurement tools.

Line and Pencil Tools
Line and Pencil Tools

Drawing Lines is useful for mapping linear features like roads and paths, obviously.  Roads and paths typically join up in networks. Lines can be styled and there are a range of default line styles available that cover many basic requirements.

Getting lines to join up correctly is not easy by eye.  Setting Edit > Live Layer Options > When drawing, snap vertices to > will resolve almost all the circumstances you are likely to encounter!

To draw lines there are 2 basic options, the :

  1. line tool (from the toolbar) click the start and each vertex – useful for straight features
  2. pencil tool (context menu only) click and draw – useful for wiggly features – check the image on the right where we’ve cheated and styled the lines to make them look nice

Note that each tool behaves slightly differently.  Clicking each vertex with the Line Tool allows you to position the next vertex reasonably accurately.  You can correct errors one at a time using the back space as you click. If you make a hash of your line, simply press Esc(ape) to start again. To finish your line, click the last position and drag the pointer away and right click. The line is terminated at the previous left click and you will be prompted to:

  1. chose a line Style (we’ll learn how to make your own in a bit)
  2. change the Display Label or Unique Id
  3. Modify the Data tab (More later)
  4. Select from a range of Actions (More later)

If it looks terrible at this stage, you can still remove ugliness quickly with the keyboard combination CTRL+Z. Many times,  it is a great deal easier to start a fresh line or polygon than to try and edit a clumsily drawn one.

The Pencil Tool is slightly different, as you have to hold the pencil down and it offers no incremental deletion option. To finish your line, simply release the mouse exactly where you want it terminated.   When the Pencil Tool is terminated you get exactly the same tabbed options as the Line Tool.  That’s because Pencil Lines are saved as a Line type.

Because even apparently curved
lines are made up of straight line segments, you may wish to alter the spacing of the
vertices to create a smoother pencil line. Go to File – System set up – Preferences –
Miscellaneous and adjust the value of Spacing of vertices in pixels for the pencil tool.

Curved lines are made up of straight line segments, so you may need to alter the spacing of the vertices to create a smoother pencil line.  File > System set up > Preferences > Miscellaneous and set Spacing of vertices in pixels for the pencil tool.

Nota Bene

Remember to chose your digitising scale appropriately.  Drawing lines at 1:50k will make your features appear to be several metres wide – fine if this is going to be the final presentation scale. Zoom in to 1:10k and your beautiful networks start look badly drawn, with gaps appearing at junctions and jagged lines.  However digitising at 1:10k or below will take a lot longer, so you may need to compromise depending on the accuracy and precision required.

Polygons appear to form between the lines in such networks, don’t go crazy trying to click an object which doesn’t actually exist.

Objects in the Live Layer have tell tale blue dots which will come in handy when you want to modify / edit a feature.

Mixing your data types

Mixing Data Types
Mixing Data Types

You know what they say about mixing your drinks?

Map Maker allows you to mix points, lines and polygons, but for serious data collection purposes this is to be discouraged. Map Maker has 2 other vector types Text and Rulers, so mixing can be hazardous.  If you have used on-line mapping applications, like Google Maps, you will see the immediate benefits of data layer separation.

One obvious advantage is that you can create a range of different maps quite easily from the multiple data sets you’ve just created, even though you can set the styles of lines quite independently within a single layer too.

So, it is always good practice that each layer contain only a discrete set of data e.g. a set of lines representing paths should be separate from a set of lines representing roads.

While further differentiation between road types is possible using styles, consider whether analyses, presentations or maps might benefit from separation.

Also if you maintain a range of discrete /  smaller data sets, it won’t take so long to recover them, should they get corrupted, deleted or otherwise lost.  You can always merge layers later, if need be.

The illustration shows a range of the vector data types that Map Maker supports (Polygon, Line, Symbol or Point, Measurement, Pencil, Rectangle, Circle, Note).