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Change a layer's style

Maps help you gain a better understanding of your data by helping you to visualize data in various ways. For example, population data for countries can be visualized as a sequence of colors, ranging from light to dark to indicate an increase in density, or as graduated circles, ranging from small to large.

This flexibility allows you to tell different stories and discover hidden patterns based on how the data is presented.

ArcGIS for Excel allows you to explore different styling options using smart mapping defaults. When you choose a style for a layer, the nature of the data determines the styling options provided. Once you decide how to present a layer—for example, using circles or colors to show population size—you can make changes that are immediately reflected on the map. ArcGIS for Excel allows you to control graphic elements, such as color ramps, line weights, transparency, and symbols.

Apply a style

You can change a layer's style in the Styling pane. To apply a style or change a layer's style, do the following:

  1. At the top of the layer list, click Layer options Layer options.

    The layer options appear with the Styling pane open by default.

  2. Select the layer to modify from the Active layer drop-down menu.
  3. Optionally, choose a data attribute to style from the Select a drawing column drop-down menu.

    Only the styling options that apply to the specified attribute appear. For example, if you know only the location of a feature, you can style by single symbol or heat map. If you choose an attribute that contains numeric data, smart mapping presents additional styling options.

  4. Click the style card to choose a style from the available options.

    The layer's appearance on the map updates automatically when you make a selection.

  5. Optionally, click Style options Style options on the style card to customize the look of the layer.
  6. Click Back Back/ Return to close the Styling pane and view the layer list.

Styles quick reference

The styling choices available in the Styling pane are determined by the type of data you are mapping. Different styling choices are available if the layer is composed of point, line, or polygon features. For example, heat map styling options may be available for a layer composed of points but not for a line or polygon layer.

Styling options are also influenced by the type of data associated with features in the layer. For example, a point feature may have location information, such as geographic coordinates, but may also have categorical information, such as retail location type, or numerical information, such as sales figures. Not every styling option can be used for every type of data. By analyzing the facts and characteristics of a layer, ArcGIS for Excel presents the appropriate styling choices.

The following table provides a quick reference of the styles available for different types of data and some of the key questions you can answer using each style:

Data typeQuestionStyle

Location only

Where are the features located?

How are the features distributed geographically?

Point features—For example, retail store locations

Location (single symbol)

Heat map

Polyline features—For example, rivers and streams

Location (single symbol)

Polygon features—For example, county, ZIP Codes

Location (single symbol)

Numeric attribute

How do the features compare to each other based on numeric values?

Where are the highest and lowest values?

Point features—For example, revenue per store

Counts and amounts (size)

Counts and amounts (color)

Color & Size

Polygon features—For example, country population

Counts and amounts (color)

Polyline features—For example, river length

Counts and amounts (size)

Counts and amounts (color)

Color & Size

Category or type attribute

How is the data distributed or summarized by category?

Point features—For example, retailer type

Type (unique symbols)

Polygon features—For example, country language

Type (unique symbols)

Polyline features—For example, water system

Type (unique symbols)