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Style categories

In ArcGIS for Excel, you can explore data using a variety of smart mapping styles. When you style map layers, the type of data determines the default styling options. You can update color ramps, line weights, transparency, symbols, and other graphic elements, and see your choices reflected immediately on the map.

To see how the data is distributed by category, use the Types (Unique symbols) style.

Style data by type using unique symbols

Use unique symbols to show different types of categorical data, not counts or numeric measurements. For example, you can use different colors to represent wind turbines by manufacturer.


There is an absolute limit of 200 unique values, although only 10 colors are used, so the same color may represent multiple categories. This means that unique symbols work best with 2 to 10 categories of things—for example, restaurant types, tree species, and political parties.

To style data by type using unique symbols, 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. Choose a data attribute to style from the Select a drawing column (color) drop-down menu.

    To style by type using unique symbols, do not choose numeric data. Select a drawing column (size) allows only numeric data.

  4. Select the Types (Unique symbols) style card and click Style options Style options.

    The layer updates to style types using unique symbols, and options for the style appear.

  5. Optionally, do the following:
    • Click Symbology and specify the symbol settings.
    • Click Color ramps and choose a ramp. You can choose from several collections of color ramps, including ramps that are optimized for color vision deficiency and ramps that are best for dark backgrounds.
    • Click Unique values and click the symbol next to a category in the list to customize it. You are presented with different styling options based on whether the data consists of points, lines, or areas. For example, if the data consists of points, you can change the symbol shape, fill color, and outline. This display type is often used with thematic data, such as risk zones.
    • For best visualization, include fewer than 10 categories in the layer; more than 10 are difficult to distinguish by color alone. If you include more than 10, only the 10 with the highest counts are shown. The remaining categories are automatically grouped into the Other category. If the feature count cannot be determined, the first 9 categories are listed individually in alphabetical order, and the rest are grouped in the Other category. To add a category to the Other category, click the down arrow Down arrow. To ungroup categories one at a time, click Move value out Move value out. To ungroup all observations at the same time, click Move all values out Move all values out. To hide features in the Other category on the map, uncheck the box. To show them, leave the box checked.
    • Click the color chip next to a category name to adjust its transparency. To adjust the transparency of unique locations per feature, click Transparency and specify the transparency settings. You can only use this option if you have numeric data associated with the locations. For example, if the layer contains restaurant sales data, you can style the data according to the type of restaurant and adjust each category's transparency proportional to its annual sales.
    • Rotate point symbols based on a second numeric attribute. For example, the color of the point can depict climate region, while the rotation depicts temperature trends. To set rotation by attribute, click Rotate symbols and specify the rotation settings.
  6. Click Back Back/ Return to close the Styling pane and view the layer list.