Introduction to the Layout Designer

Products affected: MapInfo Pro™
MapInfo Pro™ Monthly Journal
Easy Tip: Introduction to the Layout Designer
RasterThis article is an introduction to using the Layout Designer in the 64 bit version of MapInfo Pro™. 

If still using a 32 bit version of MapInfo Pro (v12.5 or v15.0 in particular) see the bottom of this article for a resource.
Getting started: Open a Layout Designer window

There are three ways to open a Layout Designer window:
  • On the LAYOUT tab, in the Page group, click on New Layout. Or...
  • On the HOME tab, in the New Document gallery, click on Layout.
  • Press the F5 key on the keyboard.
new Layout window

Take a tour of the Layout Tab
The following covers various capabilities and provides some helpful hints. 

64bit Help

1) The Page group

Includes the Page Setup command as well as the PrintCreate PDF and Save Image commands. 

Tip: The Output button "remembers" st recent choice. This means that the first time you create a PDF file you will click the drop-down and choose the Create PDF button (that is, you will need to do two clicks). From that point, if you wish to create more PDF files, then you can do so with a single click. The Create PDF button will remain the chosen button.

2) Insert a Map on to your Layout canvas

This can be an existing map or it can be a newly created Map window. Once you have chosen the map will appear. You can resize it with the edit handles in the corners or on the sides.

When you insert an existing map, a duplicate of your map is created. This works differently as compared to the legacy Layout window in older versions of MapInfo Pro. The new copy of the map is not connected to the original map. 

Tip: Activate your map! One important improvement is that if you need to change the map you can do so without leaving the Layout window. To do this simply double-click inside the Map frame or right-click and choose Activate. When the Map is active the border changes to a blue color.

An active map provides you with all the same capabilities as if you are working with a Map window in the usual way.

What this means is you no longer have to switch back and forth between a Map window and the Layout Designer window in order to get things looking the way you want them to look in the Layout Designer. Also, if for some reason you still wish to have a separate map window and you have changed it in the Layout, it is possible to clone the map in the Layout back into a map window. 

So, as compared to the legacy Layout window, while the "link" between the Map and the Layout window is no longer there, the fact that you can work directly in the Layout means you no longer have to rely on the Map window for changes. This is very convenient, especially when working with custom labels.

3) Insert Legend Frames on to your Layout canvas

Legend frames are brought into the Layout Designer as separate elements. They are no longer tied to a single window (as done in the Legend Designer). This is a different way of working. An advantage is that you can have your different legend elements spread out in different areas of the page. You are not restricted to having all your legend items in a rectangular area.

The Layout Designer does not take in old Legend Designer windows as frames. 

If you have saved Legend settings in the table metadata (see the screen shot below) the Layout Designer will make use of them. 

Intro to Layout Designer-Legend metadata

4) Insert a Browser frame on to the Layout Canvas

You can add an existing Browser window or create a new Browser window. Click the drop-down to choose which Browser (if there are any available) to open, or create a new Browser for the Layout. You can then resize it to your liking with the edit handles that appear in the corners and the sides.

Tip: Activate your Browser: You can make changes to the Browser window such as adding and removing columns, resizing columns without leaving the Layout Designer window. Simply double click in the Browser or right-click and choose Activate.

When you activate the Browser window, MapInfo Pro will switch to the TABLE tab. Look in the Browser Tools group and the Sort and Filter group for the functionality to customise the Browser. 

Intro to Layout Designer-TABLE tab

5) Add Text to your Layout

Click the Text tool to place text anywhere on your Layout canvas. See number 10 for information on how to modify the text.

Tip: If the Text box is resized the text will dynamically wrap to fit within the new dimensions of the Text box.

Tip: Text objects can be rotated. See number 11 in this article.

6) Image tool

This is referring to adding images such as graphics and organization logos to your Layout. As compared to the legacy Layout window in older versions of MapInfo Pro, it is no longer necessary to register the image with a TAB file. 

Press this button to be prompted to choose an image to add to your Layout. A variety of common image file formats are supported: (.BMP, .GIF, .ICO, .JPEG, .PNG, .TIF and TIFF).

Tip: Images can be rotated. See number 11 in this article.

7) Scalebar on the Layout canvas

The Layout Designer supports adding scale bars directly on the Layout canvas. These scale bars are tied to the Map window and will update if the window changes. The ability add scale bars within the Map window (as before) is also still possible.

Tip: Double-click the scale bar to make changes to it.

8) Insert shapes

This gallery provides the ability to add symbols, lines, polylines, ellipses, rectangles, rounded rectangles and polygons to the Layout canvas. 

Intro to Layout Designer-insert shape gallery 

Tip: Symbol objects can be rotated. Select the object and use the Rotate button (see number 11 in this article). Also, double-click a symbol object to access the Symbols dialog box. In addition to rotating the symbol you can make other changes to it, as well..

Tip: There is a North Arrow font that can be used as a quick way to add a North Arrow to your Layout.

9) Insert Frames: 

This dropdown provides three functions.
  • Add an empty Frame which can be populated later.
  • Remove content from an existing Frame.
  • Remove (delete) a Frame.
Tip: Empty Frames can be created and filled at a later time. To do this select the empty Frame and then choose a Map or Browser window (buttons #2 and #4 in this article). This allows for the ability to create a reusable workspace to act as a template.

10) Text Style control

Select a text object (see #5 in this article) and change the font, font size, bold, italics, underline, expanded, font color, halo, background color, text alignment and line spacing.

Control over some of these text display styles is new as of MapInfo Pro v16.0. These new style options are underlined text, using ALL CAPITALS, e x p a n d e d text and text with a background color.

11) Rotate symbols, text or images

Select a symbol, text object or image on your Layout and use the dropdown list to choose a rotation angle for the selected object. 

Tip: The rotation angles available from the button are pre-set. If you need a different rotation angle you can right-click on the object and choose Frame Properties. The dialog box includes a rotation option where you can type in a value.

12) Frame Style - change the border and fill of your Frames

Select a Frame and click this button to bring up the Region style dialog box. In this dialog you can set the background of a frame to be solid or transparent. For the border you can choose whether or not to have a border. If there is a border you can choose the color and thickness of the line.

Tip: The Frame Properties dialog box provides additional options and capabilities for positioning and otherwise working with your Frames. Right-click on an object in the Layout Designer and choose Frame Properties.

13) Styles for your layout objects

This drop-down button contains the Symbol style, Line style and Region style commands. These can be used to change the appearance of the objects added from the Insert gallery (number 8 in this article). 

Note that the Region style dialog box accessed here does not change the border or fill styles of frame objects such as Map, Browser and Scale Bar frames. That is done with the Frame Style button (number 12, above).

14) Reorder objects in the Layout

Select objects on the Layout canvas and then use the Bring to Front and Send to Back commands.

15) Grids and guidelines to line everything up

The Alignment drop-down button includes control over a layout grid, custom guidelines and a set of commands to align objects, allowing Pro users to display and remove Grid Lines and Guide Lines.

16) Selecting tools

The Select tool is always available (one click) directly on the Layout canvas. The Tools drop-down provides access to the PanZoom-in and Zoom-out tools. These tools pertain to the Layout Designer canvas. They do not pertain to an active Map window. (When using an activated Map window you can use the Mini-toolbar and otherwise navigate as you would with any Map window). 

Intro to Layout Designer-Reorder-Alignment-Tools dropdowns 

And finally... the Layout Canvas 

Here are a few things to know about the Layout canvas. 

Intro to Layout Designer-Layout canvas screenshot

That concludes this introduction to the Layout Designer.

Graticules (grid lines) for your maps

You may also be interested to know that support for dynamic or static graticules (grid lines) have been added to MapInfo Pro. You will find this capability in the MAP tab. In the Content group look in the Add to Map drop-down list. 

What if I'm not using the 64 bit version of MapInfo Pro?

The Layout Designer is also present in the 32 bit releases of MapInfo Pro version 12.5 and version 15.0 but it does not have as many capabilities. If you are looking for assistance with the 32 bit version, a video tutorial is available from the MapInfo YouTube channel. Click here.

Don't have the latest version of MapInfo Pro?

If not, a free trial is available. 

Links to MapInfo Pro free trials in a number of languages can be found here:

Written by Tom Probert, Editor of "The MapInfo Professional" journal
When not writing articles for "The MapInfo Professional", Tom enjoys talking to MI Pro users at conferences and events. When not working he likes to see movies with car chases, explosions and kung-fu fighting.

Interested to know more, please read these related articles on MapInfo layout.
Understanding the Layout Designer Improvements in MapInfo Pro 17
Working with Maps in the 64-bit Layout
Working with Legends in the 64-bit Layout

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UPDATED:  October 2, 2018