Laying Out Shapes on the Page

3 4

To move a shape, drag it. When you point to a shape with the Pointer tool, the pointer changes to a four-headed arrow as Figure 2-7 shows, indicating that you can drag the shape. However, you can in fact use most Visio drawing tools to move shapes. Point to the middle or edge of a shape away from its selection handles, and then drag to a new position. If you're working in a connected diagram, such as a flowchart or network diagram, you have to be a little more careful about dragging shapes. Depending on the type of shape, you'll see different results:

  • If you move a 2-D shape that's connected to other shapes, the shape and everything glued to it are repositioned.
  • If you move a connector that's glued to other shapes, you'll disconnect the shapes.

figure 2-7. when you point to a shape, the pointer displays a four-headed arrow, indicating that you can drag it.

Figure 2-7.  When you point to a shape, the pointer displays a four-headed arrow, indicating that you can drag it.

For some diagram types, it's helpful to know where each shape is located with respect to the entire page. You can see this level of detail in the Size & Position window, as Figure 2-8 shows. To display this window, choose View, Size & Position. In the Size & Position window's boxes, you can view a shape's exact dimensions, position, and enter new values as well. The options in this window vary depending on whether you select a 1-D or 2-D shape.

figure 2-8. for a selected shape, the size & position window indicates its exact size (width and height), position (x and y), and angle on the page.

Figure 2-8.  For a selected shape, the Size & Position window indicates its exact size (width and height), position (x and y), and angle on the page.

For details about using the Size & Position window, see "Positioning Shapes Precisely."

Moving Shapes

To help you arrange shapes on the drawing page, Visio includes many layout and alignment tools. In general, only a few prove useful for a given diagram type, which is why there are so many. If you're laying out walls in an office plan, for example, you need different tools than if you're arranging workstation shapes in a network diagram. Table 2-2 summarizes the options.

Table 2-2. Layout and Alignment Tools

Option What It Does What It Applies To


A nonprinting reference line that you drag from a ruler into the drawing window to help position shapes precisely.

Any diagram or drawing


The horizontal and vertical rulers around the drawing page. As you move a shape, its position is shown on the rulers, which reflect the drawing file's units of measure. If you don't see the rulers, make sure Rulers is checked on the View menu.

Any diagram or drawing, but especially to-scale drawings

Dynamic grid

Reference lines that appear when you drag a shape near another shape to show you perfect alignment. To display, choose Tools, Snap & Glue. On the General tab, check Dynamic Grid, and then click OK.

Any diagram or drawing

Drawing aids

More advanced versions of the dynamic grid that display geometric reference lines. To display, choose Tools, Snap & Glue. On the General tab, check Drawing Aids; on the Advanced tab, select the aids you want, and then click OK.

Technical drawings

Lay Out Shapes command

Automatically arranges shapes and routes connectors between them. Choose Shape, Lay Out Shapes to see options.

Conceptual diagrams that are connected, such as flowcharts, organization charts, and network diagrams

Tip - Move a Shape Without Resizing It

To make sure you move a shape when you drag it without stretching a side accidentally, make sure the shape is not selected, and then point to the middle and drag. If it's a very small shape, zoom in first (press Shift+Ctrl+left mouse button).

Selecting Multiple Shapes

When you want to move an entire row of shapes, or apply the same color to several shapes, you can use one of several multiple-selection techniques. The technique you choose depends on whether the shapes you want to select are side by side or scattered across the drawing page. To select several shapes at once, you can use any of the following methods:

  • Shift+click. Select the first shape, hold down the Shift key, and then click to select other shapes one at a time. The primary shape has green selection handles, and all other shapes have blue selection handles.
  • Drag. Click the Pointer tool on the Standard toolbar, and then drag a rectangle that encloses all of the shapes that you want to select.
  • Select All. Choose Edit, Select All to select all the shapes on the page. If there are more than 25 shapes, they appear with a magenta outline to show that they are selected.
  • Select By Type. Choose Edit, Select By Type, and then check the type of object that you want to select, such as shapes, groups, or guides.

To cancel the selection for a shape in a multiple selection, Shift+click the shape.

Tip - Select Multiple Shapes

If you frequently drag a rectangle around shapes to select several at once, you can widen the selection rectangle so that shapes partially within the rectangle are also selected. To do this, choose Tools, Options. On the General tab, click the Select Shapes Partially Within Area check box.


A shape cannot be selected.

The problem could be that what appears to be a shape is really a group, or the shape could in fact be protected against selection. Sometimes both factors come into play: when a protected shape is part of a group. It's a tricky way for shape designers to prevent you from making changes to a shape when the change could affect how the shape works. Try this: select the shape, and then choose Format, Protection. If the From Selection option is checked, that's the cause of the problem. The From Selection lock prevents you from selecting a shape. Clear the check box, and then click OK.

If that's not the problem, perhaps your shape is a group. Select it, and then choose Format, Special. If the Type field says "Group," you've got a group. Click Cancel to close the Special dialog box. Usually, if you click a group once, you select the group. If you click a second time (do not double-click), the shape that's beneath the pointer in the group is selected.

For details about groups, see "Working with Groups."

Using Stacking Order

Shapes have a stacking order on the page that determines which shape appears to be in front, as Figure 2-9 shows. The first shape you draw or drop on the page is at the back of the stack; the most recently created shape is at the front. The stacking order also affects how shapes are selected. If you drag a rectangle around several shapes, the shape at the front of the stacking order is the primary shape and displays green handles. In addition, stacking order makes a difference when you align and distribute shapes and perform some other tasks. For example, Visio aligns multiple shapes to the primary shape. To change a shape's stacking order, choose Shape, Order, and then click the command you want. Table 2-3 describes the Order commands.

Table 2-3. Changing a Shape's Stacking Order

Order Command Effect

Bring To Front

Moves a selected shape in front of all others on the page.

Send To Back

Moves a selected shape behind all others on the page.

Bring Forward

Moves a selected shape one step closer to the front of the stacking order.

Send Backward

Moves a selected shape one step back in the stacking order.

For details about the Align Shapes and Distribute Shapes commands, see "Aligning Shapes to Each Other."

figure 2-9. stacking order determines how shapes overlap. to change a shape's order, select it, and then use the order commands on the shape menu.

Figure 2-9.  Stacking order determines how shapes overlap. To change a shape's order, select it, and then use the Order commands on the Shape menu.

Flipping and Rotating Shapes

You can move a shape by rotating it, flipping it across a vertical or horizontal axis, or reversing its ends, as Table 2-4 shows.

Table 2-4. Moving a Selected Shape

Task Technique

Rotate shape 90° to the left

Press Ctrl+L.

Rotate shape 90° to the right

Press Ctrl+R.

Flip shape vertically

Press Ctrl+J.

Flip shape horizontally

Press Ctrl+H.

Flip a line shape to reverse its ends

Choose Shape, Operations, Reverse Ends.

Tip - Nudge a Shape

To move a shape a very small amount, you can nudge it. Nudging moves a shape one pixel—which may be the very increment you need to straighten out a bent line or get two shapes to align perfectly. To nudge a shape, select the shape, and then press the Up, Down, Left, or Right Arrow key.

Grouping Shapes

Consider grouping shapes that you use together regularly. A group can be formatted, moved, and sized as a single shape, but you can also format and edit the shapes in a group individually. You can group any shapes on the same drawing page, regardless of their distance from each other. To create a group, select the shapes you want, and then press Shift+Ctrl+G. Or choose Shape, Grouping, Group.

When you want to work with the shapes individually, you can subselect them. Special selection handles appear around the shape, as Figure 2-10 shows. In general, when you click a group, you select the group. When you click a second time, the shape under the pointer is subselected. Then you can move and format the individual shape without breaking the group. If you do want to break the group association, you can ungroup it: select the group, and then press Shift+Ctrl+U; or choose Shape, Grouping, Ungroup.

figure 2-10. when you subselect a shape in a group, visio displays special selection handles.

Figure 2-10.  When you subselect a shape in a group, Visio displays special selection handles.


Subselecting a shape in a group causes padlock handles to appear.

If padlocks appear around a shape you subselect, it means that the shape is locked in some way. Probably it's locked against moving or resizing to preserve the overall look of the shape. However, you may still be able to apply other formats to the shape, such as fill color. If you still can't edit the shape as desired, you have options.

For details, see "Editing Locked Groups."

Many Visio master shapes are groups, which can be a little deceiving. Perhaps you try to apply fill color to a shape and nothing happens. Is that shape really a group? There is a way to find out. Select a shape, and then choose Format, Special. If the Special dialog box displays "Type: Group," you're working with a group. That means you have access to some unique methods for controlling the shapes within the group.

For details about creating and editing groups, see "Working with Groups."

Editing Multiple Shapes at Once

Visio includes a back door for editing all the shapes in a drawing file that are based on the same master shape. You can make sweeping changes to your diagram by editing just one shape on the document stencil, a window in your drawing that contains a copy of each master used on the drawing page. For example, you can change the look of every Manager shape in an organization chart by editing the Manager master shape on the document stencil. To see the document stencil in your drawing, choose File, Stencils, Document Stencil.

Here's the big benefit to anyone who wants to make quick changes: when you edit a master on the document stencil, every copy of that master in your diagram inherits the changes. So, for example, if you change the line style of the Manager master on the document stencil of an organization chart drawing, every copy (or instance) of the Manager shape in your organization chart will be updated with the same line style.

Visio displays the document stencil on top of any other stencil windows you have open, as Figure 2-11 shows. To edit a master shape in the document stencil, right-click the master shape, and then click Edit Master. Visio opens a drawing page window for the master shape, where you can make the changes you want as you would to any shape. When you're done, click the Close Window button on the master drawing page window, and when prompted to update the master, click Yes.

For details about the document stencil and its relationship to the Visio file format, see "Mastering Visio Documents."

figure 2-11. every drawing includes a document stencil that contains a copy of the shapes used in that drawing.

Figure 2-11.  Every drawing includes a document stencil that contains a copy of the shapes used in that drawing.

Tip - Format Multiple Shapes with Styles

Another timesaving technique for modifying multiple shapes at once is to use styles. If you use styles in Microsoft Word to change the look of your documents, you're a good candidate for using Visio styles, which work much like those in Word. The main difference is that Word styles specify text formats, and Visio styles can specify text, line, and fill formats. You can apply a style to a shape, and then, when you want to change the look of all shapes formatted with that style, you can simply change the style definition. All the shapes that use the style will then be reformatted with the new attributes. For details, see "Understanding Text, Line, and Fill Styles."

Microsoft Visio Version 2002 Inside Out
Microsoft Visio Version 2002 Inside Out (Inside Out (Microsoft))
ISBN: 0735612854
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2000
Pages: 211
Authors: Nanette Eaton © 2008-2017.
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