When you want to call attention to information in a diagram, you can use one of the many predesigned shapes for formatting notes, titles, and file information. Visio includes numerous callout shapes, which are lines with a text box that you can use to type notes. If you're working in a diagram that uses custom property fields to store information, you can use the custom callout shape to display property values. In addition, title and title block shapes help you display file information in your diagrams.
This section helps you locate some of the available shapes that you might not know about.
If you like to draw arrows on a diagram to call attention to important information, you can save time by using a callout shape. Callouts typically look like a line to which a text box is attached, but Visio includes many styles, as Figure 4-24 shows. You type your notes or exclamations in the box and then point the line in the appropriate direction. Some callouts can even be glued to shapes so that they stay in place, which is handy when you're still working on the layout of a diagram.
Figure 4-24. When you want to call attention to something in a diagram, use a callout shape.
A charming idiosyncrasy of Visio is that it includes a multitude of different shapes all with the name Callout. That makes it a little tough to use the Find Shapes command to search for a particular callout shape. However, the following list helps you locate many interesting callout and annotation shapes. And remember, it doesn't matter which stencil you took a shape from or what it's called. You might be laying out your house plan, but you can still use shapes from the Forms And Charts solution. If the shape looks right, go ahead and use it.
You'll find the biggest variety of predesigned callout shapes on the following stencils:
Visio Professional also includes a legacy stencil from days of yore, the Annotations stencil, which you can open from the Visio Extras folder. It contains callout and reference shapes used in technical drawings. However, if you open one of the building plans or engineering diagram types, the template probably opens a stencil with technical annotation shapes.
In general, to add a callout shape to a diagram, follow these steps:
When the handle turns red, it's glued to the shape.
You can format callouts as you would any other shape. To change the color of the callout's line, select the shape, and then click the Line Color button on the Formatting toolbar and choose a color.
For details about gluing shapes together, see "Controlling Connections with Glue."
If you're working in a diagram that stores information with shapes in the form of custom properties, you can use custom callouts to automatically annotate shapes with property information. You might not even be aware that your diagram does include custom properties. Many shapes feature built-in properties. For example, flowchart shapes include custom properties for cost, duration, and resources; network equipment shapes and furniture include custom properties for manufacturer and part number or model name.
When you use a custom callout shape, you can display the value of a custom property field as the text on the callout. If you haven't been adding data to the custom properties, your fields are empty and there's nothing to display. But in diagrams that include this data, the custom callout shapes provide a quick and convenient way to display it, as Figure 4-25 shows.
Figure 4-25. When you attach a custom callout shape to another shape that includes custom properties, you can display the properties, such as Department and Asset Number, in the callout.
Visio includes a couple of different styles for custom callout shapes, but they all work the same way. The callout shape includes a control handle that you drag to attach to another shape called the target shape. Visio then displays a list of the shape's properties, and you can choose the ones you want to display. You can specify whether you want both the property name and its value to appear in the callout and the order in which the properties are displayed. Visio draws a line automatically between the callout and the target shape, but you can choose not to display the line. The callout will still be associated with the designated target.
To display custom property information in a custom callout shape, follow these steps:
Visio adds the Callouts stencil to the drawing window.
When you release the mouse, the Configure Callout dialog box appears.
Visio lists only the properties for the target shape. If no properties have been defined for the shape, nothing appears in the Shape Custom Properties list.
For example, click <Return> to place each property on a separate line.
If you leave this check box selected, Visio displays the property and its value; for example, Serial Number: 10-320.
If you move the target shape, the callout line stretches, but the text box stays anchored. If you select this check box, Visio moves the entire callout shape when you drag the target shape.
To change the appearance of the callout after you've configured it, you can do the following:
Visio includes a number of shapes for adding titles and file information to a diagram. Title blocks are the area traditionally used to specify important information on technical drawings, including blueprints, schematics, and mechanical drawings. The Borders And Titles stencil includes fun and informal title block shapes for identifying a diagram, its author, creation date, and so on. In addition, Visio Professional includes several styles of formal title block shapes that conform to appropriate standards for different paper sizes. Figure 4-26 shows title block shapes and both informal and technical title blocks created with Visio shapes.
Figure 4-26. Visio includes an assortment of title blocks that you can use to provide identifying information in a diagram or technical drawing.
Many Visio templates open a stencil that contains appropriate text and title shapes. However, when you start a drawing from scratch, you need to open the stencils you want. Here are some places to look for preformatted title blocks:
The ready-made title block shapes are actually groups. When you click a title block, the entire group is selected; then, you can click an individual shape to subselect it. To add your information, subselect a shape in the title block, and then type.
Most of the title blocks from the Borders And Titles stencil are designed so that if you just click and type, the text Title is replaced by your typing. However, when you use the title blocks from the Title Blocks stencil, it's better to subselect the individual block you want to type in.
Some title blocks include fields as placeholders for time, date, or file information, as Figure 4-27 shows. If you drag a title block onto the page and it displays today's date, then you know the shape includes a field. You want to take care not to overwrite the field when you add text, unless you intend to remove it. You can insert another field if you like or edit the field's format so that it displays the information differently.
For details, see "Creating Text Fields to Display Information."
Figure 4-27. The Title Block Elegant shape on the Borders And Titles stencil includes a field that displays the date in long form.
This section applies primarily to the shapes on the Borders And Titles stencil, which are designed to add winsome flair to routine office diagrams. But perhaps you'd like that Title Block Retro shape a little better if the swooshes were green, or maybe Title Block Jagged would be perfect if only it didn't have the stripes. Or maybe you resized the title block and got strange results. It's easier to format the title block shapes than to resize them. Because the title blocks are groups, they consist of multiple shapes, some of which can be typed in, formatted, sized, and deleted, and some of which cannot.
To format a shape that's part of a group, you must subselect the shape. If you use the Pointer tool, you click once to select the group and then click a second time to subselect a shape in the group. Then you can use any of the formatting tools to change line, fill, and font color and other attributes.
Sometimes it's easiest to work with groups in the group window. This is a separate window that displays the shapes as if they were not grouped, as Figure 4-28 shows. When you click a shape in the group window, the shape is selected; you don't have to subselect it (unless the group includes a group, which sometimes happens). To open a group in the group window, select the group, and then choose Edit, Open <group> where <group> is the shape's name. For example, the command name for the title block shown in Figure 4-28 is Open Title Block Small.
Figure 4-28. When you select a group and then choose Edit, Open, the group appears in a new window so that you can more easily work with individual shapes in the group.
Many of the individual shapes that make up a title block are locked. When you sub-select the shape, padlock handles appear. Usually the shape has been locked to prevent you from resizing it, because the group contains SmartShape formulas that automatically control the size of the title block, and stretching a shape would interfere with the formulas. However, some shapes are also locked against deletion, but if you really want to delete a shape from a title block, you should be able to—but be aware that the group behavior may change as a result. If that happens, and you are unhappy with the consequences, you can simply drag a fresh title block from the stencil.
To see what kind of protection locks a shape has, subselect the shape, and then choose Format, Protection. The selected check boxes in the Protection dialog box indicate what is protected, as shown in Figure 4-29. If you clear a check box, you remove that lock. For example, you can clear the Deletion box so that you can delete a shape (such as the striped background on Title Block Jagged). If the shape has other locks, you'll still see the padlock handles even after you clear one of the locks.
Figure 4-29. Padlock handles appear around a subselected shape in a group when a protection has been set for the shape. Here, the shape is protected against changing its width and height and protected from deletion.
A title block shape resizes unevenly when stretched.
If you try to resize a title block and encounter obstacles—part of the title block resizes and part does not, or it doesn't all resize the same amount—you have encountered a side effect of width-height protection locks. Some of the title block shapes are rather inflexible and work best only at their original size with text no longer than the word Title. That seems like bad behavior for a SmartShape symbol, but you can work around it if you really want to use a particular shape. You can try unlocking all the shapes in the group so that they resize the way you want. Or you can ungroup the title block (Shape, Grouping, Ungroup) and reassemble it as you want. Visio warns you that the action will sever the object's link to its master. Click OK anyway. You can always drag another master shape onto the page if you want to start over with the original.
You can assemble a customized title block for technical drawings using the shapes on the Title Blocks stencil, which is included only with Visio Professional. Title blocks usually appear in the same form in a variety of drawings. If you need a title block to conform to a particular standard, you can piece together a suitable title block from the shapes on this stencil.
A variety of block shapes include fields that display file and system information, such as file name, date, and page number. Visio uses the file and page properties to display this information in the field. You can use the frame shape to set up the border of the title block and then insert block and other shapes as required. When you're done, you can group the shape (Shape, Grouping, Group) to make it easier to move and work with the title block.
In a technical drawing, or any diagram where you want the same title to appear on every page, you can drag a title block shape onto a background page. As long as your foreground pages are assigned to display the background, the title block will appear on every page. Another advantage of using a background page is that it frees you to change page settings, such as drawing scale, on the foreground page.
You can save a customized text block as a new master shape on a stencil, so that you can reuse it in other drawings.
Follow these steps to save a customized title block:
If you're dragging into an existing stencil open as read-only, Visio asks whether you want to edit the stencil to complete the operation. Click Yes.
Visio creates a new master shape and an icon with a default name for the title block.
For details about editing masters, see "Editing Masters."
Tip - Add a Title Block to a Template
You can also create a template that includes the title block in the correct position, so that every time you start a drawing, the information you want is already there. For example, in a technical drawing, or any diagram where you want the same title to appear on every page, you can place the title block on a background page. Then use the Save As command to save the drawing as a template (.vst) file.