Section 18.3. Drawing Shapes

18.3. Drawing Shapes

If the stock graphics provided in the clip art collection don't satisfying your inner art critic, you can create your own pictures. With Excel's drawing features, it's actually a lot easier than you might expect. In fact, you can create everything from simple shapes to complex art without leaving your worksheet.

The starting point for all drawing activity is the Drawing toolbar (Figure 18-8). To show the Drawing toolbar, select View Toolbars Drawing. Usually, the Drawing toolbar appears at the bottom of the window, although you can drag it anywhere you like.

When you want to start drawing, head to the Drawing toolbar and click the AutoShapes button. When you click AutoShapes, a menu appears that lets you choose from several shape categories. Each shape category has a range of choices. Some of these shapes are common enough that they merit a separate space on the drawing toolbar. For example, you can insert a circle, square, or line by clicking the shape's toolbar button, without digging through the full AutoShapes list. There are also additional buttons that let you use some special object types, like WordArt (ridiculously fancy text that usually has no place in an Excel worksheet).

Figure 18-8. The Drawing toolbar lets you quickly insert a shape and customize every aspect of its appearance. You can apply a border, change the shape`s color , insert text, and even give it a three-dimensional look.

Before you can really get started drawing anything, you should understand the basic shape categories. They include:

  • Lines . This category includes straight lines, curved lines, and arrows.

  • Connectors . This category includes connecting straight and curved lines, with or without arrows. Connecting lines are similar to ordinary lines, but they automatically "snap" to the connection points of other shapes. For example, if you want to make a flowchart diagram that has two connected square shapes, it's easier to use a connector than an ordinary line.

  • Basic Shapes . This category includes geometric shapes like the square, circle, rectangle, octagon, and more. Leave it to Microsoft to also include not-so-basic shapes like rings, lightning bolts, suns, moons, and even a happy face.

  • Block Arrows . This category includes a variety of one-way and two-way arrows, as well as shapes with arrows attached to them.

  • Flowchart . This category includes shapes that are often used in flowcharts, like the rectangle (which represents a step in a process) and the diamond (which represents a decision).

  • Stars and Banners . This category includes the common five-pointed star and other starburst shapes. It also includes different types of banners, like award strips and unfurled scrolls . These shapes look best if you put some text inside them.

  • Callouts . Callouts are designed to add information to a worksheet. Most Excel callouts are shapes with a connected line. The line points at something important, and the shape contains any descriptive text you want to write.

  • More AutoShapes . If you select this category, Excel opens the Clip Art task in the Task Pane. It also preloads a list of unusual shapes in the search results list. You can browse these thumbnails to find a striking AutoShape that interests you.

Note: AutoShapes are featured in most Office applications. That means that once you learn to use them in Excel, you can also use them in the same way in Word or PowerPoint. Of course, this also explains the existence of some of the AutoShape features that don't make much sense in Excel spreadsheetsthey're really intended for other Office applications.

18.3.1. Drawing a Shape

Excel lets you draw a wide range of shapes, from simple lines and circles, to banners and three-dimensional arrows. To insert a new shape, follow these steps:

  1. Click the AutoShapes button (Figure 18-9).

    Choose a shape category, and then a shape.

  2. Drag on the worksheet to create the shape.

    Usually, Excel inserts the image as soon as you release the mouse button. However, some shape types, like the curved line or freeform line, have an extended drawing mode. With these shapes, every time you click the worksheet, Excel adds a new curved line segment. When you want to finish the drawing, you need to double-click the last point.

    Click the Fill Color button to choose a color for your shape.

  3. Fill Color applies color to all shapes except for lines. You can also choose "No Fill" to make the shape transparent so that other shapes (and your worksheet data) show through. For example, you can use a circle with no fill to point out some important data on your worksheet.

  4. Click the Line Color button to choose a color for your shape's outline.

    To select a Line Color, make sure you click the drop-down arrow at the right-side of the Line Color button. This displays a list of colors. If you click any other part of the button, Excel just applies the color you used the last time.

    Tip: If you select Fill Effects, you can use a gradient fill or texture fill inside your shape. For more information about these fill effects, see Section 17.1.4.

    Figure 18-9. These figures show an arrow being inserted and formatted with the Drawing toolbar. The first step is to choose the shape (top). Next, you can pick a suitable fill color (middle) and apply the 3-D effect (bottom). When selecting a Fill Color, make sure you click the drop-down arrow at the right-side of the Fill Color button. This displays a list of colors. If you click any other part of the button, Excel just applies the color you used the last time you filled a shape.

  5. If you want to further refine your line style, use the Line Style, Dash Style, and Arrow Style buttons.

    These buttons let you create thick, thin, or dotted outlines around a shape.

  6. Finish off your shape with an optional effect using the Shadow Style or 3-D Style button.

    Different 3-D styles extend the shape in different directions and varying amounts of depth. Not every shape supports the 3-D effect, although most do. If a shape doesn't support this effect, the 3-D options are disabled.

  7. Now that your shape is perfected, you can drag it to the position you want, and then resize it.

    When you select a drawing, Excel not only displays the usual resize handles, but it also gives you one or more yellow diamonds and a green circle, as shown in Figure 18-10. You can drag the green circle to rotate the image. You can use the yellow diamonds to change the proportions on the shape. For example, you can change the amount of curve in a curved banner, the width of each point in a star, or the length of a line in a callout. As you drag, Excel display a dotted outline to indicate how the shape will change.

Figure 18-10. Look for a drawing's yellow diamonds, which let you alter the shape in all kinds of weird and wonderful ways. Different shapes support different types of alterations. The only modification you can make to this arrow is to change the width of the stem of the arrow (which doesn't change the width of the arrow head).

Tip: To quickly jump from one shape to another, just press the Tab key. The resizing handles appear around the currently selected shape.
Up To Speed The Easiest Way to Select a Shape

You can select a shape at any time to change its appearance. But in some cases, it might be difficult to click the shape you want. For example, if you don't click exactly on a line, you'll end up selecting the worksheet cell underneath the line.

To make this process easier, click the Select Objects button (which looks like a mouse pointer) at the left edge of the Drawing toolbar. Now, when you click anywhere on the worksheet, you'll select only shapes, not cells . If you want to access your worksheet data again, click Select Objects a second time to revert to Excel's normal mode.

When you click Select Objects, you gain another benefityou can easily select more than one shape at once. Just click somewhere on your worksheet and drag. As you drag, Excel draws a dotted line to show you the selection area. When you release the mouse button, Excel selects all the shapes in your area. You can now apply a change (like applying a new fill color) to all the objects at the same time. You can even cut and paste all the selected shapes, or clear the shapes from your worksheet by pressing the Delete key.

18.3.2. Adding Text to a Shape

You can add text to any of Excel's AutoShape objects. It doesn't matter whether you've got a circle, a box, an arrow, a banner, a starburst, or even something weird. You can always add text inside the shape, and this text will wrap itself to fit neatly inside. Figure 18-11 shows a few examples.

Figure 18-11. All these shapes share one thing in common: they contain descriptive text. Used creatively, text and shapes can add a little life to your worksheets.

To add text to a shape, follow these steps:

  1. Click to select the shape.

    The drawing's resize handles appear.

  2. Click the Text Box button on the Drawing toolbar.

    The button contains a tiny A drawn in the upper left-hand corner of a miniature document.

  3. Click the shape, and wait for a moment.

    A hatched border appears around the drawing.

  4. Type the text you want to use.

  5. Select the text. Now, click the Font Color button on the drawing toolbar to change the color to what you want.

    You can also apply bold and italic formatting, and change the font and font size using the drop-down lists in the Formatting toolbar.

    Tip: You don't need to do anything special to add text to a callout or text box. These shapes automatically include text boxes. Just click the shape, wait for the shape to change into edit mode, and then start typing.

18.3.3. Layers

If you add enough shapes, you may start to run into trouble manipulating and layering all these different objects. For example, what if you want to put a starburst shape inside a circle? Depending on the order in which you've added the shapes, when you move the starburst over the circle, it might actually disappear underneath the circle. Fortunately, Excel lets you control this behavior with layering .

Technically, each image on your worksheet exists in its own private layer. Whenever you add a new shape, Excel creates a new layer at the top of your worksheet and puts the new shape in this layer. To change the order in which objects are layered, right-click a shape. Then, select Order from the pop-up menu, and choose one of these ordering options:

  • Bring to Front . This option puts the image on the very top-most layer. It obscures anything underneath it.

  • Send to Back . This option puts the image on the bottom-most layer. If there are any other shapes in the same position, they obscure this image.

  • Send Backward . This option moves the image one layer down. This command is important if you want to adjust the layering of more than two objects. For example, if you have a picture of a flag and piece of pie overlapping, and you want to send the flag to the back so the piece of pie appears on top, Send Backward is the way to go.

  • Bring Forward . This option moves the image one layer down. This command is important if you want to adjust the layering of more than two objects.

Tip: Remember, you can use the No Fill option to create a transparent shape that shows the data or shape underneath.

Excel. The Missing Manual
Excel 2010: The Missing Manual
ISBN: 1449382355
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 185 © 2008-2017.
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