Join Dennis Taylor for an in-depth discussion in this video Adding illustrations to your workbook, part of Excel Tips Weekly.
- Excel has a number of visual tools that you can use. Sometimes you might want to insert text into shapes, you might wanna connect arrows to certain cells and worksheets, or in column charts the way we're seeing here. This is simply a visual to bring out some of the data. Now, there are lots of choices here, and tons of options, starting with the Insert tab in the Ribbon. You'll see a little icon just to the right of Online Pictures, it refers to shapes. Hit the drop arrow, tons of options. Here are Basic Shapes, Block Arrows, Flowcharts, Stars and Banners, I'm gonna draw a 10-point star, here's a 10-point star.
Click any of these objects and then you can click and drag. Now, you can make a shape as wide or as tall as you wish. If you hold down the Shift key, you're creating a so-called regular shape. Now, in the text off to the right, I've indicated, if you do hold down the Shift key, it says "Create an Equilateral Shape." That applies to most, but not all, shapes. In some cases, depending upon the shape, they're a little bit irregular, so that term Equilateral isn't quite 100% right. Nevertheless, if you wanna create a circle, and you go to Insert, and you look at these shapes, you don't see a circle here, but you do see an oval.
And if you're making this wider or taller as you're clicking and dragging, that's fine, but if you want a circle, you hold down the Shift key. And the same thing applies to a square. Insert, here's the shapes, choose a rectangle. You can make the rectangle wide, tall, any size you want, but if you hold down the Shift key, it's going to be a perfect square. Always let go of the mouse first when you're holding down keys like this. If you're drawing lines, you can draw a line in any direction, but if you wanna keep it in 45 degree increments, you'll be holding down the Shift key.
So let's select a line, Insert, use a drop arrow, line or an arrow, either case, here's a line, we can go in any direction we want, but if we hold down the Shift key, it can be perfectly horizontal off to the right, or down to the lower right as if it were southeast and then straight south, and so on. I'm holding down the Shift key right now. Let go of the mouse first if we wanna keep one of those. Any time we create a shape or a line, immediately the Format tab in the Ribbon, the Contextual tab is activated.
So right now I've got a line selected, and if I did wanna make a change here, I could go to Shape Styles, use a thicker line, a line of a different color, and then add some Shape Effects, possibly a shadow or something like that, maybe. Or possibly a Shape Effect like Glow. Lots of choices there too, I wouldn't say that's a great one, but nevertheless it's there. And we can do the same thing with shapes, as well. Maybe I like the look of that, but it might appear better if we were to add a Glow effect to it. Or possibly, maybe more interesting, a Reflection, now it's pretty obvious this doesn't have a lot to do with content, but we could add text to this at any time simply by selecting a shape and typing something.
Maybe this is going to be part of our organization or re-organization attempt here, so we're gonna put a banner at the top, something like that. So you can use these for titles as well. "Re-Organization," I'll just leave it that way for the moment, and we can click this box or if it's already selected, of course, we can go to the Home tab, make it bold, make it italic, make it underlined, use a different font color, possibly. And change the font size, red's not a great color here, actually white might be better, we could do that.
As we reshape the box from the corner, possibly we're gonna do that, I'd probably wanna re-type that entry too, but nevertheless we can put text in a, anything, we can edit text here. "Big improvement over last year!" is what the text says here, I just clicked it, I'll click inside of it and instead of saying "last year," I'll put in "2014" instead. We can do editing here as well. As soon as you create a shape, you can enter text, so we Insert tab here, I'm going to put in a different shape, suppose it's one of these more interesting shapes here, well, here's an octagon.
I'll create an octagon, and immediately, I can start typing, so if I wanna put in "Sales Report," there it is, and while it's still selected, again, back on the Home tab, do the different things we might wanna consider doing, maybe centering it top-bottom, left-right, those two buttons there, bold, and so on. Changing font, as you wish. At any time, if you'd like to duplicate the shape and/or its text within it, you can select the shape, press Control D, I did that twice there, so I've got three of these out here.
At other times, you create a shape, you wish you had created three or four, you could certainly press Control D. Another thing you can do is from the Insert tab again when you're creating a shape, you can right-click a shape, and active Lock Drawing Mode. I just did this for the triangle, so that means I can draw a triangle here, I can draw another one here, another one here, different variations on that same shape. And I'll press Escape if I no longer want to be creating these. You'll notice also on some shapes, like this one for example, this is an octagon, you'll see a yellow box.
I can move the yellow box to make this closer to, let's say, more toward a full rectangle or possibly toward a diamond, you can do that with these too, here it will change the inner part of it. It's hard to describe how that works until you see it by example. Keep in mind here too, there's so many of these, and it might seem as if this is sort of fun and games time, but I think you can see in some cases how this can enliven a worksheet and make things more interesting. Here's smiley face, we can draw that and use that to our own effect.
It's got a yellow box on it too, drag that up or down, we can make it a frown face I suppose. If the color is not what you want, remember, when the shape is selected, we've got a Format tab available here, and we can choose a different background color and that lays on. Now that live preview is available there, so then we are seeing this actually at the time, we can slide over the different colors to see how it might look. Now, if we wanted to change a lot of these at the same time, we can use a continual Shift-click on all of these. Now, that might be a lot if we've got a lot of shapes.
But there's nothing wrong with that, you can certainly use the Shift key to select multiple shapes, because maybe what you wanted to do here, and I'll just select two of these, maybe we want to align two of these. So, I'm gonna select this yellow one and off to the right, using the Shift key, click that shape as well. Another feature, based on the Format tab in the Ribbon, we could align these, align their left edges, like that. Align their centers like that, that probably is not what we want. But different variations here, sometimes you've got three or four rectangles, you want them to line up on the same side.
There's so many options here, you just don't have time to explore them all. Another feature here too, and I'll do it with a new shape, and it's part of what we see in this list here, when you are creating shapes, sometimes, and it depends upon how picky you are, or how picky possibly your manager is, but when you are creating certain shapes, and I'll create a new one here, off the Insert tab, back to Shapes, is, it's a, how about just a simple rectangle? Haven't put in any text in yet. I can make this bigger by dragging any of the so-called handles, there are eight of them, one on each corner, one on each side.
Drag this up or down, drag this up or down this way, and so on. Now, sometimes we might wanna make a shape bigger or smaller, but keep the same ratio of height to width. That's called the aspect ratio. So we'll be using the Shift key. So I'm holding down the Shift key now, and I'm dragging a corner, when you drag a corner with the Shift key, you're making this larger or smaller but you're keeping, you're retaining that same ratio of height to width. At another time, you might be wanting to make a shape larger or smaller, and you wanna keep the same center.
This time you hold down the Control key. We can do this from all of the handles, not only the corner ones, I'm pointing to the corner handle now, I've got Control held down, I'm making this larger or smaller around the same center. Remember, I've got the Control key held down. If I do this from the sides, I'm making this wider or narrower this way, around the same center. If I do this from the top, at points, I'm making this shorter or taller this way. If I'd like to keep this ratio that, as I see it here, and make it larger or smaller, I'll hold down Control and Shift, and we see what's happening, we're making this larger and smaller, we're keeping the same ratio of height to width by holding down Control and Shift.
If that's what we want, we'll let go of the mouse first. So, lots of choices here, and another one too, a little bit unusual, you're changing the edges of a shape and you want the edges to line up with cell boundaries in the background, so you hold down the Alt key, and it's as if it's got a magnetic attraction to cell boundaries. You can do this from the corners or from the sides. So let's say that I've got this down here, and maybe I don't have text in it yet, but I know it's gonna be big enough. I'm about to move this up or down, but I want it to align with the cell boundaries.
I hold down the Alt key, I don't wanna do it left to right in this example, but maybe just top-bottom. So I'll do it down here also, using the Alt key. There's so many different choices here. At another time, if you would like to highlight shapes but you've got too many of them, rather than using Shift-click, what you can do is go to the Home tab, far right button, Find & Select, Select Objects, and that's active for an indefinite period. Now, when you click and drag, you're highlighting shapes. So all those are selected, we can move them all at once, we could change their colors all at once, do other things with them.
When we're in this mode, we can't highlight worksheet cells. So at some point, when you're finished, or you don't need this feature for a while, go back to Find & Select and deactivate Select Objects. Now, another option here, if you're about to use flowcharts, you can also use connectors, and as you move the boxes around, the connectors will follow the boxes, so for example, if we go to Insert, again, picking shapes. We've got Flowchart symbols here, I'm going to create a diamond first, there it is at a certain size.
I'll now create a rectangle, you can also pick it up from the list over here, here's a rectangle. I'm gonna need three or four of these, so I'll press Control D a few times. There they are, move these around a little bit. Maybe this one's gonna be needed over there, possibly this one there, don't know yet. But I wanna connect these before I do anything else. We're gonna have a decision box here, we're either gonna go to the right or down, let's say. Line this up, and somewhat casually, too, because you can align their centers. So I want these three shapes right here, for example, as I select them, I want to align them.
And sometimes you say, "Do I wanna align their centers "or do I want to align their middles?" The visual more or less tells you, in this case, middles, you wanna do it that way, possibly. I want these two to be aligned at their centers, or possibly their left edges, so we can use the Shift key to select both, and align those. Now, if we wanna use connectors here, you might see them in this list here but if not, you can go back to Insert, Choose Shapes, and we have some arrow connectors, double arrows or single arrows, and we can draw a connector this way, we can draw one from here as well.
And you'll see it up here in the temporary box. You drag it here like that. Now as you move the boxes around the connectors. Now, again, maybe (chuckles), maybe that's not the most critical thing you do here, but if you're creating flowcharts, and you might have some diamonds and rectangles, different sizes, consider that option too. And we can make these thicker as we can with other lines. So, so many features, do take advantage of the fact that you've got this Contextual Format tab available when objects are selected, tons of things we can do with shape effects and colors and so on.
So, lots of good visual features, starting with the Insert tab in the Ribbon and the various shapes that we saw.
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