Learn tips and tricks for using the software more effectively. Join Visio MVP Scott Helmers as he demonstrates the critical difference between lines and dynamic connectors. You’ll also learn several techniques for creating two-dimensional shapes in this first of three videos about controlling the connections between shapes in your diagram.
- [Instructor] You can create both one- and two-dimensional shapes in Visio. With only a few exceptions, one-dimensional shapes, also known as 1D shapes, look like lines, and 2D shapes are polygons of some sort. In this video, we'll start by drawing lines, and you'll see that not all lines are the same. Some diagrams use 1D shapes that are, in fact, just lines, while others take advantage of the adaptive properties of a special type of Visio line called a dynamic connector. Let's begin with ordinary lines, which you can draw by using the Line tool that's located on the Home tab in all versions of Visio.
When you click the Drawing Tools button, there's a dropdown list with six shape types, of which one is Line. When you draw lines, simply click and drag with the mouse. You can draw lines at any angle. Notice that when you're at a right angle, or a 45 degree angle, Visio provides feedback so that you can see that you're on one of those special angles, but you can draw any angle of line. If you'd like to constrain the drawing tool so that you only draw lines on right angles or 45 degree angles, simply hold down the Shift key.
When you click and drag, you can only draw lines at those angles. Even though the primary purpose of the Line tool is to draw straight lines, it's interesting to note that you can actually use it to draw simple two-dimensional shapes. The key is to start each new line at the end of a selected line that's already on the page. So for example, if I draw a line, and start the next line where the previous one ends, draw it at any angle, and then complete this by ending it where I started, and you'll see that I've just drawn a triangle.
As you saw in the last two examples, the Line tool is persistent. Once you activate it, you remain in line drawing mode until you switch to another tool. To activate the Pointer tool, click its button on the Home tab, or type Control + 1, as I'm doing, and the cursor immediately reverts to the Pointer tool. When you just want to draw a single line, and then automatically revert to the Pointer tool, Visio 2013 and later offer a handy alternative, a one-time-use Line tool, in the right-click mini toolbar.
Simply right-click on the drawing page, use the drop-down of Drawing Tools, select Line, draw your line, and you're immediately back to the Pointer tool mode. Keep in mind that the lines you draw with either of these techniques are just lines. They don't have any adaptive behavior, and always remain straight. If I adjust a line, it's always a straight line. The most common alternative to an ordinary line is a dynamic connector. As the name suggests, its purpose is to connect other shapes, but also to react dynamically to changes in the position of the shapes.
You can create dynamic connectors in several ways. On the Home tab, in the Tools group, click the Connector tool. Now when I click and drag, I'm drawing lines that are of this special type, dynamic connectors. A second alternative with Visio 2013 and later is to right-click anywhere on the drawing page, use the mini toolbar, and notice there is a special place for the one-time connector. Select it, draw one connector, and you're back to Pointer tool mode.
A third alternative exists in some diagram types like flow charts. At the bottom of this page you see two flow chart shapes, and when I hover over one of them, there are four blue triangles that appear. If you click on any one of those triangles, when there's a shape nearby, like the one to the right, Visio automatically fires a dynamic connector across the gap between the two shapes. And I said this was a dynamic connector, and it truly is. As you see when I move the shapes, the line changes form automatically. It's also worth mentioning that many stencils include a dynamic connector master, so you can drag new connectors onto the page.
Let's move now to two-dimensional shapes. The 2D tools are located in the same place as the 1D tools. On the Home tab in all versions of Visio, or in the right-click mini toolbar in Visio 2013 and later. Let's select the Rectangle tool. I can click and drag to draw rectangles of any size and orientation. If you want to draw squares, hold down the Shift key while you click and drag, and that constrains Visio to only using the Rectangle tool to create squares.
Similarly, if I choose the Ellipse tool, I can create ellipses of any size and orientation. Holding down the Shift key constrains the Ellipse tool to only draw circles. While you may want to draw your own 2D shapes in some diagrams, the more common way to put 2D shapes onto the drawing page is to take advantage of the thousands of pre-defined shapes that exist in Visio stencils. The basic shape stencil, network diagrams, process diagrams, whatever kind of diagram it is you want, there are thousands and thousands of shapes already drawn for you.
Now that you're familiar with different types of 1D and 2D shapes, and with various techniques for creating them, it's time to show how they can be glued to each other. That's the topic of the next video.
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- Decoding Visio versions and editions
- Setting Visio options
- Navigating like a pro
- Taking advantage of hyperlinks
- Managing text on shapes
- Annotating diagrams with comments and callouts
- Inserting text display fields
- Working more efficiently
- Mastering Visio keyboard shortcuts
- Aligning and sizing shapes on a page
- Managing connectors and connection points
- Copying, pasting, and duplicating shapes