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Microsoft Visio 2010 : Formatting Individual Shapes (part 3) - Finding More Options, Formatting Groups

2/9/2014 8:10:19 PM

4. Finding More Options

If you can’t find a button for something you want to change, there are two things to look for that lead you to more options. First is dialog box launcher buttons that you see in the lower-right corner of some Ribbon groups like Font and Paragraph. Second is menu items that end with “dot-dot-dot.” The ellipsis always means that a dialog with more options will appear when you click it.

In your exploration of shape formatting features, you’ve probably already seen More Colors..., Fill Options..., More Lines..., More Arrows..., Line Options..., Shadow Options..., all of which lead to detailed settings dialogs for customizing your shapes.

One example that you see multiple times is More Colors... This menu item pops up the Colors dialog, which has two nifty tabs for picking just the right color. You can see it in Figure 2.

Figure 2. In the Colors dialog, you can choose from a large set of predefined colors or choose from over 16 million on the Custom tab.

The Colors’ Custom tab is handy if you’re working with designers in your art department and need to match specific, corporate colors. Custom colors that you pick or define show up in the Recent Colors area of the various formatting drop-downs, but this list changes: as you use new colors, older colors drop off the end.

To save custom colors, you can create a simple rectangle or circle and apply the color to the shape. Then you can use the Format Painter control from Home, Clipboard to apply it to other shapes. You can save these custom color shapes as masters in your Favorites stencil or just put them on another page in the document.

5. Formatting Groups

Complicated shapes can be built by grouping simpler pieces together and nice effects created by layering shapes on top of one another.

When you select a group and apply formatting, Visio applies it to the group and all its submembers. This can either save you lots of time or totally ruin your shape!

To complicate matters, some grouped shapes have built-in protection and intelligence to better handle this all-at-once formatting. The discrepancy in behavior can be confusing, so it’s important that you understand what is going on.

Figure 4 contrasts “intelligent formatting” behavior versus “dumb formatting” behavior for several grouped shapes.

Figure 4. The grouped shapes on the left react better to a change in fill color than the groups on the right.

See that all of the subshapes in the groups on the right get blasted with a darker fill color? All subtlety and differentiation are lost when the new fill color is applied. The shapes on the left behave so well that it is hard to even notice that the color was changed.

Unfortunately, the dumb behavior is the default in Visio. If you draw your own shapes using the drawing tools and then group them together, your groups react to formatting in this way.

You will encounter both types of behavior. Indeed, all the shapes in Figure 4 come from stencils that ship with Visio.

To avoid ruining grouped shapes, you can subselect individual members and format them. Subselecting is as easy as clicking on the group, pausing a split second, and then clicking again on a part.

For example, in Figure 4, you could subselect the coffee cup icon and change it to a deep brown color, while leaving the background rectangle white.

Yet one more wrinkle in this story is that some shapes are locked against subselection. The intelligent shapes in Figure 4 don’t allow subselection at all—but then again, you don’t really need to subselect the items since they handle formatting so well. The shapes on the right, however, are not protected, so you can freely select and alter individual subshapes.

You will eventually run into groups with subshapes that you want to individually change but are locked against subselection. In this case, you can open the group to work with the individual subshapes inside. Just right-click the shape, choose Group, and then choose Open Shapename. In the group-editing window that appears, you can directly access the subshapes. Here, you can make formatting changes to the pieces. One last warning, however. Shape designers can lock down formatting on subshapes of groups, too, so you still might not be able to change the subshapes! It doesn’t hurt to try, though.

6. Setting Default Formatting

You can set the default line, fill, and text attributes for shapes created with the drawing tools. Just choose settings from the Fill, Line, Shadow, Font, and Paragraph controls while no shapes are selected in your diagram.

For example, choose the color red from the Fill drop-down with no shapes selected. Now when you use the Rectangle tool or Ellipse tool to draw a shape, it is filled with red.

Unfortunately, these settings are forgotten when you close the drawing file, but this capability can be a real timesaver during an intense drawing session. Also note that these settings have no effect on masters dropped on your page—only new shapes you create using the drawing tools.

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