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Microsoft Visio Shapes

What are Visio shapes?

  • Identify the two types of Visio shapes: 1-D and 2-D.
  • See how Visio 1-D shapes behave and 2-D shapes behave.
  • Find the Visio shapes you need.

What are Microsoft Visio shapes? Shapes make up any Visio diagram, be it a flow chart, org chart, road map, project calendar, or office layout. Shapes are the meat of the diagram. The essence. You can use shapes to represent objects, actions, and ideas. After you arrange and connect shapes, visual relationships appear.

So, shapes are important. That much is clear. And when shapes don't look right, or you can't get them to do what you want, your whole diagram suffers. This often happens if you aren't aware of the fundamental concepts behind Visio shapes.

Make shapes fulfill your Visio vision!

An introduction to Visio shapes

Visio Shapes Range

Visio shapes range from very simple to very detailed.

What is a shape? In Visio, the definition is much broader than you might think. Yes, you can use basic shapes like rectangles and diamonds for a flowchart. But you can also use very detailed shapes.

And Visio shapes don't just sit there and look good. They have interactive behavior as well. Meaning, when you work with them, they react in a certain way.

Two types of Visio shapes

Visio Shapes Types

There are two types of shapes in Visio: 1-D and 2-D.

When you work with Visio shapes, you can resize them, rotate them, move them around, format them, and so on.

But how the shape behaves when you do those things depends on the type of shape that it belongs to. There are two types of shapes in Visio: one-dimensional shapes (1-D shapes) and two-dimensional shapes (2-D shapes).

Each type of shape behaves a certain way. Once you know the type that a shape belongs to, you will be able to work with it successfully.

1-D shapes in Visio

Visio Shapes 1D

Examples of 1-D shapes.

A 1-D shape is a shape that, when selected, has a beginning point Visio Shapes Beginning Point and an ending point Visio Shapes Ending Point. 1-D shapes typically look like lines. Examples are shown here.

How do 1-D shapes behave when you work with them? If you move the beginning point or ending point, only one dimension changes: the length.

But the most powerful behavior of 1-D shapes is their ability to connect two other shapes. For example, in a business process diagram, you might connect two departments with a line or an arrow. We'll show you more about connecting in the practice session coming up.

You're probably thinking, "Wait a minute, these lines don't look like shapes to me." It's true, the word "shape" usually refers to a form or an object that has a distinct outline or boundary. But Visio considers these lines to be shapes and calls them shapes, so getting in that habit now will avoid confusion later.

2-D shapes in Visio

Visio Shapes 2D

Examples of 2-D shapes.

A 2-D shape is a shape that, when selected, does not have a beginning point or an ending point. Instead, a 2-D shape has eight selection handles Visio Shapes Handle . The shapes shown here are all 2-D shapes.

How do 2-D shapes behave? When you click and drag a corner selection handle, you can change two dimensions: the length and the width. But you can't use 2-D shapes to connect other shapes. That behavior is limited to 1-D shapes.

2-D shapes are typically used to represent something — either a general concept such as a step in a flowchart, or a specific object such as a factory or a piece of equipment.

Like the laptop and the block shown here, some 2-D shapes are drawn to look three-dimensional. Even so, Visio considers these shapes as 2-D shapes. You know that because of the eight selection handles.

1-D or 2-D? How to be sure.

Visio Shapes Meaning

2D shape or 1D shape?

Don't be fooled. The top shape looks like it might be 2-D, but it's 1-D. And the bottom shape is 2-D, not 1-D.

At first glance, some shapes look like 2-D shapes but are really 1-D shapes. And vice versa. To avoid any confusion, always select the shape, and Visio will tell you what type it is.

For example, the arrow shape at the top of this illustration appears to be two dimensional because it has thickness. But if you selected it, you would see its beginning point and its ending point, so it is 1-D for sure. Instead of just representing a concept or an object, this arrow is used to connect other shapes.

On the other hand, the curve shape appears to be 1-D. After all, it looks like just a line. But if you selected it, you would see the eight selection handles Visio Shapes Handle that tell you, it's 2-D. So this curve represents the concept of a bell-shaped curve of data. On the other hand, this line cannot connect other shapes.

On the other hand, the curve shape appears to be 1-D. After all, it looks like just a line. But if you selected it, you would see the eight selection handles that tell you, it's 2-D. So this curve represents the concept of a bell-shaped curve of data. On the other hand, this line cannot connect other shapes.

Visio shapes with special behavior

Visio Shapes Behavior

Visio Shapes Behavior.

If you drag a control handle on a door shape, you can open and close the door. Here that lets you see the furniture is too close to the door.

All shapes in Visio are either 1-D or 2-D, depending on how they behave. However, some shapes have more behavior that is unique to them, and that does not depend on whether they are 1-D or 2-D. This makes these shapes especially handy.

For example, some shapes have yellow control handles Visio Shapes Yellow Handle that let you interact with them. In this illustration, the door shape has a control handle that lets you swing the door open and closed. Will it clear the table nearby? It appears not. Better find a smaller table or make other adjustments to the furniture so that this problem doesn't occur in the real world.

Control handles aren't the only sign that a shape has special interactive behavior. Some special behaviors can be found by right-clicking a shape.

Anything is a shape in Visio

Visio Shapes Anything

Anything is a shape in Visio, including pictures and text.

Anything is a shape in Visio, including pictures and text.

When working with Visio, you will probably want to add text, photos, or clip art.

Although these are not shapes created by Visio, in Visio all of these things are shapes nonetheless. If you type text on an empty part of the page, that text will be a 2-D shape, and it will have eight selection handles when selected. If you select an imported picture, it will have those handles too.

Let's face it: anything on the page is a shape to Visio. Anything.