Sometimes you need to find a shape that simply does not exist anywhere else. I always suggest to people that they carry out a search for the shape before going solo, but there will be occasions when you have no alternative but to create your own. I recall a situation I found myself in some years ago when a client, a large distributor of compressed gasses needed a shape for a specific type of Gas Burner which did not exist. In this case I was able to construct something pretty close from the original CAD drawings used to fabricate the burner, but often you will need a shape not just for a piece of equipment but to represent some abstract concept.
Luckily, by using Visio 2007 this daunting prospect is actually not a problem. There are many stencils available for download either from third party creators or from Microsoft itself, and some of these may contain a shape you can use as a starting point. Even shapes created for earlier versions of Visio can be press-ganged into service – they will normally be added to My Shapes from where they can be edited to suit your purpose.
You can do this by using the drawing tools available from the Drawing toolbar (View > Toolbars to turn it on) or you can combine them with pre-defined shapes from the Basic Shapes Stencil (or any other stencil) and edit them as required. You can generate some quite fancy shapes by using a combination of these tools, and if you are an advanced user who understands Visual Basic, you can create sub routines that will perform repetitive tasks – like repeating the spokes of a wheel – automatically for you.
I generally find that the Operations command from the Shape menu comes in very handy. I use this tool a lot when combining shapes into a new Custom Shape because it allows me to Intersect shapes as well as combining them with the Union command, and of course you can Fragment or Subtractone shape from another to get the required effect if you need to, albeit after a bit of practice.
Other tools worth exploring from the same menu are the Join, Trim and Offset commands. These allow greater flexibility when modifying standard shapes, for example, when “cutting” part of a shape away the Trim command enables you to treat each part of the overlap as a new component which is then editable independently. The Join command allows separate components to then be joined to form a new Custom Shape.
The Offset command is a fantastically useful feature for creating copies of a shape at a predetermined distance – for example a circle could have perfect copies of it inside and outside to form concentric circles which could then be moved to for a cam, or have corresponding rectangles added to become the basis of a gear wheel.
If you need help you’ll find advice and guidance in lots of online forums, and of course on our ownVisio-tutorial website.