How Visio Treats Shapes

Using basic shapes in Visio 2007The way in which shapes in Visio 2007 are treated has an effect on how they can be connected  together.  There are basically only two types of shape recognised in Visio: a one-dimensional shape or a two dimensional shape.  These are sometimes abbreviated to 1D and 2D, and in Microsoft Visio 2007 they are regarded as either a line shape or a box shape respectively. These have changed a bit in 2010, so check the articles on Visio 2010 here.

1D and 2D Shapes in Visio

In order to ascertain whether a shape is one-dimensional or two-dimensional, use the Behaviour command from the Format menu after first selecting the shape.  In the dialogue box that opens you can see how Visio treats the shape and edit it if you wish.  The attributes of each type of shape differs; in the case of a line or 1D shape, there are only four handles displayed when the shape is selected.  These are a green top and bottom handle and a special “begin point” and “end point” at each end of the shape and identified by a plus sign or cross within the green square.  By contrast, a 2-D shape has eight handles surrounding it plus a rotational handle represented by a small green circle adjacent to one of the sides.

Shapes in Visio that appear to be 3D

In addition to these standards shapes new users are often confused by shapes that appear to have depth, in other words those shapes that appear to be three dimensional.

TIP: There are a number of “Blocks with Perspective” and other shapes found on a variety of stencils that have a three-dimensional appearance which can be altered by dragging the small yellow diamond to change the vanishing point.

[br]Despite their appearance, these shapes in Visio drawings are in fact only two dimensional and when selected will display the same eight handles plus the rotation handle.  Incidentally, it is possible to edit curvature, angles of incidents and other parameters in several other shapes by dragging the yellow editing diamond to a new position.

Connecting Shapes

When connecting 1-D and 2-D shapes together it is normally necessary to use the connection point represented by a small blue cross if you want the connection to be maintained if either shape is moved.

Failure to do this will result in the connection being broken as soon as one shape changes position.  When dragging a point from a one-dimensional shape to be blue connection point of a neighbouring two-dimensional shape the green handle will turn red to indicate that a point to point connection has been made and that it is “glued”.  A tool tip that says “Glue to connection point” usually appears during the process to leave the user in no doubt of the consequence of his or her action.

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