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Microsoft Office: Drawing Tools

This month we are going look at the drawing tools used most often in PowerPoint but available in all the Microsoft Office applications.

You probably know how to create circles, rectangles and use the other shape tools, but here are some tips and tricks for making it easier.

  • If the drawing toolbar is not visible, display it using the command View - Toolbars - Drawing.
  • To create a square, circle, equilateral triangle, etc. hold down the Shift key as you drag to create your shape. This ensures that the height and width of the shape are the same. So if you hold down shift when you are using the rectangle tool, you get a perfect square; and a perfect circle when using the oval tool.
  • If you are drawing a line or an arrow, the Shift key makes it easier to keep horizontal or vertical (because it only allows 24 different angles for the line).
  • When you are drawing an arrow, drag in the direction you want the arrow to point.
  • Holding down Ctrl when you drag to create the shape, means that the shape expands outwards. Normally, when you create a shape the point where you start is one corner of the shape and you drag across the screen towards where the opposite corner will be. Try holding down Ctrl instead and you'll see that the start point is the centre of the shape and the edges expand like a balloon from that point.
  • You can control the colours of the shape with the Fill Color (paint pot) and Line Color (artist's paint brush) tools on the drawing toolbar. Remember, if you want a transparent shape set the Fill Color to No Fill, and if you don't want a border around the edge set the Line Color to No Line.
  • The easiest way to copy a shape is Ctrl+D. Select the shape and then press Ctrl+D to duplicate it. You than can move it to the position you want. If you want several duplicates, you just press Ctrl+D as many times as you like.
  • Select an object by clicking it, or by putting it in a "box". You create a "box" by dragging the mouse across the drawings. Make sure you are not pointing at a drawing object to start with, and as you drag a dotted "box" will open up. Everything that is completely enclosed in this "box" will be highlighted when you let go of the mouse, anything half-in, half-out will not be included. You can then change all the "boxed-up" shapes in the same way.
  • Have you ever created a diagram or picture with several shapes and then decided to move it, and taken ages because you had to move each element separately? You can avoid this by grouping the shapes into one.
    1. "Box-up" the shapes as described above.
    2. Click the Draw button on the drawing toolbar, and then click Group. This will make your set of shapes, one shape, that you can move, resize and copy in the normal way.
    3. Give the command Draw - Ungroup if you want to split a group up again.
  • You can also Ungroup a clipart drawing, if you want to change part of it. Change the colour of the man's shirt, or delete the hat he's wearing, for example.
  • If you have two drawing objects that you want to overlap, but you can't get the right one on top, you need to change the order. When you draw an object or insert a picture or clipart it adds a new transparent layer to the page. So a complicated picture consists of lots of layers each with one object on it. You can move and object up the layers so that it is on top of the others by selecting the object and giving the command Draw - Order - Bring Forward. This will move it up one layer each time, so it is often quicker to give the command Draw - Order - Bring to Front to get the object in front of everything else in one go.
  • Draw - Order - Send Backward and - Send to Back puts the object underneath the others.

With this knowledge and a bit of practice the drawing tools in Microsoft Office are very flexible for illustrating your work. Remember, they work in the same way in Word, Excel and PowerPoint, you can use your skills in any of these packages.

A quick mention for drawing in Word XP. This latest version of Word creates a drawing "Canvas" for you when you start drawing. The canvas is an empty box onto which you can draw the diagram or picture you want, and the text of the document flows around it. You can then move and resize the canvas in any way you need and your drawing stays inside it. It works in the same way as a text box does, except it's for drawings instead of text! One of the biggest advantages of it is that the canvas will never be cut in half by a page break, and so you can be sure that the whole drawing will be together on a page.

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