Auto-align, auto-space, and re-layout shapes in a diagram

Visio has several tools to help you lay out shapes and connectors neatly and evenly. You might use different tools at different times while you create diagrams. Some can make small adjustments to shape positions, and some help you rearrange entire diagrams. The tools are organized in these four areas:

  • Auto Align & Space button

    Use Auto Align & Space if you are satisfied with the layout of your diagram, but just want to make it neater and straighten connectors without moving things much.

  • Position commands

    Use the commands under the Position button if you want to fix only the alignment or only the spacing of selected shapes, or if you want to rotate or flip your diagram.

  • Re-Layout Page gallery

    Use the Re-Layout Page gallery if you want to try a new layout of your diagram, without necessarily needing to keep the initial positions of the shapes.

  • Template-specific layout commands

    Some diagram templates come with their own layout commands that are designed specifically for that diagram type, including the Organization Chart and Brainstorming Diagram templates.

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Auto Align & Space button

The Auto Align & Space button is located on the Home tab, in the Arrange group. This tool is designed to leave your shapes as close as possible to their current positions, but aligned with each other and evenly spaced.

  1. Select the shapes you want to align and space, or click outside the diagram to remove any selection. If nothing is selected, all shapes will be affected.

  2. Click Auto Align & Space.

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Position commands

The Position button is located on the Home tab, in the Arrange group. Click the arrow to see commands for aligning, spacing, and orienting selected shapes.

Align Shapes

The commands in this section align shapes without changing their spacing. You can hold the pointer over a command to see a preview of the effect it will have before you commit to the change.

To use Auto Align

  1. Select the shapes you want to align.

  2. On the Home tab, in the Arrange group, click Position.

  3. Click Auto Align.

To specify an alignment direction

  1. Select the shape to which you want to align other shapes, and then press SHIFT and click the shapes you want to align to it.

    The primary shape has a thick magenta outline.

  2. On the Home tab, in the Arrange group, click Position.

  3. Click the alignment option you want.

The specific Align commands align the selected shapes with the primary shape. However, the Auto Align command does not align to a primary shape.

Space Shapes

The commands in this section even up the spacing between shapes without changing their alignment. You can hold the pointer over a command to see a preview of the effect it will have before you commit to the change.

To use Auto Space

  1. Select the shapes you want to space, or click outside the diagram to remove any selection. If nothing is selected, all shapes will be affected.

  2. On the Home tab, in the Arrange group, click Position.

  3. Click Auto Space to move all selected shapes to a specified distance from neighboring shapes.

    To change the spacing distance, click Spacing Options and then set the distance.

To use the Distribute options

The spacing commands from earlier versions of Visio are still available, which present different spacing options.

  1. Select three or more shapes by holding down SHIFT or CTRL while clicking shapes. The commands for distributing shapes are disabled if you don’t select three or more shapes.

  2. On the Home tab, in the Arrange group, click Position, and then point to Space Shapes.

  3. Choose a distribution option. Click More Distribute Options to open the Distribute Shapes dialog box.

    • For Vertical distribution, the boundaries are defined by the top and bottom shapes in the selection.

    • For Horizontal distribution, the boundaries are defined by the leftmost and rightmost shapes in the selection.

    • To add guides and glue the shapes to them, select the Create guides and glue shapes to them check box. If you choose this option, you can move an outermost guide to redistribute all the shapes.

Move shapes off page breaks

If a diagram is going to be printed, you can make sure that no shapes are divided at page breaks.

  1. Select shapes that you want to move off page breaks, or click outside the diagram to remove any selection. If nothing is selected, all shapes will be affected.

  2. On the Home tab, in the Arrange group, click Position.

  3. Point to Space Shapes, and then click Move off Page Breaks.

Another option is to set Auto Align and Auto Space behavior so these commands are prevented from placing shapes on page breaks.

  1. On the Home tab, in the Arrange group, click Position.

  2. Point to Space Shapes, and check whether Avoid Page Breaks is selected. If not, click to select it.

Orient Shapes

The commands on the Rotate Shapes submenu rotate or flip a selected shape.

  • Select a shape, and then click the appropriate command.

If more than one shape is selected, these commands rotate or flip them while maintaining their relative positions to each other, as though the page were turned.

In contrast, the commands on the Rotate Diagram submenu rotate or flip the diagram orientation, but leave shape orientation as it was.

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Re-Layout Page gallery

Re-Layout Page is located on the Design tab, in the Layout group. If you have a simple diagram and you’re not sure about the best way to arrange it, select the shapes you want to rearrange or click outside the diagram to remove any selection and affect all shapes. Then try holding the mouse pointer over the various designs in the gallery to see what effect they have. You can see a preview without committing to a layout until you click it.

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Template-specific layout commands

If the template you’re using for a diagram has a tab devoted to that specific diagram type, like the Organization Chart and Brainstorming Diagram templates do, check whether it has a layout command designed for that diagram. If so, try it and see if you like the results.

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