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Shape basics

In a Microsoft Office Visio drawing, shapes represent both objects and concepts. A Visio shape can be as simple as a line or as complex as a calendar. A Visio shape can be one-dimensional (1-D) or two-dimensional (2-D). A 1-D shape behaves like a line, while a 2-D shape behaves like a rectangle.

Note: Some shapes have custom behavior appropriate to their drawing types and do not behave exactly as described here.

Select a shape

To select one shape: Callout 3 The selected shape displays selection handles.

Selecting a shape by clicking it

To select multiple shapes: Callout 2 The selected shapes are outlined in purple and the group displays selection handles.

Selecting shapes by dragging a selection net around them


  • To quickly select all shapes on the page, on the Edit menu, click Select All.

  • To cancel the selection of one of several selected shapes, hold down SHIFT and click the specific shape.

Move a shape

To move a shape: Position the pointer over the shape. When the pointer changes to a four-headed arrow, hold down the mouse button and drag the shape.

Moving a shape by dragging it

To align a shape with another shape, use dynamic grid lines.

Aligning shapes using the dynamic grid


  • To turn on the dynamic grid, on the Tools menu, click Snap & Glue. Click the General tab, select the Dynamic grid check box, and then click OK.

  • To nudge a shape, click to select it, and then press an arrow key. To nudge a shape exactly one pixel, hold down SHIFT and press an arrow key.

Add text to a shape

To add text to a shape: Callout 2 Type the text.

Typing text in a shape

Note: If you haven't already zoomed in on the shape, Visio zooms in when you type. To zoom out again, click outside the shape.

Edit text on a shape

To edit text on a shape: Callout 3 Type the new text.

Modifying text in a shape

Note: To change the way shape text looks, click to select the shape, point to the Format menu, click Text, and then select the formatting options you want.

Resize a shape

To change the width or length of a shape: Callout 2 When the pointer changes to a two-headed arrow, drag the selection handle.

Changing the width of a shape by dragging a side selection handle

The width and height of the selected shape appear in the status bar at the bottom of the Visio window.

Note: You can also resize a shape in the Size & Position window. On the View menu, click Size & Position Window. Select the shape you want to resize, and then type the width and height values you want.

To resize a shape while maintaining its proportions: Callout 3 Drag any selection handle on a perfect circle or square to resize the shape proportionally.

Resizing a shape proportionally by dragging a corner selection handle

Format a shape

To format a shape: Callout 3 Your shape reflects the changes you made.

Changing the fill color of a shape

Rotate a shape

To rotate a shape: Callout 2 Drag the handle to the rotation you want.

Rotating a shape with the Rotation tool

To rotate a shape by a fixed amount: Callout 3 In the Angle box, type the angle you want, and then press Enter.

Rotating a shape by typing a rotation angle

Copy a shape

To copy a shape: Callout 3 Release the mouse button.

Copying a shape by holding down CTRL and dragging the shape

See more shape commands

To see more shape commands: Callout 2 Right-click the shape.

Right-clicking a shape to see the shortcut menu

Some shapes have control handles that you can use to modify the shape. Each control handle has a function unique to the shape on which it appears. Callout 2 Drag the control handle.

Changing the contour of a shape.

Note: To display a control handle tip, pause the pointer over the control handle.

Zoom in or out

To zoom in on a drawing, click the arrow next to the Zoom box and click a setting. You can also zoom in on an area by holding down CTRL+SHIFT and dragging a selection net around the area you want to magnify.

Zooming in or out of a drawing by using the Zoom box

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