Shape basics

In a Microsoft 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:

  1. Position the pointer over the shape.

  2. When the pointer changes to a four-headed arrow, click the shape.

  3. The selected shape displays selection handles.

To select multiple shapes:

  • On the Home tab, click the Pointer tool Button image , and then drag a selection net around all the shapes that you want to select, or hold down the SHIFT key and click each shape.

The selected shapes are outlined in purple and the group displays selection handles.


  • To quickly select all shapes on the page, on the Home tab, in the Editing group, click Select and then 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.

Note:  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, select the shape by clicking it once, and then type the text.

When you start typing while a shape is selected, the shape changes to text editing mode.

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, double-click the shape to enter text editing mode for that shape.

Alternatively, you can use the Text tool:

  1. Click to select the shape.

  2. On the Home tab, in the Tools group, click the Text tool.

  3. Type the new text, and then click the Pointer Tool when you are finished.

Note:  To change the way shape text looks, select the shape, and then on the Home tab, use the tools in the Font and Paragraph groups to format the text.

Resize a shape

To change the width or length of a shape, select the shape. Position the pointer over a side selection handle, and when the pointer changes to a two-headed arrow, drag the 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 tab, in the Show group, click Task Panes, and then click Size & Position. 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, drag one of the corner selection handles, or hold the SHIFT key while you drag any of the handles.

Format a shape

To format a shape, select the shape and then use the Fill, Line, and Shadow tools on the Home tab.

Rotate a shape

To rotate a shape, select the shape and then move the pointer over the rotation handle until your pointer becomes a circle Rotation tool pointer . Drag the handle to the rotation you want.

To rotate a shape by a fixed amount, use the Size & Position window. On the View tab, in the Show group, click Task Panes, and then click Size & Position. In the Angle box, type the angle you want, and then press ENTER.

Copy a shape

To copy a shape, hold down the CTRL key and drag to create a copy. After you move the shape where you want it, release the mouse button.

See more shape commands

To see more shape commands, right-click the shape to view 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. Select the shape and place the pointer over the control handle Control handle image - yellow diamond . Drag the control handle.

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

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