How to Make Elegant Drawings in Microsoft Word

How to Make Elegant Drawings in Microsoft Word
by Len Fellman
[email protected]
(Please do not distribute this document without my permission. It may turn into a book some day.)
I. Setting Options, and customizing the Drawing toolbar
II. The drawing grid. Aligning and distributing shapes
III. Lines, arrows, and autoshapes
IV. Using freeforms to create custom curves
V. The three layers of a Word document. Inline vs. floating shapes.
Wrapping shapes around text. The Select Multiple Objects dialog box
VI. Grouping and order of shapes
VII. Transforming and enhancement of shapes
VIII. Using Autocorrect to store custom drawings
IX. Textboxes, callouts, and other text containers. Label boxes for drawings
X. Word Art and 3D drawings
XI. Converting documents to HTML and Adobe Acrobat formats
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I. Setting Options, and customizing the Drawing toolbar.
Under Tools, Options (Alt-t o), set the following:
“View” tab: Print and Web Layout Options—check Drawings and Object Anchors
“General” tab: If you are using Word 2002, UNcheck “Automatically create Drawing
Canvas when inserting AutoShapes”
(The Drawing Canvas is a new feature in Word 2002, designed to make it easy to create
a complex shape. I have yet to discover any value to it, and find it to be simply a
“Edit” tab: Check “Enable click and type”. This may be useful when you are working
with a drawing, since it allows you to position text in relation to the drawing without
hitting the Enter key repeatedly.
If you are using Word 2002, I recommend unchecking “Show Paste Option Buttons”.
These buttons get in the way, and even sneak there way into one’s web documents!
In the menu bar, Tools, Autocorrect (Options), check “Replace text as you type.”
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Customizing the Drawing Toolbar
To display the Drawing toolbar, click your right-mouse button on the grey area at
the top of the window, which will bring down the Toolbars menu. Check “Drawing”.
I like to have certain buttons displayed on my toolbar. To put buttons onto the
toolbar, you need to customize the toolbar: Click the right-mouse button on the grey area
at the top of the window and choose the bottom-most item: Customize (You can just
press the “c” key).
Click the Commands tab at the top of the dialog box, and under Categories click
“Drawing”. You may then drag icons from the Commands list at the right onto the
Drawing toolbar.
Here are the buttons I recommend putting on the toolbar:
Select Objects
Drag cursor over shapes to select them
Select Multiple Objects
Opens a window with a list of shapes in the doc.
Makes selected shapes into a single shape
Breaks up a grouped shape into its components
Undoes “Ungroup”
Bring to Front
Puts shape on top of other shapes in same layer
Send to Back
Puts shape under other shapes in same layer
Bring in Front of Text
Puts shape into the main drawing layer
Send Behind Text
Puts shape into the behind-text drawing layer
Free Rotate
Displays four shape rotation handles
Rotate Left
Rotates shape 90° counterclockwise
Rotate Right
Rotates shape 90° clockwise
Flip Horizontal
Reflects shape in its horizontal center line
Flip Vertical
Reflects shape in its vertical center line
Edit Points
Allows editing of nodes and segments of a freeform
Draws a freeform using cubic Bezier curves
Line segment
Line segment with arrow head at end
Double Arrow
Line segment with arrow head at both ends
Rectangle Autoshape
Isosceles Triangle
Adjustable triangle with base angles  90°
Oval (ellipse) Autoshape (with Shift key: a circle)
Draws one quadrant of an ellipse (with Shift: circle)
Right Brace
Adjustable brace Autoshape
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Text Box
Word Art
Tool for cropping pictures: useful with “Print Scrn”
If text is selected, it goes into the text box
Create stylized, rotate-able text
In addition to these, you should have the following “pop-up” menus:
Miscellaneous tools: some are on the toolbar.
Lines, freeforms, geom. shapes, callouts, etc.
Drawing Grid
Dialog box for “Snap objects” and gridlines
Fill Color
Fill shape with color, or make fill invisible
Font Color
Line Color
Line Style
Adjust line thickness or multiplicity
Dash Style
Arrow Style
Choose arrowheads for one or both ends of line
Shadow Style
Give shapes a 3-D effect
3-D Style
Turn Autoshapes into 3-D objects
These changes are all stored in a “template” file called If you want to
transfer the settings from one computer to another, you have to move this file to the
appropriate directory on the target computer. Here is where resides:
In Windows 98: C:\WINDOWS\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates
In Windows NT, 2000, or XP: Here you have to provide a “profile” name (“my name”):
C:\Documents and Settings\(my name)\WINDOWS\
Application Data\Microsoft\Templates
Batch files to make this process easier are available on my web site. Put them on a
floppy disk. Then go to the Start Menu, Run.
To copy from Windows 98 to a floppy, type: A:\NormalDotWin98ToA
To copy from a floppy to Windows 98, type: A:\NormalDotAToWin98
To copy from Windows 2000 or XP to a floppy, type:
A:\NormalDotWinNTToA “myname”
To copy from a floppy to Windows 2000 or XP, type:
A:\NormalDotAToWinNT “myname”
(“my name” is your profile name).
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Be aware of the “accelerator keys” for accessing menu items: these are shown by
the underlined letters in the menu names and the menu items. For example, the Draw
menu contains a feature called “Change AutoShape”. The Draw menu can be accessed
by typing Alt-r. To change a shape (a textbox, for example) to one of the other “Basic
shapes”, type Alt-r c b and select the desired shape.
A keystroke sequence I use frequently is Alt-r g to Group two or more shapes.
Similarly Alt-r u to Ungroup a grouped shape, and Alt-r o to Regroup a previously
ungrouped set of shapes.
In this document, we always underline the accelerator characters when we refer to
the menu items to encourage the reader to make use of them. This is part of the…
(i) Some tasks can be performed more efficiently with the mouse, and some can be done
more efficiently with the keyboard. Always use the most efficient tool for the job.
(ii) If there is a task you perform often, learn the fast way to do it. When you learn the
fast way, you will feel empowered by it, and will find that task satisfying.
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II. The drawing grid. Aligning and distributing shapes
The Drawing Grid dialog box is accessed by clicking the
icon on the Drawing
toolbar, or the Grid command on the Draw pop-up menu (Alt-r i). It gives you access to
an invisible grid which you can use to align your drawings. The default setting “Snap to
Grid” causes your shapes to jump around in strange ways until you either uncheck this
setting, or check the Display gridlines on screen option so you can see the lines your
shapes are “snapping” to. You can also set the spacing of the horizontal or vertical lines
on your grid.
EXERCISE: Check “Snap objects to grid”, set the grid spacing to 12 points in both
directions, and check “Display gridlines on screen”. Using the Rectangle AutoShape,
make a 10 × 10 square. Fill the shape with 10 horizontal and 10 vertical lines.
EXERCISE: Experiment with “Snap objects to other objects”, and see where this might
be useful.
Displaying the gridlines makes them visible on the screen only: they can’t be made
to appear in the printed document.
For making mathematical drawings, I don’t use “Snap objects to grid”, or the
related option: “Snap objects to other objects”. These settings prevent the free placement
of parts of a drawing. An alternative to “Snapping” shapes is the “Align Left / Center /
Right / Top / Middle / Bottom” and the “Distribute Horizontally / Vertically” features.
(Alt-r a). These are useful for aligning shapes that are used with a numbered set of
problems (especially when using multiple columns), or for lining up shapes like the icons
that appear in Topic I above.
Another way to organize shapes on a page is by placing them in a table. A shape
created while the cursor is in a table cell belongs to that cell. However if you move that
shape, the connection between the shape and the table is broken. To restore the
a) Place the shape where you want it and (with it selected) do Ctrl-x (“cut”)
b) place the cursor in the desired cell
c) do Ctrl-v (“paste”) to paste the shape back into the document. It will probably reappear in the same position as before, but will now be part of the cell.
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III. Lines, arrows, and Autoshapes
The line tool produces ordinary line segments. Such a line can be adjusted by
dragging the endpoints, or changed into a one- or two-headed arrow using the Arrow
Style dialog box. It can also be made thick or multiple, and dashed or dotted, using the
dialog boxes for these features. It can be colored using the Line Color dialog box.
If you hold the shift key down while producing the line, the line will “snap” to an
inclination of 0◦, 15◦, 30◦, etc., so you can make it exactly horizontal or vertical.
However once the line is in place there is no easy way to get the line exactly horizontal or
vertical unless you have a steady hand or you use the “Snap to grid” feature.
Autoshapes are ready-made shapes, the most important of which are standard
geometrical objects. Some of them have one or two (rarely more than two) “adjustment
handles” for modifying the shape. I have found the following ones the most useful, and
keep them on my toolbar:
Line, Arrow, Double Arrow, Rectangle,
Isosceles Triangle, Oval, Arc, Curve, Right Brace
(i) A rectangle is almost the same thing as a text box: you can add text to a rectangle just
like a text box: in fact, you can add text to (almost) any Autoshape (right mouse button,
Add Text). One difference is that a rectangle can be rotated, while a text box can’t be.
However, rotating the shape doesn’t rotate the text. (To get rotating text, see topic X.
below: “Word Art”.)
(ii) The “Isosceles Triangle” Autoshape is mis-named: it starts out as an isosceles
triangle, but using the adjustment handle you can change it into any shape triangle you
like. If you want an obtuse triangle, the obtuse angle will be on the vertex opposite the
base. The triangle can be rotated if you want one of the base angles to be obtuse.
By moving the adjustment handle all the way to one side, you can make a right
triangle. For this reason, I don’t need the Right Triangle Autoshape on my toolbar.
More often you will make triangles by double-clicking the line tool so you can
make one line after the other quickly. After making the figure, group it into a single
shape (see Topic VI).
The drawback to this method is that the shaped can’t be filled with a color.
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Other geometric Autoshapes worthy of commenting on are:
(iii) Parallelogram. Using the sizing handle, this can be converted to a rectangle.
(iv) Trapezoid. Unfortunately, this tool produces only isosceles trapezoids.
(v) Diamond. This is actually a rhombus, but one whose diagonals are horizontal and
vertical (unless you rotate it).
(vi) Rounded rectangle. Using the sizing handle, this can be anything between a proper
rectangle and a “racetrack”.
(vii) Hexagon. This is really a truncated rectangle, and can be made into anything from a
bevelled shape to a diamond. Made with the Ctrl key held down, it makes a regular
(viii) Octagon. Similar to hexagon: really a truncated rectangle.
(ix) Pentagon. This is a regular pentagon only: it has no adjustment handles.
(x) Arc. When one is first created, you get one quadrant of an ellipse. If you hold the
Shift key down while dragging, you get a quadrant of a circle.
The arc tool has two adjustment handles, one for each end of the arc.
There is a secret to making an arc: ALWAYS START BY MAKING A FULL
THE ARC YOU ARE LOOKING FOR. Then drag the adjustment handles to give the
arc its desired span.
The following picture will help you understand this process:
Begin these two arcs here.
Begin these two arcs here.
The trick is to begin a quadrant arc on the y-axis of an imaginary coordinate system
whose center is the center of the arc you want. Swing it around to the imaginary x-axis.
If you don’t do this, and attempt to make the arc directly, it usually won’t have the right
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You may want to stick a small arrow at the end of your arc, and group it with the arc.
Beginning of an arc construction:
Start arc here
EXERCISE: Make the following drawing:
EXERCISE: Make this one:
Note: You won’t succeed unless you follow the above directions very carefully!
(xi) The Right Brace Autoshape is very useful for displaying measurements on a drawing.
It can be rotated into the desired position, or flipped vertically. Use it grouped with a
textbox. (See exercise in Topic VII.)
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There are three important tools for using Autoshapes:
(i) Holding the Shift key down while creating the shape locks the aspect ratio. (I.e. the
length-to-width ratio). You can make a circle by holding the Shift key down while
dragging the Oval Autoshape, and a circular arc using the Arc Autoshape.
You can also lock the aspect ratio after making a shape: Do right mouse button,
“Format Autoshape”, click the “Size” tab, and check “Lock Aspect Ratio”. The shape
from then on will maintain its length-to-width ratio when you drag its sizing handles.
(Although I have seen this feature fail.)
(ii) Holding the Control (Ctrl) key down while creating a shape (including line segments)
makes the shape appear from the center out rather than from an end or a corner. If you
want an oval inscribed in an existing rectangle, you can begin in a corner of the rectangle,
but if you want an oval with a known center, use Ctrl and begin in the center.
(iii) If you double-click an Autoshape icon, you can create multiple instances of that
shape. This is particularly useful with the Line tool. Note that this only works with icons
appearing on the toolbar: it won’t work with icons selected from the Autoshape pop-up
menu. This is one reason why you should have certain shapes on the Drawing toolbar.
EXERCISE: Try these.
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IV. Using freeforms to create custom curves
There are three tools for making freeform curves: Curve, Freeform, and Scribble
(see AutoShapes, Lines), but of these only Curve is suitable for serious drawing. The
Curve tool creates a series of “cubic Bezier curves”, pieced together. As you trace the
curve with the mouse, every time you release and press the left mouse button, you get a
new segment of the curve. If you end up within a few pixels of where you started, you
will get a closed curve.
The segments are separated by points called “nodes”, which can be manipulated by
clicking the “Edit Points” icon on the Drawing toolbar, or by right-clicking the curve and
choosing “Edit Points”.
With a little practice you can make fairly accurate curves this way. I like to paste
graphs into Word from graphing programs like David Meredith’s (X)PLORE program, and trace them with the
curve tool in order to produce an Autoshape that I can use with other drawing elements,
or to make custom graphs to be stored in my Autocorrect entries (see VI.).
EXERCISE: The following graph was created in X(PLORE). Trace the sine wave with
the Curve tool to make a Freeform. Remember that every time you release and re-press
the left mouse button, you get a new node and a new segment of the freeform. In places
where the curve is fairly straight, the nodes can be far apart, but where there is greater
curvature you want nodes fairly close together.
When you are finished, delete the original picture, and fine-tune your drawing
using “Edit Points”.
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EXERCISE: Shading Areas Under Curves
We will create the shaded area shown below, using a freeform.
(i) Zoom in on the graph to 150% (View Menu, Zoom, or the Zoom drop-down box in
the Standard Menu).
(ii) Trace the boundary of the region using the Curve tool. Use ONLY ONE segment for
each straight part of the boundary. These segments won’t be straight, but we’ll fix that
(iii) Now adjust the two top corner nodes: Go to “Edit Points”, hold the mouse pointer
over each one of them in turn and click the right mouse button. Choose the option
“Corner point”. A corner point has two adjustment handles that you can use to make the
curve fit the contour you’re after. Do this.
(iv) You will find that the three segments that are supposed to be straight bulge out.
Still in “Edit Points”, hold the mouse pointer over each one of them in turn and click the
right mouse button. You will find an option: “Straight segment”. That will straighten out
the bulge.
(v) Finally use the Fill Color tool to shade the interior of the freeform.
(vi) Go back to the 100% Zoom setting.
(vii) Group the freeform with the rest of the drawing. (Hold the shift key down to select
both objects together. Use Alt-r-g to group them.)
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V. The three layers of a Word document. Inline vs. floating shapes.
Wrapping shapes around text. The Select Multiple Objects dialog box
A Microsoft Word document appears to be two-dimensional, but should really be
thought of as three planes on top of one another. The main part of the document is the
middle plane of the three: the text layer. Sitting on top of that is the in-front-of-text
drawing layer. When you make an Autoshape or a Textbox, it appears in this layer, and
is said to “float over the text”. It you create it or drag it over the text, it hides the text,
unless you set its Fill Color (see icon on Drawing toolbar) to “No Fill”. However,
another option is to put the shape into the third layer: the behind-text drawing layer.
The commands “Send Behind Text” and “Bring in Front of Text” (see the icons on the
toolbar) govern this.
Shapes that appear in one of the two drawing layers are called “floating” shapes. In
addition to these, some types of drawings or pictures can be displayed as “inline” shapes.
An inline shape resides in the text layer of the document, and is treated as one large
Pictures pasted into Word from other applications (or screen shots) are displayed
as Inline shapes in Word 2000 by default, but as floating shapes in Word 2002.
Autoshapes can only be floating shapes.
To change a floating shape to Inline when possible, do: Draw menu, Text
Wrapping, In Line with Text (Alt-t i).
To change an Inline shape to floating, do: Draw menu, Text Wrapping, and select
one of the wrapping styles: Square, Tight, Top and Bottom, or Through.
(These options are also available in the Format Object or Format Autoshape Dialog
box, “Layout” tab, found at the bottom of the View menu, or by right-clicking the shape.)
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I have one comment to make about Text Wrapping:
It’s better in Word 2002 than in Word 2000, but still doesn’t work consistently.
Once in a while I actually succeed in getting text to wrap around a shape or a textbox as
advertised, but it usually decides to stop working for long periods of time. I have yet to
discover what is causing this.
What to do when Text Wrapping doesn’t work
(i) Send your shape Behind Text (see icon on Drawing toolbar).
(ii) Set the Fill Color to “No Fill” (icon on toolbar).
(iii) Do your text wrapping manually, by simply inserting spaces as needed.
(iv) You will now discover that you sometimes can’t get at the shape to select it, or get at
your textbox to edit its text! Do deal with this, learn about…
The “Select Multiple Objects” dialog box
When you click the “Select Multiple Objects” icon on the Drawing toolbar, you
will bring up a dialog box listing all the floating shapes (including textboxes) in your
document. If you are having trouble selecting a shape that is behind the text or behind
another shape, try to locate it in this list and select it (using the mouse or the spacebar).
It will be easy to find if it was recently created: it will appear near the bottom of the list.
You can select or de-select as many shapes as you want to this way.
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VI. Grouping and order of shapes. Anchors
Every shape has an “Anchor”. This is a range of text that governs how the shape
moves when the text of the document changes. The idea is that the shape should remain
in the same position relative to its anchoring text, unless the user moves the shape
I recommend always having the “Show Object Anchors” option on (Tools,
Options, View, Object Anchors). An anchor can be dragged with the mouse, in order to
reposition it. By default, the anchoring range is a full paragraph of text, and the anchor
sits at the upper right corner of the anchoring paragraph.
Often when you create a drawing, the anchoring text will be an invisible paragraph
mark or break character. If you delete that character, the drawing disappears with it. So
you will want to move your anchor back to a visible paragraph. (If the anchor refuses to
move, try moving the shape a little bit first. If you still can’t get the anchor where you
want it, type (say) a period to create a new paragraph and move the anchor there.)
Of course you normally want the anchoring paragraph to be the one that actually
discusses the drawing.
It is also possible to anchor a drawing to a single character (in the Format Object
or Format Autoshape dialog box, go to Layout, Picture Position, Horizontal, Absolute
Position). Doing so makes a floating shape behave similarly to an Inline shape.
The Z-Order
Every time a new shape is created, it goes to the top of the “Z-order”. The name
Z-order comes from thinking of the Drawing Layer as an XY-coordinate system. The
third dimension is called “Z”, and the drawings are thought of as piled up on top of one
another in the Z dimension. Drawings farther down in the Z-order are covered up by the
ones higher up, unless the latter are set to have No Fill (see Fill color icon).
You can change this order by clicking the “Bring to Front” or “Send to Back”
icons, or by clicking “Bring Forward” or “Send Backward”. (Draw menu or right-mouse
button: Order).
However, this scheme is complicated by the fact that there are two drawing layers:
the “in-front-of-text” layer and the “behind-text” layer. If you move a shape from one
layer to the other, its Z-order doesn’t change, but a drawing in front of text will always
eclipse a drawing behind text, regardless of which one has the higher Z-order.
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Grouping of shapes
You will never want to create a drawing out of multiple shapes without grouping
them into a single shape. If you forget to do this, or leave one shape out of the group
inadvertently, you won’t notice anything wrong until you move things around in the
document and discover that one of your drawings came apart.
The key fact about selecting shapes: In order to select a shape, the mouse cursor
must be over an actual part of the shape, either the Fill if there is one (the fill may be
white and therefore not visible), or one of the LINES of the shape, but not over white
space which doesn’t belong to the shape. You’ll know when the cursor is over the shape
because it changes into a crossed-arrow symbol.
To make a grouped shape you need to be able to do multiple selections.
There are three ways to do this:
(i) Hold the Shift key down while selecting the shapes one at a time with the mouse.
This may not be possible if one shapes completely covers another one.
Warning: when you double-click a drawing icon to make multiple shapes, you have to get
OUT of that mode before you can get back to normal editing. Use the Esc key for the
Drag the Select Objects arrow over all the shapes. This should select them all; even the
ones that are covered up. However, I have found that this sometimes misses some of
When you are in “Select Objects” mode, the mouse cursor (not the selection
cursor) turns into a thick white arrow. You won’t be able to type text while you are in
this mode. You need to hit Esc to get out of Select Objects mode and go back to typing
text. Pay attention to this! You’ll think you broke something otherwise.
You also see a white arrow mouse cursor when you point the mouse in the margins
of your document, but that does not mean you are in Select Objects mode.
(ii) Select the shapes by checking them in the Select Multiple Objects dialog box. (You
can use the spacebar to select them). This may not be easy to do since you may not be
able to tell which shapes in the list are the ones you want; however it helps that the
shapes appear in the list in the order that they were created.
Make a habit of testing your grouped shape by selecting it and dragging it a little
bit with the mouse. If any part of the drawing didn’t make it into the group, you’ll catch
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it that way. Hit Undo (Ctrl-z) and get the stray shape into the group.
You will find that grouped drawings sometimes don’t work right: things get
covered up when you don’t expect them to. You may have to fiddle with (i) Bring to
Front/Send to Back, (ii) Bring in Front of Text/ Send Behind Text, and (iii) No Fill
before you can get all your objects and textboxes to appear without anything covered up.
I’ve never failed to get it to work, but I can’t tell you exactly how I did it!
VII. Transforming and enhancement of shapes
Tools for transforming shapes are “Free Rotate”, “Rotate Left” (by 90°), “Rotate
Right” (by 90°), “Flip Horizontal”, and “Flip Vertical”. You should experiment with
these tools using one of the AutoShapes.
The Free Rotate tool brings up little green rotation handles at the four corners of
the shape. In Word 2002 one rotation handle comes up automatically when the shape is
selected, even without clicking Free Rotate. However, you will have better control of the
rotation if you use Free Rotate.
If you rotate an AutoShape that contains text, the shape will rotate but the text
won’t. You can only rotate text in “Word Art” (cf. Topic X.)
You may want to create an AutoShape, copy and paste it (Ctrl-c, Ctrl-v), and flip
the copy horizontally or vertically. You can then position the original and the copy
appropriately and group them together into a single shape.
EXERCISE: Use this technique to make this drawing starting with the Trapezoid
You should also experiment with Fill Color, Line Color, Line Style, and Dash
Style, or even Shadow Style and 3-D Style (for the latter, see Topic X).
EXERCISE: Draw this →
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VIII. Using the Autocorrect feature to store custom drawings
Examples of drawings you may want to store for frequent use are:
(i) an xy-coordinate system: two perpendicular lines grouped with a text box (see VII.)
(ii) A number line or a grid for making graphs. To make these, open the Drawing Grid
dialog box (Alt-r i) and check Snap objects to grid, and set the Horizontal and Vertical
spacing to control the spacing of your parallel lines. (The closest you can get to no
spacing in one direction is 0.5 points).
(iii) A curve made with the Curve freeform tool.
EXERCISE: Above we created a cycle of a sine wave in the graphing program
(X)PLORE, and copied and pasted it into Word. Try making an Autocorrect entry for
this drawing, as explained below.
It sometimes helps to Zoom in before tracing a curve, to get increased accuracy. (View
menu, Zoom: Alt-v z, or use the Zoom drop-down box on the Standard Toolbar.)
(iv) A “label box” for adding labels to drawings (see IX below).
After making your custom drawing, group it into a single shape by dragging the
Select Objects arrow over it and clicking the Group tool (Alt-r g). Then with the grouped
drawing selected, go to Tools, Autocorrect (Alt-t a) and type in a keyboard shortcut in the
Replace box. You will also have to check the Formatted Text box. Then every time you
type the shortcut, you will get your graph or sine wave, or whatever you have created.
Be careful not to use a shortcut that might be used as an ordinary word. To be
safe, I like to end the shortcut word with an underscore, as in “sinewave_”. (Microsoft
Word treats “sinewave_” as a complete word, so you get the Autocorrect item without
having to type a space character to signal the end of a word.)
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IX. Textboxes, callouts, and other text containers. Label boxes for drawings
A textbox is a “floating” shape that can be positioned anywhere in your document.
You can create it from scratch and then type text into it, or you can click the Textbox
icon with text selected first, and the textbox will appear with the selected text inside of it
(In Word 97 or 2000 you will have to adjust its size to fit the text. Also, there is a bug
causing the last line sometimes to have the wrong font style. (Use the Format Painter—
the paintbrush icon from the standard toolbar—to correct this.)
When you are working with a textbox, you need to be aware of the difference
between selecting the textbox and selecting an insertion point in the text inside the
textbox. If you see a blinking cursor in the textbox, you are in normal, text mode. But if
you click the boundary of the box, you select the textbox itself. Only the presence or
absence of the blinking cursor tells you the difference.
Text in a textbox (or in a table cell) can be displayed vertically (see the appropriate
toolbar), but not at an angle. The only way to get text at an angle is by using “Word Art”
(see X, below), or by pasting the text into a program like Adobe Photoshop and rotating it
there; then inserting it back into Word as a picture. You will lose a lot of resolution
doing this, but it works.
Other Text Containers. Callouts
Text boxes are very useful, but you may want to store shapes in other objects.
Any AutoShape can be used as a text container (even the Bracket AutoShape, but that
doesn’t usually give you what you want; you are better off grouping the Bracket with a
Textbox). To do so, right click the AutoShape and choose “Add Text”.
Another type of text container is a “Callout”. They often look like balloons.
Examples of callouts appear in Topic III. above, illustrating the use of the Arc
AutoShape. To make a callout, go to the Drawing toolbar, Autoshapes, Callouts (Alt-u
c). I find only the first four callout types useful. These have an adjustment handle for
setting the pointer to the desired length and direction.
You can also change a textbox into a different shape (including a callout) as “an
afterthought”: go to the Draw menu, Change AutoShape (Alt-r c).
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(i) Make a textbox a little larger than your typical drawing.
(ii) Select the textbox contents (a single paragraph mark), and choose a font for your
labels. I have found that boldface font a few points smaller than the regular text size
works best. So if my document uses 14 point font, I make my labels using 11 point,
boldface type. When lecturing with an overhead projector, I use 18 point font, and my
label boxes use 14 point.
(iii) Fill the textbox with space characters by holding down the spacebar until the cursor
goes to the right side of the box; then hit the Enter key. Repeat until you get to the
bottom of the box.
(iv) Click the boundary of the textbox to select it. Then hit the right mouse button to
bring up a menu containing the option: Format Text Box. If you don’t see this option,
you have text selected rather than the textbox itself.
In the Format Text Box dialog box, click the Colors and Lines tab and under Line
choose “No Line”. Then click the Layout tab and choose: Send Behind Text.
(Note that all these settings are also available on the Drawing Toolbar.)
(v) Go to AutoCorrect (Alt-t a) and type a name that you will use to bring up this special
text box (for example: “label_”). Also be sure Formatted Text box is checked.
(vi) Now when you type the shortcut, the label box will appear. However, you won’t be
able to see it! Since you made the lines and fill invisible, the box will only be visible
when it is selected. If you know approximately where it is on the page and click the
mouse there, you will see it. If that’s hard to do, click the Select Multiple Objects icon
on the Drawing toolbar and check the last item on the list. That will be your label box.
(vii) Now anytime you make a drawing, type your Autocorrect shortcut (in my example:
“label_”) to produce a label box, slip the box over your drawing, and type any desired
labels inside it. Finally, group the label box with the rest of the drawing. (For this
purpose, you may need to use the Select Multiple Objects dialog box.)
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X. Word Art and 3D drawings
At first glance, Word Art appears to be only for fun, rather than for serious things
like mathematical drawings. However, it has the virtue of providing rotatable text. Since
a Word Art object is a floating shape, it can be grouped with a drawing to provide text
that rotates with the drawing. For an example of this use, download my file of Rulers and
Word Art can be in any font that you have on your computer, but the only font
styles it supports are Bold and Italic, as well as Subscript. That severely limits its uses
for mathematical documents. (However, in the Rulers and Protractors document, you
will find what appear to be Word Art superscripts. Each superscript is actually a separate
Word Object, with its shape positioned above the base line Word Art object, and grouped
with it.)
You can turn existing text into Word Art by selecting it and clicking the Word Art
icon on the Drawing toolbar. Or you can start with the Word Art dialog box and enter
text there.
3D Shapes
Most Autoshapes (and textboxes) can be turned into 3D shapes. When it is
possible, the “3-D Style” icon will be available on the Drawing toolbar. Besides being
able to choose the type of 3D perspective, you will find a “3-D settings” toolbar available
via this icon, allowing you to tilt the 3D object, and change its depth, direction, color,
surface type, and lighting.
You may want to use 3D to liven up a presentation, or to create standard geometric
solids. (Not a sphere, however: to get a sphere, you will have to make a circle as an outer
boundary, and then group together a set of ovals to indicate longitude and latitude lines).
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XI. Converting documents to HTML and Adobe Acrobat formats
You can save any Word document as a web page, but if it contains drawings, the
result will usually not be very satisfactory: the drawings themselves will carry over
satisfactorily, but the positioning of the drawings will usually be messed up. Grouped
drawings may not display properly.
Be aware that HTML needs a little bit more space for drawings than Word does.
So if you fill up a page tightly in Word (as I too often do), it may spill over into a second
page, and your drawings might get pushed around. So leave extra space.
In addition, most Word field codes (such as are used for mathematical formatting)
won’t translate properly. The latest version of MathType (the full-featured version of
Equation Editor, which sells for around $100 in the academic version) does some
translating of mathematical text into HTML, but it still fails to translate everything.
I have found that I get much better mathematical documents by converting Word
files into Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format. The software for doing this is available for
around $70 with academic pricing from EdTech or
from Gradware .
You will find many examples of this on my class websites, accessible through
I have generally found Adobe Acrobat to work fine, but there have been times
when I get a maddening message: “Unable to create .pdf file”, with no explanation as to
why. A look at the “Error log” sometimes gives a clue: it usually has to do with text in
textboxes going past the right or bottom edge of the box. If you use label boxes as
described in Topic IX. above, you will need to pay attention to this. Shapes that get to
close to the edge of the page can also cause problems.
Sometimes grouped shapes don’t translate correctly into Adobe. I have usually
been able to correct this by fiddling with “No Fill”, “Send Behind Text”, “Send to Back”,
etc. But a few times I have had to settle for leaving the shapes ungrouped before
converting a doc to .pdf.
I have never had a problem with .pdf files that I didn’t eventually fix.
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