Training & Support for your Systems2win templates


Excel Shapes

How to use Excel as a Drawing Tool

for pop, sizzle, and clearer communication with pictures and images


Table of Contents


All Systems2win Excel training
is found on 2 big web pages
(this one and Excel Training),

so that you can easily
use CTRL+F
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Bookmark = Training

Training Videos

Training Videos for How to use
Excel as a drawing tool

Additional relevant training









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Video Help

Video: The 7 Advantages of Excel
as a drawing tool

Video: Types of Drawing Objects

Video: How to Select Objects

Video: How to use Excel
as a drawing tool

Bookmark = Shapes

Working with Shapes

Bookmark = help

How to get Help for any Systems2win shape

RIGHT-click the shape (anywhere there is no text) > Size and Properties > Alt Text

There in the Alt Text, you will find an explanation of what each shape is used for.

Bookmark = FindShapes, addShapes

Where to find shapes

Excel's standard palette of shapes

Excel Ribbon bar > Insert tab > Shapes

Systems2win menu > Copy Shapes

Systems2win shapes

Excel Ribbon bar > Systems2win tab > Copy Shapes

Systems2win provides a standard palette of commonly used shapes

that can be quickly copied and pasted into any Excel document
to make it easy for your people to give your company's documents a consistent and professional look and feel.

Systems2win standard shapes

Excel Ribbon bar > Systems2win tab > Copy Shapes

Tip: The training video for the To Do List template demonstrates how to copy shapes

User-defined shapes

safety symbols

Examples of icons that can be
purchased separately, and then
used with your Systems2win templates

Scroll down to the User-Defined Shapes section

Add your own custom shapes

Your leaders can add your own shapes to the User-Defined Shapes section

to make your shapes always available to every member of your team

by simply selecting Excel Ribbon bar > Systems2win tab > Copy Shapes

in a way that your custom shapes will be automatically found and transferred to your new master Shapes template every time that you upgrade.

assuming that your leaders have purchased the feature
for the Personalization Upgrade Utility


Assuming that you are person assigned the Systems2win Leadership Role to personalize your master templates...

  1. Open a copy of your Shapes.xlsx file

    Excel Ribbon bar > Systems2win tab > Copy Shapes

  2. Save it to any temporary location
  3. Copy your shapes to the clipboard,
    and then paste (CTRL+V) them to the User-Defined Shapes section

    If you need more space, simply insert rows above the thin gold line

  4. Properly format your shapes format picture

    Right-click > Format Picture or Size and Properties

    1. Properties should be set to Move and size with cells
      (this enables your shapes to be hidden and unhidden
      when hiding and unhiding rows and columns)
    2. Size > Lock Aspect Ratio should be unchecked
      (this allows shapes to be easily restored to original size if they ever become distorted)
    3. Alt Text should contain your description and/or help for each shape

    If you want your icons to be perfectly sized and formatted for the
    Standard Work templates, then you will want them to be
    no more than 36 pixels wide and 31 pixels tall (.38" x .32")

  5. When everything is perfect... overwrite your master Shapes.xlsx file in your master portal

    following the same instructions that you use when you personalize any master template,
    overwrite the master Shapes.xlsx file located in the \tTemplates\ folder of your master portal.

  6. Send the email to advise each of your users to Sync Now

    following the same instructions that you use when you personalize any master template

    and use your Training Matrix to ensure that people actually do it (the same as always)

Bookmark = logo

Make your Logo always available

If you only own 1 seat, you can either:

  1. Purchase a second seat

    Systems2win personalizes each of your templates with your logo when you own 2 seats or more

  2. Make your logo always instantly available

    Add your logo to the User-Defined Shapes section of the master Shapes.xlsx file

    Systems2win menu > Copy Shapes

    which on your single-user computer is located at

And now your logo is always instantly available
to copy to any other document

when you select
Excel Ribbon bar > Systems2win tab > Copy Shapes

Bookmark = DrawingToolbar


Where to find Drawing Tools

Picture Tools menu

The Drawing Tools menu tab
appears at the very top of the window
whenever you select any drawing shape.

Click the Drawing Tools menu tab to
display the Drawing Tools ribbon.

Bookmark = select

How to select a shape

To select a Shape, hover your mouse cursor over any part of the Shape that contains no text,

until your cursor changes into a four-sided cross-arrows figure (like this Four arrow cursor)

Then either:

  1. Click the left mouse button to select the shape
  2. Right-click to open a pop-up window to format the Shape
  3. Right-click and drag to copy or move the shape

If you click in the middle of a Shape that contains text

it will assume that you want to edit the text.

You need to click an area of the shape with no text to select the entire shape.

To enter text in a blank Shape — right-click > Edit Text.

To select a Grouped Shape

It is very important to select just the outer border
that surrounds the entire collection of grouped shapes.

If you accidentally select a shape within the group, you will move just that shape,
and it will distort the spatial relationship between the other shapes in the group.

Bookmark = SelectObjects

How to mass select a group of shapes

Option 1) Hold down the CTRL key as you left-mouse-click multiple objects

the same way that you select multiple objects in most other Windows applications

Option 2) Toggle the Select Objects arrow "on" and draw a box around the group of shapes

Home tab > Editing group > Find and Select > Select Objects

Select Objects Arrow

The Select Objects arrow

changes the way your mouse functions —

to make it easier to select objects.

With the Select Objects arrow toggled is on:

you can draw a box around a group of shapes,
and everything in the box will be selected

To restore normal mouse functions...

either toggle the Select Objects Arrow OFF,
or double-click any open space on your worksheet.

Because it is so frequently used...

we highly recommend adding the Select Objects arrow to your Quick Access Toolbar.

Bookmark = copy

How to copy & paste shapes and connectors

  1. Regular copy & paste works 99% of the time

    Select the object,
    then CTRL+C to copy and CTRL+V to paste

  2. If that doesn't work... Copy here

    for instance, if you use regular copy & paste
    to try to copy a straight arrow connector,
    it might paste as a collapsed tiny dot...

    then use this alternate copy method
    that works 100% of the time:

    RIGHT-click and drag the selected object
    then select "copy here"
    from the menu that pops up
    when you release your RIGHT mouse after dragging.

Bookmark = move

How to move shapes

Select the object, then drag.

Or use the arrow keys on your keyboard to "nudge" selected objects.

Tip: To prevent vertical or horizontal movement, hold down the Shift key while dragging.

Bookmark = resize

How to resize a picture or shape

Right-click the picture or shape > Size and Properties > Size tab

To keep the proportional ratio of height and width:

1) In Size tab, check Lock aspect ratio, then enter new value for either height or width.

2) To manually resize, keeping proportional ratio:

for a picture: left-click the image to select it, then left-click and drag the lower right corner of the image — keep holding down the left mouse as you drag to resize the image.

for a shape: left-click the image to select it, hold down the Shift key, then left-click and drag any corner of the image, while holding down the left mouse and Shift key as you drag to resize the image.

To make the picture or shape wider, thinner, shorter or taller:

1) In Size tab, UNCHECK Lock aspect ratio, then enter new value for either height or width, or both.

2) To manually resize, NOT keeping proportional ratio:

Left-click to select the image,
then left-click and drag one of the white circles that appear in the middle of each edge of the shape.


Bookmark = resetPictureSize

How to reset picture size

Many shapes are set to move and size with cells.

These shapes are hidden when you hide a row or column, and reappear when the row or column is again unhidden.


To reset the original size of a picture or shape...

Right-click the picture or shape >
Size and Properties > Size tab

then ensure that the check box for "Lock aspect ratio"
is unchecked
before you click the Reset button.

Format picture

Bookmark = reduce

How to reduce image sizes

To reduce the total megabytes size of your Excel file,
you will want to reduce the size of large images that you paste into Excel.

This is especially useful for the Work Instructions and A3 Report templates.

Option 1) Resize the picture

If you don't already own Photoshop or some other image editing software,
you can always use Irfanview (free image editing software)
or the Paint program that comes free with Microsoft Windows

(Start > All Programs > Accessories > Paint)

How? Open your large image file in Paint.

Select Home tab > Image group > Resize.
Enter the percent (or pixel values) to which you want to shrink the image.

If you want to keep both a large and small size of the image,
use File > Save As — and give your smaller image another name.

You will usually want to save your files as bmp, jpg, or png.

And then in Excel, select Insert > Picture, and browse to select your (smaller) image.

Option 2) Crop the picture

In MS Paint: Select, then Crop

Although Paint is better, Excel does have its own Crop feature:

Select an image. The Picture Tools / Format tab appears above your Ribbon menu.
Click on the Picture Tools / Format menu tab and select Crop > Crop.
8 short bold lines ("handles") appear along the image border (at each corner and along each side).
Carefully select any of these (cursor will change to look like handle) and drag to crop the image.

At this point you also may want to compress the image to reduce file size. With the image still selected, choose Picture Tools / Format > Adjust group > Compress Pictures. Enter values in the dialog box.

Option 3) Compress the picture

Compress Pictures

In Excel...

Select an image.
The Picture Tools / Format menu appears above your Ribbon menu.
Select [Adjust group] > Compress Pictures.
Enter values in the dialog box.


Notice that with one click of a button
you can choose to compress only selected pictures,
or All pictures in document!

Images within grouped shapes will not be compressed.

As great as Excel's Crop and Compress features sound...

the truth is that Excel is not ideal for image editing.

Your primary strategy for reducing image file sizes should be to use image editing software

to get those images down to a reasonable file size before you ever paste them into Excel.

Bookmark = editText

How to edit text within a shape

To edit text that already exists in an Shape —

simply left-click and start typing

To enter text in a blank Shape —

right-click > Edit Text

Bookmark = format

How to format a shape or picture

If you right-click...

on a Shape anywhere there is not text and select Format Shape,
or on a picture and select Format Picture

then a pop-up window will appear with many window tabs for different formatting options.

If you right-click within the text area

of a Shape that contains text,
and select Format Shape

then a pop-up window will appear with only one window tab — to format text.

Bookmark = MatchFormat

How to format a shape
to match the formatting of another shape

Format Painter, (Format painter on the Home tab can be used to apply the same formatting to match another Shape.

Click the shape with the desired formatting,
then click the Format Painter button,
then click the shape to which you want to apply the formatting.

Or to format a new Shape...

Right-click an existing Shape that has your desired formatting, and select...

Set As Default Shape

Then copy and paste any new Shapes from Excel's standard palette,
and your new Shapes will be formatted to match your default shape.

Bookmark = ChangeToAnotherShape

How to change a shape to another shape

Drawing Tools > Insert Shapes group > Edit Shape > Change Shape

Bookmark = rotate

rotate shape

To rotate a shape

Simply use the green rotate handle.

Tip: You might need to zoom to a higher resolution for the rotate handle to appear.

Bookmark = bring Forward

How to bring an object forward or backward

Some objects appear in front of other objects.

For instance, a shape might be in front of a line, or a line might be in front of a shape.

To bring an object forward or backward...

Select one or more Shapes
then right-click the edge of one of the selected Shapes,
then select Order,
and choose Bring to Front or Send to Back.

Bookmark = group

How to group shapes

so that they are treated as a single shape

To group shapes...

Select all objects that you want to group together
then right-click and select Group > Group.

To ungroup shapes...

right-click the grouped shape,
then select Group > Ungroup.

Tip: Whenever you group, ungroup, or regroup,
you need to reset Properties if you don't want the shapes to move and size with cells.

Bookmark = name

Excel NameBox

How to Name a shape

Select the shape.

In the Name Box (just to the left of the Formula Bar)

type your chosen name
then hit the Enter key on your keyboard.


Key Point: The name won't stick until you hit the Enter key.

Bookmark = Properties

To change the Properties of a shape

to move or size with cells, or to lock or unlock the shape

Right-click > Size and Properties > Properties tab

Bookmark = SnapToGrid

Snap To Grid

Toggle it on or off...

Drawing Tools > Align > Snap to Grid

Snap To Grid Tips

  • Many shapes have been specially designed by Systems2win to fit perfectly within the grid

    so that you can instantly resize all shapes in an entire column
    just by dragging the column width.

  • When using specially-sized snap-to shapes

    always nudge the shape just a little to the RIGHT — rather than to the left.

  • It is wise to lay out most of your snap to grid shapes first

    before adding connector arrows.

Bookmark = Connectors and attachConnectors

Working with Arrows and Connectors

How to attach connectors to shapes

so that the connectors move with the shape

attach connectors

Lines and arrows with green and red ends (when selected)

are "connectors"

Lines and arrows with white ends

do not stay connected to an object
when the object is moved.

Excel 2007+

All lines and arrows are now connectors. The white ends turn red when connected.

On your Systems2win templates...

Some legacy non-connector arrows provided in the Systems2win stencil still work as non-connector arrows.

The standard palette of shapes might contain identical-looking connecting and non-connecting lines and arrows.

How to:

  1. Copy your chosen connector from the Systems2win palette of shapes.

    Tip: Straight connectors sometimes paste as a tiny dot if you use regular copy & paste.

    If this happens, use our 100% method to copy.

  2. Drag an end of a Connector to the place where you want it to connect to the Shape.

    Tip: You can connect to any of the blue dots that appear when you hover a connector line near an object.

    Or use a Connector Diamond for special placement.

  3. When the end of the Connector turns red and the Shape lights up for a moment —

    the Connector is now "connected" to the shape.

Bookmark = ConnectorDiamond

Connector Diamond

Connector Diamond

Systems2win menu > Copy Shapes includes a tiny Connector Diamond

which is a tiny object that can be used as an anchor point for connecting a connector arrow to an unusual place.

(Perhaps you want your connector arrow to terminate in "open space",
or to connect to a place on an object other than the blue connectors that are part of every shape.)

Tip: Consider grouping your Connector Diamond with a shape.

Bookmark = elbow

Change a Connector
between straight, elbow, or curved

Right-click the Connector > Connector Type > select your choice.

Bookmark = bendShapes

How to bend shapes

to create curved arrows or free form circles

Bent shapes

The easiest way to create a curved arrow or line is to use a curved connector (instructions above)

but sometimes you want a shape curved with more precision.


Systems2win menu > Copy Shapes

Right-click a shape that is already formatted the way you want your new shape to be, then select...

Set As Default Line

then ...

a) To create a bent arrow or line, select...

Drawing Tools > Curve

Left click to start your line, and for each corner position. Enter to finish.

b) To create a free form circle, select...

Drawing Tools > Freeform

Draw your circle

(or easier yet — just copy & paste the pre-formatted circle — and resize it — and maybe change the color)

Bookmark = ViewingAndPrinting

Viewing and Printing

View in Page Break Preview

view page break preview

View > Page Break Preview 



Tip: When viewing in Page Break Preview mode

(rather than View > Normal)

you can simply drag the thick blue lines to change the Print Area.


Bookmark = ChangeSizeDrawingSpace

How can I change the size of my drawing space?

Systems2win has defined your drawing canvas to automatically print on a single page,
and has defined your Shapes to scale appropriately... so you can simply hide, unhide, delete, or insert rows and columns.

a) Rather than deleting

it is usually better to hide and unhide rows and columns.

b) To insert rows or columns, use Insert Copied Cells or Shift Down/Right and Copy

(Get out of the novice bad habit of using Insert > Rows)

c) Change row height or column width

(This is rarely your best option)

To resize a drawing in Word or PowerPoint

Word: Drawing Tools > Size

Caution: Don't just "pull the corners" of your drawing canvas, or you might be in for some rude surprises.

To resize the drawing space of an Excel Organization Chart

Refer to Org Chart training


File > Print

More printing tips




Also see:

Excel Training















If your organization has not yet provided a license, you can download your free trial