How to use Excel as a Drawing Tool
to put a lot more pop and sizzle into your Systems2win templates for Visual Work
Table of Contents
All Systems2win Excel training
so that you can easily
Bookmark = Training
Training Videos for How to use
Make sure your sound is on
Video: The 7 Advantages of Excel
Video: Types of Drawing Objects
Video: How to Select Objects
Video: How to use Excel
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
Studies have proven that our brains read and interpret the meaning of pictures and symbols
much more quickly and accurately than the meaning of words.
This is especially true when instructions are being communicated to people that speak different languages.
Shapes (Excel's standard palette of shapes)
Insert > Shapes
Systems2win menu > 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.
And the Systems2win safety and haz mat icons are ideally sized for the Standard Work templates.
Tip: Watch the training video for the To Do List template
for a demonstration of how to copy shapes from the Systems2win palette of shapes.
Systems2win menu > Copy Shapes
Scroll down to the User-Defined Shapes section — where you can copy (& paste to any Excel document)
your company's own palette of shapes for your unique industry needs
for safety, tools, equipment, hazardous materials, supplies, and anything else
that is communicated better with pictures than words.
How to add your own custom shapes
To add custom shapes to any working document
Simply Paste (CTRL+V) any shape that has been copied to your clipboard.
To add custom shapes to your master templates
Paste them to the User-Defined Shapes section of your master shapes.xls file.
The only custom shapes that will be automatically found and transferred to your new templates when you upgrade
are the shapes that you add to this User-Defined Shapes section.
The shapes.xls file is the one that is launched when you select Systems2win menu > Copy Shapes.
In any one session, after shapes.xls has been opened for use, do not go back to Copy Shapes when another image is needed. Instead, bring shapes.xls forward to access and copy another shape from it.
See help for Where to find shapes.
Learn more about the Systems2win Personalization Upgrade Utility, that automatically finds and transfers your most common personalizations to your new templates every time that you upgrade.
To make your custom shapes available
Make your custom shapes available using Systems2win menu > Copy Shapes
Examples of icons that can be
purchased separately, and then
used with your Systems2win templates
Add your own favorite icons to the User-Defined Shapes section of the Shapes file, located in the \tTemplates\ folder of your master S2winPortal.
The next time synchronization occurs (automatically or manually) the new shapes will be available.
All of your users will then always have access to your shapes when working in ANY Excel document (even non-Systems2win Excel documents),
by simply clicking Systems2win menu > Copy Shapes
and every time you upgrade, your user-defined shapes will be automatically found and transferred to your new templates as part of the Systems2win Personalization Upgrade Utility feature.
You have unlimited space for as many icons as you need. How?
Simply insert rows above the thin gold line to make additional space
in the User-Defined Shapes section of the Shapes file.
If your IT Department chose a portal setup choice that supports synchronization, then your shapes.xlsx file will automatically sync to each user's PC.
Additional tips for adding your own custom shapes
Ensure that every shape that you add is formatted correctly:
Right-click > Format Picture or Size and Properties
- 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)
- Size > Lock Aspect Ratio should be unchecked
(this allows shapes to be easily restored to original size if they ever become distorted)
- 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")
Bookmark = DrawingToolbar
Where to find Drawing Tools
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.
Training & video:
How to make Office 2007+ easier to use
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 )
- Click the left mouse button to select the shape
- Right-click to open a pop-up window to format the Shape
- 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
(just like 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
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,
To restore normal mouse functions...
either toggle the Select Objects Arrow OFF,
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
- Regular copy & paste works 99% of the time
Select the object,
then CTRL+C to copy and CTRL+V to paste
- If that doesn't work...
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 >
then ensure that the checkbox for "Lock
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 template.
Option 1) Resize the picture
If you don't already own Photoshop or some other image editing software,
you can always use the Paint program that comes free with Microsoft Windows
(Start > All Programs > Accessories > Paint)
Open your large image file in Paint, and 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.
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
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!
Training video —
How to quickly compress image file sizes (1 min)
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, ( 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
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
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
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
Select the shape.
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 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
Bookmark = Connectors and attachConnectors
so that the connectors move with the shape
Lines and arrows with green and red ends (when selected)
Lines and arrows with white ends
do not stay connected to an object
when the object is moved.
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 will often contain identical-looking connecting and non-connecting lines and arrows.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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
to create curved arrows or freeform circles
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
Drawing Tools > Curve
Left click to start your line, and for each corner position. Enter to finish.
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
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