How to use Excel as a Drawing Tool
Your Systems2win templates are written using Microsoft Excel.
Everything you already know about Excel, you can use with your Systems2win templates,
and everything you learn here, you can use with anything else you ever do with Excel.
Table of Contents
Use "Ctrl+F" to find keywords
Color conventions: Excel instructions are highlighted in green.
If different... instructions for Excel 2007 and higher are in orange,
and instructions for Excel 2003 and lower remain in green.
Bookmark = Training
Training & Demo Videos
Training Videos for
Make sure your sound is on
Bookmark = Shapes
Working with Shapes
Bookmark = help
How to view help for any Systems2win shape
Excel 2007+: RIGHT-click edge of shape
> Size and Properties > Alt Text
Excel 2003: RIGHT-click edge of shape > Format Object or Picture > Web tab
There in the Alt Text, you will find an explanation of what each shape is used for.
Bookmark = FindShapes or StandardPalette
Where to find shapes
Studies have proven that our brains read and interpret the meaning of pictures and symbols much more quickly and accurately than words.
This is especially true when instructions are being communicated to people that speak different languages.
Excel's standard palette of AutoShapes
Excel 2007+: Insert > Shapes
Excel 2003: Drawing toolbar > AutoShapes
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 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 formatted for the Standard Work templates.
Bookmark = addShapes
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 better communicated with pictures rather than words.
How to add your own custom shapes
How to add custom shapes to any working document
Simply Paste (Ctrl+V) any shape that has been copied to your clipboard.
How to add custom shapes to your master templates
Key Point: 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 the User-Defined Shapes section of your master shapes.xls file.
Shapes.xls is the file that appears when you select Systems2win menu > Copy 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.
Option 1) 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.xls file,
located in the \tCI\ folder of your S2winPortal.
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.xls file.
If your IT Department choose a portal setup choice that supports synchronization,
then your shapes.xls file will automatically sync to each user's PC.
If your portal setup choice does not support synchronization,
then you can manually copy from \S2winPortal\tCI\shapes.xls
to overwrite the shapes.xls file in the Systems2win sub-folder in each user's default templates folder.
Option 2) Provide a link to your custom shapes from your Help page
(and yes, you can do both options)
In the User-Defined Training section of the Help worksheet of any Systems2win template -
provide your users with a link to the document containing your personalized palette of icons
(which might be the \S2winPortal\tCI\shapes.xls file described above,
or can be any other type of document located anywhere on any of your servers).
Additional tips for adding your own custom shapes
Ensure that every shape that you add is formatted correctly:
Excel 2007+: Right-click > Format Shape or Size and Properties
Excel 2003: Right-click > Format Picture or AutoShape
- Properties should be set to Move and size with cells
(this enables your shapes to be hidden and unhidden when hide and unhide 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.
(.32" x .38")
Bookmark = DrawingToolbar
How to display the Drawing toolbar
Excel 2003 and lower:
Tip: Play with Drawing Toolbar
Bookmark = select
How to select an AutoShape
To select an AutoShape, hover your mouse pointer over
the edge of the AutoShape
until your mouse cursor turns into a four-sided cross-arrows (like this )
- Click the left mouse button to select the shape
- Right-click to open a pop-up window to format the AutoShape
- Right-click and drag to copy or move the shape
Important to notice: If you click in the middle
of an AutoShape that contains text - it will assume that you want to edit the
You need to click the edge to select the entire shape.
Bookmark = SelectObjects
How to mass select a group of shapes
Option 1) Hold down the Ctrl key as you
left-mouse-click the edge
of multiple objects.
(Just like you select multiple objects in most other Windows applications.)
Option 2) Toggle the Select Objects arrow "on"
Excel 2007+: Home tab > Find and Select > Select Objects
Excel 2003: Drawing toolbar> 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 on:
To restore normal mouse functions...
Because it is so frequently used...
we HIGHLY recommend adding the Select Objects arrow to your Quick Access Toolbar in Excel 2007+.
Bookmark = copy
How to copy & paste shapes and connectors
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...
Excel 2007+: > Size and Properties > Size tab
Excel 2003: > Format Picture > Size tab
To keep the proportional ratio of height and width - 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.
To make the image thinner or taller - left-click to select the image, then left-click and drag one of the white circles that appears in the middle of each edge of the shape.
Bookmark = resetPictureSize
How to reset picture size
Many shapes (including Link Icons) are set to move and size with cells. One big advantage is that these shapes are hidden when you hide a row or column, and reappear when the row or column is again unhidden.
Caution: Prior to version 5, it was especially easy for a shape's size to become distorted. (Yet another reason to keep your Annual Maintenance current)
To reset the original size of a picture or shape...
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 Job Instructions template.
Option 1) Resize the picture
If you don't already own Photoshop or some other image editing software, you can always use either:
a) Picture Manager that comes with Microsoft Office (Start > All Programs > Microsoft Office folder > Microsoft Office Tools folder > Microsoft Office Picture Manager)
Open your large image file in Picture Manager, then select Picture > Resize
Then use the panel that appears on the right side of your window to resize your picture.
b) the Paint program that comes free with Microsoft Windows. (Start > All Programs > Accessories > Paint)
Open your large image file in Paint, and select Image > Stretch Skew.
Enter the percent 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 picture
In Picture Manager, select Picture > Crop,
then pull the dark black corners to select where you want to crop,
then use the panel that appears on the right side of your window to crop your picture.
In MS Paint: Select, then Crop
Picture Manager or Paint is better,
even though Excel also has its own Crop feature:
Excel 2007+: Double-click an image
Excel 2003: Double-click an image > Picture tab
Choose what you want to crop, then select the Compress
Option 3) Compress pictures
In Picture Manager, select Picture > Compress Pictures,
then use the panel that appears on the right side of your window to compress your picture.
Excel 2007+: Double-click an image > Compress
2003: Double-click an image > Picture tab > Compress button
Notice that you can choose to compress only selected pictures, or All pictures in document with one click of a button!
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 -
and 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 an AutoShape
To enter text in a blank AutoShape - right-click > Edit Text.
To edit text that already exists in an AutoShape - simply left-click and start typing.
If this doesn't work, then either:
a) It is a picture, not an AutoShape, (and pictures don't support text), or
b) You are using Excel 2000 or lower, and this is a grouped AutoShape. You need to ungroup it, do your editing, then regroup it.
Bookmark = format
How to format an AutoShape or picture
If you right-click on the edge of an
AutoShape, (or anywhere on a picture that is not an AutoShape),
and select Excel 2007+: Format Shape or Excel 2003: Format AutoShape,
then a pop-up window will appear with many window tabs for different formatting options.
If you right-click within the text area of an AutoShape that contains
and select Excel 2007+: Format Shape or Excel 2003: Format AutoShape,
then a pop-up window will appear with only one window tab - to format text.
Bookmark = MatchFormat
How to format an AutoShape to match the formatting of another AutoShape
Format Painter, (
on the Office 2007+
Home tab, or the Office 2003 Standard Toolbar
can be used to apply the same formatting to match another AutoShape.
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 AutoShape...
Right-click an existing AutoShape that has your desired formatting,
Office 2007+: Set As Default AutoShape or Office 2003: Set AutoShape Defaults
Then add any new AutoShapes from Excel's standard palette, and your new AutoShapes will be formatted to match your AutoShape Defaults.
Bookmark = ChangeToAnotherShape
How to change an AutoShape to another shape
Office 2007+: Drawing Tools > Edit Shape > Change Shape
Office 2003: Drawing Toolbar... Draw > Change AutoShape
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.
Tip: If using Excel 2000 or lower, you can rotate AutoShapes, but can't
Bookmark = bringFormward
How to bring an object forward or backward
Some objects sit on top of other objects. For instance, a shape might be on top of a line, or a line might be on top of a shape.
To bring an object forward or backward, select one or more AutoShapes, then right-click the edge of one of the selected AutoShapes, 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
Select all objects that you want to group together, then right-click and select Grouping > Group.
To ungroup shapes, right-click the grouped shape, then select Grouping > Ungroup.
Tip: Whenever you group, ungroup, or regroup, you need to reset Properties if
don’t want the shapes to move and size with cells.
(This is true not only for the grouped or regrouped item, but ungrouped shapes also get reset to move and size with cells!)
Excel 2007+ tip: Unlike earlier versions of Excel, you can't just select anywhere within the grouped shape. If you select an interior shape within a grouped shape, it treats it as if it was not grouped at all. So you need to carefully select the outermost "box" surrounding the grouped shape.
Bookmark = name
How to Name a Shape
Select the shape.
In the Name Box that you will find just to the left of the Formula Bar in all versions of Excel...
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.
Example of a common use of this feature:
To name a grouped shape consisting of a User Help Text Box and some Link Icons.
Bookmark = Properties
To change the Properties of a shape
to move or size with cells, or to lock or unlock the shape
Excel 2007+: Right-click > Size and Properties > Properties tab
Excel 2003: Right-click > Format AutoShape > Properties tab
Bookmark = SnapToGrid
Snap To Grid
Toggle it on or off...
Excel 2007+: Drawing Tools > Align > Snap to Grid
Excel 2003: Drawing Toolbar> Draw > Snap > To Grid
Snap To Grid Tips
Bookmark = Connectors and attachConnectors
Working with Arrows and Connectors
How to attach connectors to shapes
so that the connectors move with the shape
Tip: Lines and arrows with green and red ends (when
selected) are "connectors".
On Systems2win templates, the standard palette of shapes will often contain identical-looking connecting and non-connecting lines and arrows..
Excel 2007+: All lines and arrows are now connectors. The white ends turn red when
- Copy your chosen connector from the Systems2win palette of
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
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 AutoShape lights up for a moment - the Connector is now "connected" to the shape.
This method is not supported in Office 2007+, but works in Office 2003 or lower.
- Right-click your desired connector in the Systems2win palette of shapes,
and select Set AutoShape Defaults.
Office 2007+: Set As Default Line
- Select your desired connector from...
Office 2007+: Drawing Tools > Elbow Connector.
Office 2003: Drawing Toolbar > AutoShapes > Connectors.
- Left-click the two objects you want to connect.
Bookmark = ConnectorDiamond
Systems2win menu > Copy AutoShape
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
Office 2007+: Right-click the Connector > Connector Type > select your choice.
Office 2003: Right-click the Connector, and select your choice.
Bookmark = bendShapes
How to bend shapes
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...
Office 2007+: Set As Default Line
Office 2003: Set AutoShape Defaults
a) To create a bent arrow or line...
Office 2007+: Drawing Tools > Curve
Office 2003: Drawing Toolbar > AutoShapes > Lines > Curve
Left click to start your line, and for each corner position. Enter to finish.
b) To create a freeform circle...
Office 2007+: Drawing Tools > Freeform
Office 2003: Drawing Toolbar > AutoShapes > Lines > 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
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 AutoShapes 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 2007+: Drawing Tools > Size
Word: 2003: Format > Drawing Canvas > Size tab
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