Drawing Lines and Other Basic Shapes

The simplest objects of a Word drawing are lines and basic shapes. You'll often find simple elements such as these at the heart of even complex drawings. In the next few sections, you'll learn how to create these graphical elements using Word's drawing tools.

Drawing a Straight Line

To draw a straight line in Word, click on the Line button on the Drawing toolbar; the mouse pointer changes to crosshairs. Next, click in the editing window where you want to begin the line, and drag the mouse pointer to where you want the line to end (see Figure 14.5). Release the mouse pointer, and a line appears selected in your document.

Figure 14.5. Dragging the mouse pointer to draw a line.


After you've created a line, you may want to adjust it. For example, you may want it to be thicker or narrower than Word's default 3/4-point line. Or you may want a dotted line instead of Word's default solid line. To change a solid line to a dotted or dashed line, select it by clicking on it. Then click the Dash Style button on the Drawing toolbar (see Figure 14.6) and select a style for the line.

Figure 14.6. Choosing a dotted or dashed line using the Dash Style button.


To change a line's thickness, select it, click the Line Style button, and select a thickness for the line.

If none of Word's built-in line styles suffices, click More Lines to display the Colors and Lines tab of the Format AutoShape dialog box (see Figure 14.7).

Figure 14.7. The Colors and Lines tab of the Format AutoShape dialog box.


Each type of Word shape has its own Format AutoShape dialog box, where you can control elements such as color, thickness, size, and text wrapping. Format AutoShape dialog boxes are much like the Format Picture dialog boxes you learned about in Chapter 13. A few points about the Colors and Lines tab are especially worth mentioning:

  • From the Color drop-down box, you can choose one of 40 built-in colors; click More Colors to choose a custom color, or choose Patterned Lines to select a pattern for your line or arrow.

  • From the Weight text box, you can set your line to be as thick or as narrow as you want. If you use the built-in spin controls, you can set the weight in increments of 0.25 points. If you enter the value directly, you can use increments of 0.01 points.

  • The Style drop-down box contains the same options as the Line Style button on the Drawing toolbar. The Dashed drop-down box contains the same options as the Dash Style button on the Drawing toolbar.

  • You can use the Size tab of the Format AutoShape dialog box to set an exact height, width, and angle of rotation for your line or shape.

  • In the Web tab, you can type alternative text that appears on Web pages when your shape cannot be displayed.

For more information about the Format Picture dialog box, see "Resizing Images Precisely, by Using Format, Picture," p. 458; "Setting Text Wrapping from the Format Picture Dialog Box," p. 462; and "Adding Alternative Text to Your Image," p. 467.

Drawing Arrows

To insert Word's default arrow, click the Arrow button on the Drawing toolbar; the mouse pointer changes to crosshairs. Click where you want the arrow's "tail" to begin; then drag it to where you want its "arrowhead" to appear and release the mouse pointer.

Sometimes, you may want to format your arrow differently. For example, Word's default arrow may not be readable if it points into a dark background. Or you may want an arrow that points in both directions.

To use one of Word's built-in arrows, first insert either an arrow or a line. (You can turn a line into an arrow by following the same steps for changing an arrow.) Next, with the arrow selected, click the Arrow Style button (see Figure 14.8) and click on a style. The line or arrow is reformatted as you specified.

Figure 14.8. Displaying Word's basic arrow styles by clicking the Arrow Style button.


If none of Word's standard arrow styles meets your needs, choose More Arrows. The Format AutoShape dialog box appears (you saw this dialog box in Figure 14.7). Here, you can choose from a wide variety of thicknesses, styles, and sizes.

Drawing Rectangles and Ovals

Drawing basic squares, rectangles, and ovals works much the same way as drawing lines. Click the Rectangle or Oval button. Then click in the document and drag the mouse pointer to set the shape's borders. Release the pointer, and the shape appears in your document.


If you want an exact square or circle, click the Rectangle or Oval button and press Shift while you drag the mouse.

You can also use the Shift key to make straight lines or arrows that are precisely horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. If you press Shift while you drag the Line tool, you're limited to increments of 15°.


To enter text in a shape such as a rectangle or an oval, right-click on it and choose Add Text from the shortcut menu. This transforms the shape into a text box and displays a cursor inside it. You can then type or format the text.


If you simply want to place a box around a block of text, don't bother with Word's drawing tools. Just select the text and click the Outside Border button on the Formatting toolbar.

    Part I: Word Basics: Get Productive Fast
    Part II: Building Slicker Documents Faster
    Part III: The Visual Word: Making Documents Look Great
    Part IV: Industrial-Strength Document Production Techniques
    Part VI: The Corporate Word