Annotating Visio diagrams with callout shapes

Applies to
Microsoft Office Visio® 2003
Inside Out Visio 2003 Image This article was excerpted from Microsoft® Office Visio® 2003 Inside Out by Mark H. Walker and Nanette Eaton, Chapter 4, "Adding Text to Shapes and Diagrams." Visit Microsoft Learning to buy this book.

In this article

Using Visio shapes to display text

Annotating diagrams with callout shapes

Displaying values in a custom callout

Using Visio shapes to display text

When you want to call attention to information in a diagram, you can use one of the many predesigned shapes for formatting notes, titles, and file information. Visio includes numerous callout shapes, which are lines with a text box that you can use to type notes. If you're working in a diagram that uses custom property fields to store information, you can use the custom callout shape to display property values. In addition, title and title block shapes help you display file information in your diagrams.

This article helps you locate some of the available shapes that you might not know about.

New Feature    In Visio 2003 you can insert Shape Screen tips that explain the function of any shape, or just help those viewing your work. To do so, select a shape and then click Insert, Shape Screen Tip. Type your tip into the Shape Screen Tip window and click OK to close the window. Now, whenever you hold your cursor over the shape, it will display the Shape Screen tip.

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Annotating diagrams with callout shapes

If you like to draw arrows on a diagram to call attention to important information, you can save time by using a callout shape. Callouts typically look like a line to which a text box is attached, but Visio includes many styles, as Figure 1 shows. You type your notes or exclamations in the box and then point the line in the appropriate direction. Some callouts can even be glued to shapes so that they stay in place, which is handy when you're still working on the layout of a diagram.

Callout shapes

Figure 1. When you want to call attention to something in a diagram, use a callout shape.

A charming idiosyncrasy of Visio is that it includes a multitude of different shapes all with the name Callout. That makes it a little tough to use the Find Shapes command to search for a particular callout shape. However, the following list helps you locate many interesting callout and annotation shapes. And remember, it doesn't matter which stencil you took a shape from or what it's called. You might be laying out your house plan, but you can still use shapes from the Charts And Graphs solution. If the shape looks right, go ahead and use it.

 Tip   You can drag callout shapes directly into other Microsoft Office files to annotate your documents with flair. Just tile your program windows so you can see both the stencils and the target document, and then drag and drop. The shapes are added to Office documents as embedded objects.

You'll find the biggest variety of predesigned callout shapes on the following stencils:

  • Callouts stencil     Use any of the dozens of callouts, starbursts, bracketed notes, and other great shapes to add text. To open this stencil, click the drop-down list arrow for the Open Stencil button Button image on the Standard toolbar, and then choose Visio Extras, Callouts.
  • Charting Shapes stencil     Use the Word Balloon, Callout, or Annotation shape to make notes on any diagram. To open this stencil, click the drop-down list arrow for the Open Stencil button on the Standard toolbar, and then choose Charts and Graphs, Charting Shapes.
  • Landmark Shapes stencil     Intended for directional maps, this stencil contains a simple callout shape as well as a Direction and North symbol to keep readers oriented when viewing your diagram. To open this stencil, click the drop-down list arrow for the Open Stencil button on the Standard toolbar, and then choose Map, Landmark Shapes.

Visio Professional also includes a legacy stencil from days of yore, the Annotations stencil, which you can open from the Visio Extras folder. It contains callout and reference shapes used in technical drawings. However, if you open one of the building plans or engineering diagram types, the template probably opens a stencil with technical annotation shapes.

In general, to add a callout shape to a diagram, follow these steps:

  1. Drag the callout shape you want to use from the stencil onto the drawing page near the shape you want to annotate.
  2. With the callout shape selected, type the text you want.
  3. If the callout isn't oriented in the direction you want, select it, and then choose Shape, Rotate Or Flip, Flip Horizontal.
  4. To point the callout at another shape, drag the callout's endpoint (the selection handle with a +).
  5. To glue the connector to a shape, drag the endpoint to a connection point on the shape.

When the handle turns red, it's glued to the shape.

 Note   You won't be able to glue a callout to a shape unless glue is enabled in your diagram. To check, choose Tools, Snap & Glue. Under Currently Active, make sure Glue is selected.

You can format callouts as you would any other shape. To change the color of the callout's line, select the shape, and then click the Line Color button on the Formatting toolbar and choose a color.

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Displaying values in a custom callout

If you're working in a diagram that stores information with shapes in the form of custom properties, you can use custom callouts to automatically annotate shapes with property information. You might not even be aware that your diagram does include custom properties. Many shapes feature built-in properties. For example, flowchart shapes include custom properties for cost, duration, and resources; network equipment shapes and furniture include custom properties for manufacturer and part number or model name.

When you use a custom callout shape, you can display the value of a custom property field as the text on the callout. If you haven't been adding data to the custom properties, your fields are empty and there's nothing to display. But in diagrams that include this data, the custom callout shapes provide a quick and convenient way to display it, as Figure 2 shows.

Custom callout shapes

Figure 2. When you attach a custom callout shape to another shape that includes custom properties, you can display the properties, such as Department and Asset Number, in the callout.

 Tip   To see whether your shapes already include property fields, choose View, Custom Properties Window to display the Custom Properties window.

Visio includes a couple of different styles for custom callout shapes, but they all work the same way. The callout shape includes a control handle that you drag to attach to another shape called the target shape. Visio then displays a list of the shape's properties, and you can choose the ones you want to display. You can specify whether you want both the property name and its value to appear in the callout and the order in which the properties are displayed. Visio draws a line automatically between the callout and the target shape, but you can choose not to display the line. The callout will still be associated with the designated target.

To display custom property information in a custom callout shape, follow these steps:

  1. If the Callouts stencil is not already open, click the drop-down list arrow for the Open Stencil button Button image on the Standard toolbar, and then choose Visio Extras, Callouts.

Visio adds the Callouts stencil to the drawing window.

  1. Scroll down in the Callouts stencil until you see the custom callout shapes, and drag the custom callout shape you want onto the drawing page.
  2. Drag the yellow control handle on the callout shape to another shape in the diagram that contains custom properties.

When you release the mouse, the Configure Callout dialog box appears.

Configure Callout dialog box

  1. In the Shape custom properties list, select the properties you want to display.

Visio lists only the properties for the target shape. If no properties have been defined for the shape, nothing appears in the Shape custom properties list.

  1. To change the order in which the properties appear in the callout, click the Move Up or Move Down button.
  2. If you have selected more than one property, choose an option in the Separator box to indicate how you want Visio to separate each property in the callout.

For example, click <Return> to place each property on a separate line.

  1. If you don't want to include the property name as well as its value in the callout, clear the Show property name check box.

If you leave this check box selected, Visio displays the property and its value; for example, Serial Number: 10-320.

  1. If you want the callout to stay anchored when you move the target shape, clear the Move callout with shape check box.

If you move the target shape, the callout line stretches, but the text box stays anchored. If you select this check box, Visio moves the entire callout shape when you drag the target shape.

  1. Click OK to add the properties to the callout shape.

To change the appearance of the callout after you've configured it, you can do the following:

  • To change any of the callout settings, right-click the callout shape, and then click Configure Callout.
  • If you don't want a line connecting the callout text to the target shape to appear, right-click the callout, and then clear the Show Leader option.

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Applies to:
Visio 2003