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Developing Custom Microsoft Visio 2010 Solutions : Creating SmartShapes with the ShapeSheet (part 1) - Introducing the ShapeSheet

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4/17/2014 1:46:51 AM

The ShapeSheet is the spreadsheet-like interface that resides behind every Visio shape. It supports functions similar to Excel, so you can actually program behaviors into shapes without typing lines of code.

1. Introducing the ShapeSheet

Perhaps you have discovered the mysterious Show ShapeSheet button on the Developer tab, with its big blue, red, and gray table icon that beckons clicking whenever a shape is selected. Click it and the ShapeSheet window appears. This is the key to adding sophistication to your shapes. Figure 1 shows the ShapeSheet for a simple rectangle drawn with the Rectangle tool.

Figure 1. The ShapeSheet for a simple rectangle. The Protection and Miscellaneous sections are collapsed, and formulas, not values, are showing.

The ShapeSheet is a special-purpose, brightly colored spreadsheet, similar to Microsoft Excel (circa 1992, but I digress...). The ShapeSheet reveals the behind-the-scenes definition of every Visio shape, holding information about its size, position, geometry, formatting, protection, text block, Shape Data fields, and more.

Remember that if you are just drawing with Visio and creating pure graphical symbols, you do not need the ShapeSheet. However, if you want a shape to be smarter than ordinary clip art, you need to understand how it works.

Here’s a list of just some of the things you can do via the ShapeSheet:

  • Create smart geometry that behaves well when shapes stretch. In Figure 2, you see “smart” and “dumb” versions of three shapes. Notice that the smart versions don’t uniformly stretch. Instead, parts of these shapes maintain proportion, which increases visual consistency and leaves more space for text.

    Figure 2. SmartShapes that resize intelligently maintain graphic consistency and utilize space better for text. All parts of “Dumb” shapes mindlessly stretch, which looks inconsistent, ugly and wastes space that could be used by text.


  • Add custom Actions to the right-click menu and make geometry, formatting, text, and even code respond to them.

  • Create multishapes that can change form via right-mouse clicks or Shape Data field values. Imagine a stop-light symbol that can be set to glow red, yellow, or green at the click of a mouse or an electrical switch symbol that closes or opens when on or off right-mouse actions are selected.

  • Store data and calculations in shapes, hidden from users using User-defined cells instead of Shape Data fields.

  • Conditionally change the color or other formatting of a shape based on its size, position, or the value of a Shape Data field.

  • Display data and calculation results in a shape’s text.

  • Protect a shape’s size, position, formatting, text, and other attributes from being edited.
 
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