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Microsoft Visio 2013 : Creating a New Diagram - Connecting shapes with dynamic connectors

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12/7/2014 7:57:31 PM

In the previous exercise, you learned about four types of 1-D shapes that you can create with the Visio line tools. Although several of those line types can include curves or bends, those features are only present if you place them there. Visio also offers a line called a dynamic connector. When you use a dynamic connector, Visio automatically adds and removes bends in the line based on the relative positions of the shapes to which it’s glued.

In this exercise, you will perform some of the same steps you completed in the previous exercise, but you’ll use dynamic connectors in order to understand the differences in behavior.

Note

  1. On the Home tab, in the Tools group, click the Connector button. Notice that the pointer changes to a black arrow and there is an arrow with two right-angle bends below it.

    Tip

    Just as with the line tools you used in the preceding exercise, you’ll find that connection points appear on various shapes as you point near them with the Connector Tool.

  2. Drag from the connection point on the right center of the upper rectangle to the connection point on the left edge of the circle, and then release the mouse button, creating static glue between the two connection points.

    image with no caption

    Just as in the preceding exercise, the line you’ve drawn shows green handles at its endpoints. However, unlike the previous line, a dynamic connector has an arrowhead on its destination end by default. The arrowhead in this graphic is largely obscured by the green handle, but when the dynamic connector is deselected, as in the following graphic, the arrowhead is visible.

  3. Draw another dynamic connector above the rectangle but do not glue either end to a shape. Even if you try to draw the connector as a straight line, notice that it appears to have a mind of its own. This will turn out to be one of the most useful characteristics of a dynamic connector, as shown in subsequent steps in this exercise.

    image with no caption
  4. Use the Connector Tool to draw a line from the connection point at the center of the octagon to the center of the long rectangle below it.

    Something very different happens compared to the preceding exercise where you performed the same step with the line tool. Even though the long rectangle does not contain any connection points, you can still glue a dynamic connector to the shape. Visio provides two visual cues: pop-up text appears above the rectangle, as shown in the following graphic on the left, and the border of the shape is outlined in green. When you release the mouse button, the connector appears as shown in the graphic on the right.

    image with no caption

    You’ve just used something Visio calls dynamic glue to attach a connector to a shape without any connection points. As you will discover in the next step, you can do the same thing even if a shape has connection points, merely by pointing to a part of the shape where there aren’t any.

  5. Point to the interior of the octagon until the border of the selection rectangle lights up in red (the following graphic on the left shows the pointer inside the selection rectangle). Drag until the border of the triangle shape turns red and the words Glue to Shape appear, as shown on the right. Don’t release the mouse button yet.

    image with no caption

    In the graphic on the right, even though the cursor (the plus sign) is above the center of the triangle, the dynamic connector once again seems to have a mind of its own and is connecting to the apex of the triangle.

  6. Release the mouse button and observe that the dynamic connector has glued itself to points on the edges of the two shapes.

    image with no caption

    With a few final steps, you will discover the real value of a dynamic connector and learn the difference between static glue and dynamic glue.

  7. On the Home tab, in the Tools group, click the Pointer Tool.

    Note

    KEYBOARD SHORTCUT Press Ctrl+1 (the number one) to return to the Pointer Tool.

  8. Drag the circle up a small distance, drag the long rectangle below the octagon down and to the right until it overlaps the ellipse, and then drag the triangle down until it also overlaps the ellipse.

    The following graphics show the before (left) and after (right).

    image with no caption

    Key observations after moving the three shapes:

    • The connector between the upper rectangle and the circle has right-angle bends but is still attached at exactly the same two connection points. This is an example of static glue: the connector remains attached to a fixed point on both shapes.

    • The connector between the octagon and the long rectangle now contains a right-angle bend. The tail of the arrow remains glued to the center connection point, another example of static glue, but there is also evidence of dynamic glue: the head of the arrow is still attached to the long rectangle, but it is connected at a different place along the edge of the shape.

    • The connector between the octagon and the triangle is glued dynamically at both ends. After moving the triangle down, the connector is still glued to both shapes, but the points of attachment have changed.

Note

CLEAN UP Save your changes to the Basic shapes drawing, and then close it.

By default, dynamic connectors use right-angle bends as you learned in the preceding exercise. You can change the appearance of a dynamic connector by right-clicking it and selecting one of the upper three options shown in the following graphic.

image with no caption

As you move shapes that are linked by dynamic connectors, Visio adjusts the connector segments. In addition, you can manually adjust individual connector segments by dragging the blue control handles that appear at each bend and in the middle of each line segment when you select a connector.

image with no caption

If at any point, a dynamic connector has too many bends or becomes convoluted, you can right-click it and then click Reset Connector. Visio redraws the connector with the minimum number of bends and segments to fit in the required space.

Tip

Among the new features on the Visio 2013 Mini Toolbar is a single-use Connector Tool that is sometimes more convenient than the Connector Tool button in the Tools group on the Home tab. You can add a dynamic connector to your drawing simply by right-clicking either a shape or the drawing page, and then clicking the Connector Tool button shown in the following graphic.

image with no caption

Because you used the Connector Tool in successive steps in the preceding exercise, it made more sense to activate the Connector Tool on the Home tab and then select the Pointer Tool at the end. However, when you are creating your own diagrams and need to draw a single dynamic connector, remember that the Connector Tool is only a right-click away from wherever you are working on the page.

 
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