For the most part, you probably construct drawings in Visio using shapes and connectors. Visio also has built-in drawing tools that let you: (1) create freeform drawings; and (2) draw your own shapes.

The drawing tools found on the toolbar ? and not on any menu. They draw straight and curved lines, circles and arcs, rectangles, and ellipses. Many of Visio's drawing tools are dual-purpose. A different object is created, depending on how you move the mouse or hold down a key. The following table summarizes how tools react:
Tool Draws Special Action
Pencil Straight line Move mouse in a straight line
Circular arc Move mouse in a curve
Line at 45-degree increments Hold down Shft key
Line Straight line
Line at 45-degree increments Hold down Shft key
Arc Elliptical arc
Line Move mouse in a horizontal or vertical direction
Rectangle Rectangle
Square Hold down Shft key
Ellipse Ellipse
Circle Hold down Shft key
Freeform NUBS curve

The only tool that isn't dual-purpose is the Freeform tool (also called the Spline tool), which draws NUBS curves. NUBS is short for non-uniform B-spline and should not be confused with the NURBS curve (non-uniform rational B-spline) found in computer-aided design software.

TIP: To draw a line in 45-degree increments means that Visio draws the line at an one of the 45-degree angles ? 0, 45, 90, 135, 180, 225, 270, and 315 degrees -- nearest to the angle your mouse is moving.

Hold down the Shft key to constrain the line angle.
Hold down the Shft key to constrain the line angle.

Another way of looking at the drawing tools is to list them by the objects they draw:
To draw a... Use this tool...
Line Line tool
Pencil tool and move mouse in a straight line
Constrained line Line tool and hold down Shft key
Pencil tool and hold down Shft key
Arc tool and move mouse in a horizontal or vertical direction
Curve Freeform tool
Circle Ellipse tool and hold down Shft key
Elliptical arc Pencil tool and move mouse in a curve
Arc tool
Ellipse Ellipse tool
Rectangle Rectangle tool
Square Rectangle tool and hold down Shft key
Spline Freeform tool


TIP: All arcs drawn by Visio are elliptical arcs. More specifically, Visio draws an arc that represents one-quarter (90 degrees) of an ellipse. The reason for this is that Visio can stretch an elliptical arc but not a circular arc. For this reason, a circle is drawn from a two round ellipse halves. Visio can draw a circular arc but only if you deliberately modify the ShapeSheet. After doing that, try stretching the arcs: you'll find they become a bowtie or hourglass shape.

Tutorial
In this activity, you use the drawing functions. Begin by starting Visio. Then open a new document with no template.

1. Click the Pencil Tool button. Notice that the cursor looks like a tiny pencil with a small crosshair at the "pencil" tip.

2. Drag across the page (hold down the button, move the mouse, let go of the button). Notice that Visio has drawn a line (or an arc, depending on your mouse movement).

The pencil cursor appears when using the pencil tool
The pencil cursor appears when using the pencil tool

TIP: While holding down the mouse button for the Pencil tool, carefully examine the cursor. It has changed to a + marker, along with either (1) a short straight line; or (2) a small arc. The straight line means Visio has sensed your mouse movement to be in a straight line; Visio accordingly draws a straight line. The small arc means Visio has sensed your mouse movement to be curved; Visio accordingly draws an arc. If the arc looks to you like a straight line ? even though Visio shows the arc indicator ? it probably is a straight line.

The pencil tool can be used to draw straight and curved lines
The pencil tool can be used to draw straight and curved lines

3. Using the Pencil tool is tricky. Practicing drawing lines with the Pencil tool by moving the mouse straight.

4. Practicing drawing arcs with the Pencil tool by moving the mouse in a curve. I find it easier by move the mouse slowly and in an exaggerated curving motion.

5. Hold down the Shft key while drawing with the Pencil tool. Notice how Visio constrains the line to 45 or 90 degrees and the arc's shape.

Lines and arcs
Lines and arcs

6. Select one of the arcs you have drawn.

TIP: Notice the lines and arcs have three green squares. At one end, the green square has a small x in it. That handle is Visio's reminder of where you began drawing the line or arc. At the other end, the green square has a small + in it. That is where you ended drawing the line or arc. At the center, the third green square is empty. This handle shows you the center of the line or arc. It also functions as a control point. When you grab it and move it toward the midpoint of the other two handles, an arc straightens out into a line. Moving the midpoint of a line moves the line.

7. Drag the center handle back and forth. Notice how the arc changes its curve.

8. Press Ctrl+A to select all objects in the drawing.

9. Press Delete to erase all objects.

10. Select the Rectangle tool.

11. Drag to draw a rectangle. Notice the rectangle is filled with white.

12. Select gray from the Fill list box.

14. Hold the Shft key while dragging with the Rectangle tool to draw a square.

Using the Rectangle tool with and without the Shft key pressed
Using the Rectangle tool with and without the Shft key pressed

15. Press Alt+F4 to exit Visio. Click No in response to the Save Changes dialog box.

Shortcut Keys
Function Keys
Pencil Tool Ctrl+4
Line Tool Ctrl+6
Arc Tool Ctrl+7
Spline Tool Ctrl+5
Rectangle Tool Ctrl+8
Ellipse Tool Ctrl+9