Storing and Re-using Your Favorite Visio Shapes

I’m back after a week out with a cold that has now visited each family member. Thanks to blog commenters for their well wishes, that was nice of you all!


I wanted to talk about a handy way to store and re-use your favorite shapes in Visio. Most of the time, I find that I reuse the same shapes in my drawings, especially if I’ve gone to some effort to make them look nice (see previous user posts for details on making good-looking shapes). I’m not as good as I should be about naming my Visio files intelligently (“Drawing2.vsd” is not unknown to my file system), so I hate having to find old drawings to get shapes.


The best way to access your favorite shapes is to create your own private “library” by creating a custom stencil and storing all of your favorite shapes on that stencil. You can create just one big stencil that has all the shapes that you ever use on it, or multiple stencils that organize your shapes by your own categories.

Open a Visio drawing that has shapes that you would like to store in your own custom stencil. You have two options: use the Visio Favorites custom stencil or create your own new custom stencil.


It’s easiest to use the Favorites stencil. Open the Favorites stencil by opening the File menu, selecting the Shapes menu option, selecting the My Shapes menu option, and selecting the Favorites entry. You will see a blank stencil in the left stencil pane called Favorites. Select the shape that you like on your drawing and drag it over to the new stencil. You’ll get a dialog that asks if you want to open the stencil for edit; click the Yes button. Visio will automatically rename the shape on the stencil something like Master.0. Right-click on the shape thumbnail in the stencil and rename it right away to something meaningful because the thumbnail image of the shape isn’t big enough to display effects like text, shadows, and bevels. Drag and drop all the shapes that you want to reuse onto the stencil. Save the Favorites stencil by right-clicking on the stencil name and selecting the Save or Save As option.

You can also create your own new custom stencil that is stored in the same place as the Favorites stencil. On the File menu, select the Shapes open and then select the New Stencil entry towards the bottom of the menu. When you’re done, right-click on the stencil name (it should be named by default to something like Stencil1 in the menu bar) and click the Save or Save As option.


Another way to add shapes to the a custom stencil is to right-click on shapes on other stencils (like Basic Flowchart) and select the Add to My Shapes menu option. You won’t be able to do this from the Visio drawing itself; this option is only available from the right-click menu on shapes in the stencil in the left pane. The Favorites stencil and other custom stencils are stored in the My Shapes folder in the My Documents folder.


Now when you start a new drawing, you can use just the Favorites stencil or another custom stencil from your library for the shapes that you know that you’re going to reuse. Having your shapes organized and consolidated in one or two stencils reduces the amount of time it takes to hunt down the shapes that you know you like.


 -- Mai-lan


This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights.