Guidance on Smart Shapes and groups

Started by websmack, October 17, 2018, 02:35:26 PM

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Noob Question Alert

I am working with a software that uses Visio extensively as its drawing component.  It has been mentioned in other threads (D-tools).  I want to create my own shapes by cloning one they built and modifying it a little.  The problem I am facing is that there are shapes grouped together and they use shape data values to make different ones visible and not visible.  I want to add additional "sub-shapes" to the group and add more values to the shape data to also function the same way.  I believe I have it all figured out except that I do not have a good understanding of how to add a "sub-shape" to the group, and name it so that I can reference it in the master shape - shapesheet.  I can use drawing explorer to see the "sub-shapes" exist and are named.  I am not sure if that is the right name for them, but I do see them.

I like researching and exerting my own energy to learn.  That being said, I am stuck and do not know the right words to search on google, or where to look in other resources to find what I am looking for.  I just don't know what I don't know and would really like someone who does know, to give me a nudge in the right direction.  I think it comes down to just not understanding how shape groupings work (named, etc.).

Thank you for any guidance you can offer. 


You can use "Add to Group" command to add more shapes to a group. It is located in Ribbon menu ( Home-->Arrange-->Group-->Add to Group). Select the sub shape and group shape together and press Add to Group button. Then you can refer to group shape from the sub shape like other sub shapes in the group.


Thank you for your response.  When I follow your directions it has a grayed out option of "add to group".  The other option that is available is convert to group.  I think you are telling me that I can add to a sub-shape in this manor.  What I am really looking for is how to create a new sub-shape and name it.  Then I figure I could add it to the group but I haven't even got to the point of how to create it yet.  I have added a screen clip to show what I am calling sub shapes in the event my noobness is causing confusion.

If you know of a youtube video that explains how to create sub shapes, or a chapter in a book, or anything... please just point me in that direction.   Even if you come back with, "I do not understand what you are asking and I think it would be wise for you to pay for a hour of my time to remotely tutor you through the issue!"  :D


One of the most complete Visio discussions is here:  In particular application here:  chapter 6 and it's section on groups.

There's nothing really special about a sub-shape, other than, by definition, it is part of a group.  The group is the top-level shape.  A group, can contain both individual shapes, i.e., sub-shapes, and it can contain other groups.

For example, you make a bunch of animal shapes, dogs, cats, etc.  Each animal shape could be a group of shapes.  The dog group, might have individual shape for legs, tail, body, head, etc.  Then, these pet shapes might be part of a group called, MyPets.  Certain shape data, might be entered at the group level, e.g., pet names, or pet color.  This information could then be pushed down to the appropriate animal group.  So, you might have a brown dog, a yellow canary, and a black cat.

Check out the link though.  Hope this gives a better idea of what a group is, and how it can be configured. 


PS:  your pet snake might only be a sub-shape, and not a group...unless, it's a rattle snake, then, the snake might be a group, which includes the main body, and the rattles.   :o
Visio 2019 Pro


group shape has to have "accept shape on drop" checked in its behavior.
(and to be clear, dropping shape has to have "add shape to group" checked in its behavor

if either unchecked, can not add to group

developer ==> behavior ==>check the box

no developer drop down...file==> options ==>at the bottom check "enable developer mode"


...but if you create a shape, want to directly add it to a group, you can... 1st select the group, then add select the shape, now, use  grouping option: shape > grouping > add to group.   Not sure where this is on the ribbon.

So, 2 ways to add a shape to a group.

Visio 2019 Pro


In your method, does that "add to group" also update the shape being dropped.
Otherwise, I guess a backdoor into the group since dropped shape behavior would not be allowed to drop into the group

In other words, I believe both the group behavior and drop shape behavior has to be modified to make it happen
(it this "add to group" approach is really launching some MS VBA...fair enough...if not, not sure how that would work without both shapes behaviors updated)


Thank you both for your responses.  I appreciate the guidance and link to the video.  I will go study up and overcome this hurdle! 


This is for anyone else looking for this information.  I am sure there are members here who already know this.  So if it is very basic knowledge please understand I am sharing it in the event some other person like myself might find it helpful to know.

A shape can be renamed in the UI with Developer | Shape Design | Shape Name by pressing F2, with a shape selected in the Drawing Explorer window or programmatically.

Parker, David J. Mastering Data Visualization with Microsoft Visio Professional 2016