Adding AutoShapes

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 18, 2014)

The graphics features of Excel allow you to add a number of predefined shapes to a workbook. These shapes, called AutoShapes, cover a wide range of needs. If you want to add shapes to the AutoShapes feature, however, you are out of luck. The shapes are apparently hard-coded into Excel, and cannot be modified.

You can, however, add shapes to the Clip Gallery. If you format the shapes as WMF files, they are easy to add and easy to place within a worksheet. For instance, if you have a number of different flowchart symbols that you want to make available in Excel, all you need to do is save each symbol in the WMF format, and then import them into the Clip Gallery. (To save graphics in the WMF format, you will need to use a specialized graphics program, such as Paint Shop Pro or Corel Draw.)

If you don't want to use the Clip Gallery for some reason, you can simulate your own AutoShapes through a combination of macros and graphics in a hidden worksheet. The following general steps detail how to do this for a series of twenty flowchart symbols. The steps assume that you are reasonably comfortable writing macros and customizing toolbars.

  1. Open a template workbook, and make sure it has only a single worksheet.
  2. Place all the flowchart graphics on the worksheet.
  3. Create a new toolbar, name it MyShapes, and make sure it is associated with the template workbook.
  4. Add twenty buttons to the toolbar, one for each flowchart graphic. The idea is that clicking a button will add the associated flowchart shape to the active worksheet.
  5. Edit each button face to show as closely as possible each flowchart graphic. (This is the toughest part of these steps).
  6. Change the ToolTip text for each button, as desired. This is helpful so the user can understand the purpose of each flowchart graphic.
  7. In turn, select and name each of the flowchart graphics. (You name the graphics by selecting them and entering a name in the Name box at the left of the Formula bar.) For the purposes of these steps, assume you use names such as FlowObj1, FlowObj2, etc.
  8. Write twenty macros (one for each flowchart graphic) of the following kind:
Sub AddFlowObj1()
    ThisWorkbook.Sheets(1).Shapes("FlowObj1").Copy
    ActiveSheet.Paste
End Sub
  1. Assign each of the macros to the corresponding toolbar button.
  2. In the Workbook module of the template, add the following procedures:
Private Sub Workbook_Open()
    Application.CommandBars("MyShapes").Visible = True
End Sub
Private Sub Workbook_BeforeClose(Cancel As Boolean)
    Application.CommandBars("MyShapes").Delete
End Sub
  1. Save the template as an Excel add-in.
  2. Restart Excel and use Tools | Add-ins to active your new add-in.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (1995) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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