Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Drawing Simple Objects.

Drawing Simple Objects

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated August 18, 2020)
This tip applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


Excel includes a feature that allows you to add graphic objects to your worksheets. For the sake of this tip, simple objects include lines, arrows, rectangles (or squares), and ovals (or circles). These are considered simple because it only takes three quick steps to draw each of them.

Drawing objects that involve lines (such as lines and arrows) requires only that you perform a few steps:

  1. Display the Drawing toolbar and select either the Line or Arrow tool by clicking on it with the mouse. (You may need to click the AutoShapes menu first.)
  2. Move the mouse to the starting point for the line or arrow and click and hold the mouse button.
  3. Move the mouse to the other end of the line and release the mouse button.

As you move the mouse in Step 2, notice that Excel displays a line that shows the approximate size, angle, and position of the line or arrow you are creating. When you release the mouse button (step 3), the line or arrow is redrawn in its final position and appearance. If you are drawing an arrow, the arrowhead appears at the end of the line where you ended your drawing (Step 3).

As with lines, the other simple objects only require two points to define them. Each of them, regardless of the final shape, is defined by a rectangle. (Yes, even ellipses and circles are defined by a rectangle—one that contains the entire shape.) You only need to do the following:

  1. If you are using the Drawing toolbar, select the drawing tool by clicking on it with the mouse. (You may need to click the AutoShapes menu first.)
  2. Move the mouse to one corner of the rectangle that will define the boundary of the shape, typically the upper-left corner, and click and hold the mouse button.
  3. Drag the mouse to the opposite rectangle corner (the lower-right) and release the mouse button.

Notice that as you perform step 2, the shape appears on the screen and is dynamically sized as long as you continue to hold down the mouse button and move the mouse. When you release the button, the object is drawn in its final size and shape.

If you want to create a square or a circle, both of which are special forms of rectangles and ovals, Excel makes it easy. All you need to do is hold down the Shift key as you drag the mouse to the second point. Thus, you click the mouse, hold down Shift as you move the mouse pointer, and then release the mouse button.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2520) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Drawing Simple Objects.

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. ...


Making Sure Changes and Comments are Anonymous

When using Track Changes, Word normally notes the originator of a particular comment or change. This information can then ...

Discover More

Changing Strikethrough Lines

Want to change the way a strikethrough line appears? It's not as easy as you think, as you find out in this tip.

Discover More

Replacing the Space between the Last Two Words of Each Paragraph

Some replacement tasks can seem daunting, but Word provides some great tools for making just about any replacement you ...

Discover More

Program Successfully in Excel! John Walkenbach's name is synonymous with excellence in deciphering complex technical topics. With this comprehensive guide, "Mr. Spreadsheet" shows how to maximize your Excel experience using professional spreadsheet application development tips from his own personal bookshelf. Check out Excel 2013 Power Programming with VBA today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Sending Drawing Objects to the Back or Front

Not only can you place drawing objects in your worksheets, but you can organize those objects so some are in front and ...

Discover More

Sizing Text Boxes and Cells the Same

Adding a text box to a worksheet is easy. Making sure that text box is the exact size of a cell in the worksheet may not ...

Discover More

Displaying Images based on a Result

Got some images that you want to appear in a worksheet based on the result displayed in a cell? Figuring out how to ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is three less than 3?

2019-10-04 11:05:25


Great response and analysis. Profound, really. I appreciate your comments, all of them. The 2004 theory is very very plausible.

I still lean more to the first paragraph explanation - "change for the sake of change" - but with a crueler and more inept twist: that they are so deluded with their "making the world a better place" attribution that they look for "groundbreaking" splashes, "advancements" (they are NOT. EVER) like the horribly productivity-assassinating ribbon. The chief villain in introducing the ribbon was a deluded Microsoftian named Jensen Harris, and while in truth he was setting humanity backwards, and weakening his country's technical excellence and dominance, he went on promotion tours exclaiming what an amazing, dynamic, innovative "advancement" the ribbon was. He would literally mock the power of the menu interface, with disingenuous Powerpoint presentations supposedly demonstrating his point (sheer, illogical B.S.). The other side of this terrible tragedy is the complicit tech media - who, let's be honest, know which side their bread is buttered on - and with some exceptions, are glowing fanboys who write fawning praising articles about every productivity destroying "advancement" MS makes. When Jensen spake, they fell all over themselves to proclaim him to be a genius. And the sheep pretty much all swallowed that swill.

And you're right, there's likely no going back. When even the New York Times and the Great Unwashed MSM give glowing tributes to those wunderkids who they glamorize as "staying up all night making the world a better and more exciting place," there you go. Wall Street nods and says "Keep it up, boys. Well done. Exemplary." What's really biting is that Microsoft has two technical outlets for competent users to point out their [sometimes devastating] errors (technet and uservoice), and they pay zero attention to the former (trust me - never waste your time there), and on the latter, they occasionally post a [IMO deceitful] "that's a great idea. We'll look at it" lip service.

But I work for a living, and the corporate world overwhelmingly demands you use Microsoft. So some of us are imprisoned in effect. It really is tragic, because they came SO CLOSE to getting Excel perfectlly right in 2003. In greatest irony, at the very moment they achieved that, Lex Luthor Jensen Harris was in his laboratory plotting to sabotage humanity with the Ribbon. What they eventually did with Drawing and Shapes is a monumental statement to his and their ineptness.

You are not being goaded to concur. I just appreciate the opportunity to express the productive public's outrage. And thank you for your intelligent comments, on top of the great service you so generously provide.

The same Anon :)

2019-09-20 09:02:00



I understand your frustration with Microsoft's user interface choices. Sometimes I think they have people employed (many people) whose whole reason for employment is to make changes solely for the sake of making changes.

I, too, prefer the old menu-based user interface. I believe that it was a mistake for Microsoft to introduce the ribbon-based interface. My only suspicion is that sometime in 2004 (IIRC) when Microsoft introduced the "automatic feedback" option into Office programs, it gave them -- unknowingly -- erroneous information on which they based subsequent decisions.

You may remember that, at the time, people were given the option to opt-in to the automatic feedback or not. The majority who opted in were beginners, not advanced users of their programs. Thus, all the feedback they automatically received was skewed toward beginners (those who would be faltering and "lost" regardless of the the user interface) and did not take the usage patterns of advanced users into consideration. (How could it? Advanced users chose, largely, to not provide the feedback Microsoft requested.)

Armed with the skewed response, Microsoft changed the UI to the ribbon and, as a result, ended up with everyone being beginners, including those who were previously advanced. And, perhaps the cruelest irony is that many of those previously advanced users never regained their previous skill levels with the Office programs.

Be that as it may, here we are, 12 years after the introduction of the ribbon interface, without any recourse. There is no going back, and we must continue to work in the world that Microsoft has created. As you try to grapple with that world, I hope you find the information I've provided to be of some value.


2019-09-20 05:10:19


You're right. I apologize, I am at fault for not seeing the grey box. And that's horrible of me to get it wrong THREE times, so your response was saintfully restrained.

I am wrong and you were right. There's nothing else that you could do. I was rudely incorrect in accusing you of not showing version information, which is critical to the usefulness of the page.

This is not to criticize you, but I'll share why I [erroneously] missed all 3, particularly the grey box:
The upper right one starts like generic text that could be on every page on the site. I now see that it is specific to each page
The one above the bio begins like an ad for service, so I tuned out after the first sentence (sorry about that).
The grey box: I have no excuse, no defense. But, because I've become jaded to the merciless bombing of page ads on many sites, I tend to tune out colored boxes that look like "banner ads." Ironically, had it been UNDER the grey box, I would not have missed it. My brain processed the "last updated" phrase, but ignored the 3 version items. Although I'm generally a steadfastly careful and accurate programmer, on web pages, the majority effort of my visual processing is to first tune out noise, and then locate and process the salient information. I'm not accusing you here; just explaining how things work for some.

And only by way of explanation, not justification for my misplaced sourness at YOU, I had just come from five other sites that all gave the wrong [obsolete] answer, and I was already fuming. None of those had indicated version, by the way. So you were semi-attacked simply because you did what most sites don't do, which is accept feedback, That's a great thing, and even greater that you actually read it and respond. Also, you DATE your articles clearly, and that's an inept and infuriating deficiency of other technical sites. Dating a technical article is critical and you do it properly.

What I won't back down on is that Microsoft should never have made things this tragic. Their interface efforts since version 2003 have been unilaterally destructive to productivity. That is not a whiny refusal to "give the ribbon a chance" as some bureaucratically proclaim. The ribbon process is simply inferior for locating items. And it's an outright lie for them to claim they kept all shortcut support. Try to locate "find precedents" now if you only remember that the shortcut it begins with alt-T, U. And try to examine the filtering options after going alt-D, F. Pre ribbon, you'd get to the result 100% of the time. Post ribbon - you waste, waste, waste incredible time doing that very thing. And because a user might filter only once per week or two, they have to suffer - needlessly - this frustrating waste over and over and again and again.

What the mentally retarded Excel developers did to hide the "Shapes" interface is one of the most incompetent choices in the history of technology. So I rightfully am enraged at it. Sorry you got a piece of the crossfire.

2019-07-03 09:28:39



I *DO* provide version info. You can find it at the very top of this page (big letters, gray box, says "Please Note" in bold), along with a link to a version of this article that would have worked for your version of Excel. That same information is at the very end of the article, just above the "Author Bio/"

You can also find version info at the top-right of the page -- any page -- on this site.

Three places on this page that tell you this information isn't for your version of Excel. Two of those places also include a link to information that *IS* for your version of Excel.

Not sure what else I could have done for you, Anon.


2019-07-03 05:21:44


There is no drawing toolbar in Excel 2016, or if so it requires 25 minutes to locate. I spent 20.
There is no autoshapes menu in Excel 2016, or if so requires 25 minutes to locate. I spent 20.

This article is not up to your usual standards. Maybe think about including version info. Or simple screen shots, since the mentally retarded Microsoft interface designers were not content with just allowing you to go view/toolbars/drawing, which wasn't broken, and worked for decades.

It's a tragedy that reliance on your normally invaluable explanations is a necessity in life due to the Excel/Office interface team's severe brain damage.

Truly, the Excel interface designers are incompetent destroyers of human productivity. Truly. Yet I'm sure they sleep like a baby every night.

This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.