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Tutorial 3 - Connectors, Waypoints, and Altering Shapes

Altering Shapes

Rotating Shapes

When you create a new shape, it always starts off oriented in some way relative to the page. For example, a cylinder will always appear like this when it is created:

It is possible to rotate any shape, and there are several ways to do this.  In order to use any of them, we must first click on the shape to highlight it.

Notice the curved arrow above the shape.  Clicking once on the arrow will rotate the object 90 degrees in a clockwise direction.  Therefore, in order to rotate the cylinder 270 degrees, so that the top points towards the left, we simply click the arrow three times.

We are not constrained to multiples of 90 degrees.  By clicking and holding the mouse, and then rotating the cursor left or right, we can rotate a shape in the anticlockwise or clockwise directions respectively.  Below we see a cylinder that has been rotated 128 degrees in an anticlockwise direction.

Changing Dimensions

When you create a new shape, it always starts appears at the same size. For example, an ellipse will always appear like this when it is created:

It is possible to resize any shape, and there are several ways to do this.  In order to use any of them, we must first click on the shape to highlight it.

Notice the blue dots around the highlighting frame.  By clicking and dragging one of these dots we can resize the shape.  Sometimes we want to preserve a shape's aspect ratio (i.e. keep maintain the same ratio of heigh to width).  To do this, click and drag one of the corner dots.

Above we have enlarged the shape; it is identical to the original shape, but scaled up.  We can instead change just the height, or just the width.  We do this by dragging on one of the dots on the horizontal lines (to adjust height), or vertical lines (to adjust width).

Above we have adjusted just the height of the ellipse.  Now the ellipse looks like more like a circle.

Using Connectors

In Tutorial 1 - Creating a Diagram we looked at how to connect shapes using connectors.  There are actually two ways to attach a connector to a shape, which we will look at now.  We can create either an anchored connection, or a floating connection.

Anchored Connectors

Let's say we want to connect up two rectangles.

One thing that we learned to do in the first tutorial is to connect two shapes by finding a connection point on the first shape, and then click and drag until a connection point is found on the second shape.

Release the connection here.  We have now created an anchored connection point.  This means that as the shape moves, the connector will always remain attached to the same connection points.  In our example, both ends of the connector are anchored.

One of the best ways to illustrate how this works is to rotate one of the shapes multiple times.

You can see that the connector follows the connection point.  We would see the same thing if we rotated the first shape.

Floating Connectors

Let's look at another way to connect up those two rectangles.

We will find a connection point on the first shape, and click and drag as before.  But this time, we will drag the connector over the centre of the second shape, so that the whole shape is outlined in a solid blue line.

Release the connection here.  We have now created an floating connection point.  This means that as the shape moves, the connector adjusts the connection point that it connects to.  Notice that it looks identical to an anchored connection point.

However, if we rotate the second shape, we see the difference.

There are a number of ways to create a connection between two points.  In this section we have been looking at creating a connection to an existing shape.  There are also ways in which you can create a new shape, while creating a connection to it at the same time.  We looked at these in Tutorial 1 - Creating a Diagram.  One was is to use the arrow symbol on the right hand side of a highlighted shape.  Another is to create a new connection with the Copy on connect option enabled, so that the new connector terminates at a copy of the original shape.

Each of these methods results in different types of connection at the start and end points.  The table below summarises these, so that you will know how to produce a particular combination as desired.

Waypoints

It is possible to arrange connections in different ways.  This is often useful in more complex diagrams, where connectors between different shapes might need to avoid any intervening shapes.  Also, the orthogonal connectors that we have been using so far might not be the most appropriate choice.  We already saw in Tutorial 2 - Insert and Arrange that some layouts/arrangements use curved connectors.  You can incorporate various types of connector shapes through the use of waypoints.

Let us start with a simple diagram: two rectangles, linked by a connector.  The start of the connector is anchored to the first rectangle.  The end of the connector has a floating connection to the second rectangle.  Let us click on the connector to highlight it.

You can see that there is a blue dot in the middle of the connector.  This is a waypoint.  We can use it to change the path of the connector.  Click and drag the blue dot upwards.

We have changed the path of the connector.  Note that the ends of the connector - one anchored, the other floating - both behave as we would expect them to.  As we create new sections of the connector, more waypoints appear, to allow us to further manipulate the path.  Let us choose one of the new waypoints, the one above the first rectangle, and drag it slightly to the right.

Let us now go to the toolbar, and select the Waypoints drop down menu, which is to the left of the Insert menu we learned about in Tutorial 2 - Insert and Arrange.  There a different types of connector; we are currently using an orthogonal connector, which can bend, but only at right angles.

Click the first menu option, Straight (represented by a straight connector) to make the connector a straight line.

We have returned the connector to its original path.  But now, even though the connector is highlighted, there is no central waypoint.  Straight connectors cannot deviate from a straight line, so there is no need for any.

If we move the second rectangle by dragging it, the connector will move with it - but it cannot deviate from a straight line.

You may not have seen this before.  The floating connection to the second rectangle has shifted, as you would expect, but it is no longer attached to any of the connection points on the second rectangle.  Contrast this with the default orthogonal connectors, which only travel north, east, south, or west, so even a floating connection will point to the connection points on the edges of the rectangle.

Lets now try a curved connector.  From the Connectors menu, select the third option, Curved.

Now the connector is curved, and new waypoints have appeared, allowing us to customised the path.  We can click and drag a waypoint, just as we did in the orthogonal example.

We have a new connector path, as well as new waypoints that we have caused to be added.

To conclude, there are a couple of options available from the right click menu that might be useful.  With the connector selected, right click the mouse.

A couple of options relating to waypoints are available.  Click Clear Waypoints, and it will remove the waypoints that we added by our manual manipulations.  The path changes associated with those waypoints have also been removed.  In effect we have reverted back to before we changed the path.

We could also have removed the additional waypoints individually, by right clicking on one of them and then selecting Remove Waypoint.

Finally, we can add our own waypoints by right clicking a section of connector where no waypoints currently exist.

No Clear Waypoint option is given this time - that function only clears all waypoints we introduced ourselves, and there are now none left.  But we can add a new waypoint, by selecting Add waypoint.

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