Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Drawing Simple Objects.

Drawing Simple Objects

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 20, 2020)

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) in older versions of Excel requires only that you perform a few steps:

  1. Display the Insert tab of the ribbon.
  2. Click the Shapes tool in the Illustrations group, and then select the line or arrow that you want to draw.
  3. Move the mouse to the starting point for the line or arrow and click and hold the left mouse button.
  4. Move the mouse to the other end of the line and release the mouse button.

As you move the mouse in Step 3, 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 4), 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 4).

In newer versions of Excel, drawing lines is even easier. Follow these steps:

  1. Display the Insert tab of the ribbon.
  2. Click the Shapes tool in the Illustrations group, and then select the line or arrow that you want to draw.
  3. Click the left mouse button where you want the line or arrow to be inserted and Excel inserts it when the mouse button is released.

You can easily make changes to the line or arrow by clicking anywhere on the shape to display handles. Click on a handle and drag it until you get the desired look for your line or arrow and release the mouse button.

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. Display the Insert tab of the ribbon.
  2. Click the Shapes tool in the Illustrations group, and then select the shape you want to draw.
  3. 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.
  4. Drag the mouse to the opposite rectangle corner (the lower-right) and release the mouse button.

Notice that as you perform step 3, 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 (10346) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel 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. ...

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