Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Understanding the Drawing Canvas.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 27, 2020)
Word, for quite some time, has allowed you to add graphics to your documents. If you are creating the graphics yourself, the normal way to add the graphics is through the use of the Drawing toolbar. All you need to do is click on the drawing tool you want to use, and then use the tool to create the item in your document.
There is another way you can create drawings, and that is by using what Word calls the "drawing canvas." You create a drawing canvas by displaying the Insert tab of the ribbon, clicking the Shapes tool in the Illustrations group, and then choosing New Drawing Canvas.
The purpose of the drawing canvas is to help you organize your drawing objects. Essentially, it provides a container for the pieces and parts that make up your drawing. The drawing canvas is initially transparent and has no border around it, but you can change those settings using the same techniques that you use to change colors and borders on other drawing objects.
Remember that the drawing canvas is supposed to be an organizational aid. As such, it comes in very handy when you are creating a drawing that contains several individual drawing objects. For instance, you might combine different shapes to create a complex drawing. If those shapes are contained within the drawing canvas, then they are easier to manage as a whole.
If you are simply adding one or two independent drawing objects to your document, then the drawing canvas will be of little value. For instance, you don't need the drawing canvas if you are simply adding an arrow, line, or a circle to your document.
There is one benefit to using the drawing canvas that you should be aware of—it allows you to use connectors between shapes. Connectors are lines that stay "connected" to set points on a shape. If you move the shapes that are connected by a connector line, then the line expands, contracts, or moves as necessary to keep the connection in place. Connector lines are available only within a drawing canvas.
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (6077) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Understanding the Drawing Canvas.
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