Using Connectors with Shapes

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 22, 2020)

Drawing shapes are a great way to add common graphic flourishes to your document. The drawing capabilities of Word allow you to define connectors that link different shapes together. These connectors are available if you create your drawing within the drawing canvas, and they are dynamic in nature. This means that even if you move the connected shapes around on the canvas, the connectors stretch, bend, and move as necessary to keep the links valid.

To see how connectors work, try this:

  1. Display the Insert tab of the ribbon.
  2. In the Illustrations group, click the Shapes tool. Word displays a plethora of options.
  3. Click New Drawing Canvas. Word displays the drawing canvas and the Format tab of the ribbon. (This step is very important; if you don't work in a drawing canvas, you cannot use connectors.)
  4. Using the Insert Shapes group at the left of the ribbon, select a shape you want to create.
  5. Click and drag within the drawing canvas to create the shape you selected in step 4.
  6. Use the Insert Shapes group to choose another shape.
  7. Click and drag within the drawing canvas to create the second shape.
  8. Again, using the Insert Shapes group, select the connector you want to use. (Connectors are in the Lines category. If you hover the mouse pointer over the "line" you will see a description such as "Connector: Elbow" or "Connector: Curved.")
  9. In the drawing canvas, move the mouse pointer over one of the shapes you previously placed. You should see one or more connector dots appear around the perimeter of the shape. (The color and style of these dots vary depending on which version of Word you are using.) These dots are smaller than the regular handles, and they represent connection points you can use.
  10. Click on or near one of the connection points. This anchors one end of the connector. (See Figure 1.)
  11. Figure 1. One end of the connector is anchored.

  12. Move the mouse pointer over the other shape and click on a connection point there. The connector is now in place. (See Figure 2.)
  13. Figure 2. Both ends of the connector is anchored to both shapes.

Note that in step 9 you may not see any connector dots by moving the mouse pointer over one of the shapes. If that is the case, click on one end of the connector line and drag it to the perimeter of the shape. The mouse pointer changes to a large plus sign and at least one connector dot appears on the perimeter of the shape. "Drop" the end of the connector line on a connection point and that end of the connector line is anchored to the shape. Repeat this process with the other end of the connector line to anchor it to the other shape.

Now you can move the original shapes around, and the connector remains connected to the two connection points you selected. You can add additional shapes, as desired, with any connectors you desire.

You should be aware that connectors are only available between shapes placed on the drawing canvas. If you try to create a connector involving a shape that is outside of the drawing canvas, connectors are no longer available from the menus or ribbon.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (6277) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365.

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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