Pointing your readers in the right direction with Word's custom arrows

Throw away your highlighter, folks. A better way to get your point across is by using Word's Drawing toolbar to add arrows to your documents.

When you create documentation, how do you direct the reader’s attention to a particular spot on a graphic image? You might resort to printing the document and then manually adding lines and arrows. But there’s a better way, and you don’t need an expensive graphics program to do it. Word’s Drawing toolbar has all the tools you need.

A change of view
You are going to love what you can do with Word’s Drawing toolbar, but first you have to display it. To do so:
  • Open the View menu.
  • Select Toolbars.
  • Choose Drawing.

When you do, you’ll see the new toolbar, as shown in Figure A. (I used the arrow feature to point to it.)

Figure A
Here’s what Word’s Drawing toolbar looks like.

First things first
To draw an arrow, click the single arrow on your new toolbar. In the place of a cursor, cross hairs will appear. Place the cross hairs where you want the arrow to start. Then click and hold. Drag your mouse toward whatever the arrow will be pointing to. Ta-da! From here, the options grow. Your new tool can be changed to any shape, size, or color just by using the same toolbar. Figure B shows some of the options that you have in creating arrows.

Figure B
Here are some of the options that the Drawing toolbar gives you.

To change your arrow in any way, click on it. Two white boxes will appear, one at either end of the arrow. Then you can use the Drawing toolbar to customize the arrow’s appearance.

An arrow of a different color
To change the color of the arrow, click on the pointer beside the paintbrush icon on your toolbar. You will then see a palette of colors, as shown in Figure C. Choose the color that you want, and click on it. The arrow will change, and the line under the paintbrush icon will show your new color. To change another arrow to this color, all you have to do is click on the paintbrush.

Figure C
You can customize your arrow by changing its color.

Here, there, and everywhere
Once you’ve created a custom arrow, what happens if you want to change its direction? You can do so in a number of different ways, as illustrated in Figure D:
  1. Click the icon with three arrows. This will give you choices of arrows pointing right, left, or both.
  2. Click on Draw (the button at the leftmost edge of the Drawing toolbar). Doing so will give you the option of flipping the arrow in different directions.
  3. Click on the circular arrow to display a green circle. Place the green circle over either end of the arrow and drag it in any direction.

Figure D
Here are some of the tools you can use to adjust the appearance of the arrow.

Size does matter
Adding arrows to your documentation won’t help much if no one can see them. Changing the thickness of the arrow is just as simple as changing its color or direction. Click on the icon that has three solid lines to display an option box of size variations, as shown in Figure E. Just choose the one you want, and you’re done.

Figure E
Just point and click to select a new line thickness for your arrow.

Easy cheesy
If you don’t want to go through this whole process, simply click AutoShapes and select one of the predefined arrow styles shown in Figure F. Pick, click, and drag to get the size you want. You can change the color of these the same way you do the arrows you create manually.

Figure F
You can save time by selecting a predefined arrow style.

If you don’t like your arrow, simply click on it to select it, delete it, and start over. Once you get the hang of using the Drawing toolbar’s arrow options, you’ll discover all kinds of new ways to get your point across.
If you like this tip, please let us know by posting a comment below or sending us a note.

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