Documentation/OOoAuthors User Manual/Getting Started/Getting Started with Draw

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This is Chapter 8 of Getting Started with 2.x (Third edition), produced by the OOoAuthors group. A PDF of this chapter is available from the OOoAuthors Guides page at

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What is Draw?

Draw is a vector graphics drawing program. It offers a series of powerful tools that enable you to quickly create all sorts of graphics. Vector graphics store and display an image as vectors (two points and a line) rather than a collections of pixels (dots on the screen). Vector graphics allow for easier storage and scaling of the image.

Draw is perfectly integrated into the suite, and this makes exchanging graphics with all components of the suite very easy. For example, if you create an image in Draw, reusing it in a Writer document is as simple as copying and pasting. You can also work with drawings directly from within Writer and Impress, using a subset of the functions and tools from Draw.

Draw's functionality is very extensive and complete. Although it was not designed to rival high-end graphics applications, Draw possesses more functions than the majority of drawing tools that are integrated into office productivity suites.

A few examples of drawing functions might whet your appetite: layer management, magnetic grid point system, dimensions and measurement display, connectors for making organization charts, 3D functions enabling small three-dimensional drawings to be created (with texture and lighting effects), drawing and page style integration, and Bézier curves, to name a few.

This chapter introduces some of Draw's features, but it does not attempt to cover all of the them. See the Draw Guide and the application Help for more information.

The Workplace

The main components of the Draw interface are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Initial Draw window.

The large area in the center of the window is where the drawings are made. It is surrounded by toolbars and information areas. You can vary the number and position of the visible tools, so your setup may look a bit different. For example, many people put the main Drawing toolbar on the left-hand side of the workspace, not at the bottom as shown here.


The various Draw toolbars can be displayed or hidden according to your needs.

To display or hide the toolbars, click View > Toolbars. On the menu that appears, choose which toolbars you want to display.

You can also select the buttons that you wish to appear on the corresponding toolbar. On the View > Toolbars menu, select Customize, click on the Toolbars tab, select the toolbar you want to change, and then select the desired buttons for that toolbar. Each toolbar has a different list of buttons. See Chapter 4 (Menus and Toolbars) for more information.

Many toolbar buttons are marked with a small arrow beside the button. The arrow indicates that this button has additional functions. Click the arrow and a submenu or floating toolbar appears, showing its additional functions (see Figure 2).

Figure 2
Figure 2. An arrow next to a button indicates additional functions.

You may wish to keep this submenu displayed on your screen, but in a different position. You can make a submenu into a floating toolbar. To do so, click the area at the top of the submenu, drag it across the screen, and then release the mouse button. Floating toolbars can be docked on an edge of the screen or within one of the existing toolbar areas at the top of the screen, as described in Chapter 4.

Note: Most buttons marked with the small arrow can become floating toolbars. The floating toolbar capability is common to all components of the suite.

Click the arrow on the title bar of a floating toolbar to display additional functions (see Figure 3).

Figure 3
Figure 3. An arrow on a floating toolbar indicates additional functions.

The tools available in the various toolbars are explained in the following sections.

Standard toolbar

The Standard toolbar looks like this:

Standard Toolbar

It is the same for all parts of

Line and Filling toolbar

The Line and Filling toolbar lets you modify the main properties of a drawing object. See page 15 for details.

Line and Filling Toolbar

If the selected object is text, the toolbar changes to the one shown below, which is similar to the Formatting toolbar in Writer.

Text Formatting Toolbar

Drawing toolbar

The Drawing toolbar is the most important toolbar in Draw. It contains all the necessary functions for drawing various geometric and freehand shapes and organizing them on the page.

Drawing Toolbar

Color Bar

To display the Color Bar, use View > Toolbars > Color Bar. The toolbar then appears at the bottom of the workspace.

Draw Color Bar

This toolbar lets you rapidly choose the color of the objects in your drawing. The first box in the panel corresponds to Invisible (no color).

The default color palette can be changed using Format > Area, as shown in Figure 4. Choose the tab marked Colors.

Figure 4
Figure 4. Changing the color palette.

If you click on the Load Color List button (circled), the file selector asks you to choose a palette file (bearing the file extension .soc). Several palettes are supplied as standard with For example, web.soc is a color palette that is particularly adapted to creating drawings that are going to appear in web pages, because the colors will be correctly displayed on workstations with screens displaying at least 256 colors.

The color selection box also lets you individually change any color by modifying the numerical values in the fields provided to the right of the color palette. You can click on Edit to display a dialog (shown in Figure 5), making the choice of colors easier.

Figure 5
Figure 5. Defining color schemes.

You can use the color schemes known as CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black), RGB (Red, Green, Blue) or HSB (Hue, Saturation, Brightness).

Options toolbar

The Options toolbar lets you activate or deactivate various drawing aids. The Options toolbar is not displayed unless it is first selected. To display it, select View > Toolbars > Options.

Options toobar

Using the grid

The snap tools are divided into three groups: the grid, snap lines, and snap points.

Draw provides a grid of points to which objects can be snapped. Click on the Display Grid button in the Options toolbar to display the grid, and then click on the Snap to Grid button to activate it. The work area will be filled with a grid, as shown in Figure 6. This grid will not be printed or appear in exported files, such as a PDF.

When the grid is active, shapes can be positioned easily by using the dots as a guide. In the following example, the objects are positioned exactly on the dots in the grid.

Figure 6
Figure 6: With snap to grid, objects align to the grid precisely.

The spacing between the dots is defined in the Grid options dialog under the Drawing area of the OOo options (Tools > Options > Draw > Grid).

Figure 7
Figure 7. Setting grid options.

In the dialog shown in Figure 7, you can set the following parameters:

  • Vertical and horizontal spacing of the dots in the grid. You can also change the unit of measurement used in the general Draw options (Tools > Options > Draw > Grid > General).
  • The resolution is the size of the squares or rectangles in the grid. If the resolution is Horizontal 1cm, Vertical 2cm, the grid consists of rectangles 2cm high and 1cm wide.
  • Subdivisions are additional points that appear along the sides of each rectangle or square in the grid. Objects snap to subdivisions as well as to the corners of the grid.
  • The pixel (pix element) size of the snap area defines how close you need to bring an object to a snap point or line before it will snap to it.

The default grid dots are light gray, which can be very hard to see. To improve visibility, go to Tools > Options, then > Appearance (Figure 8).

Figure 8
Figure 8: Changing the grid color.

Under Custom colors, scroll down until you see Drawing / Presentation. Then set the Grid color to a darker color like black.


You should see rulers on the upper and left-hand sides of the workspace (see Figure 9). These show the size of the objects on the page. The rulers show the location of the mouse cursor, to help you position objects more precisely. The rulers also are used to manage handle points and capture lines that make positioning objects easier.

Figure 9
Figure 9. Rulers in a drawing.

The page margins in the drawing area are also represented on the rulers. You can change the margins directly on the rulers by dragging them with the mouse. To modify the units of measurement of the rulers, right-click on one of the rulers. The two rulers can have different units.

Status Bar

The Status Bar is located at the bottom of the screen. The middle part of this area (shown below) is particularly relevant to the Draw module.

Draw Status Bar

The sizes are given in the current unit (not to be confused with the ruler units). This unit is defined in Tools > Options > Draw > General, where you can also change the scale of the page. Another way to change the scale is to double-click on the number shown in the status bar.

The basic drawing shapes

Draw provides a wide range of shapes, located in palettes accessed from the Drawing Toolbar. This chapter describes only a few of the basic shapes; see the Draw Guide for a complete description of the shapes available. These shapes include rectangles and squares; circles, ellipses, and arcs; 3D objects; curves; lines and arrows; text; and connectors.

Drawing a straight line

Let's start by drawing the simplest of shapes: a straight line. Click on the Line button on the Drawing Toolbar DrawLineIcon.png and place the mouse cursor at the point where you wish to start drawing.

Drag the mouse while keeping the button pressed down. Let go of the mouse button when you want to stop drawing the line. A blue or green handle point will appear at each end of the line, showing that this is the currently selected object. The colors depend on the default selection mode (they will be green for simple selection and blue when in point edit mode).

Figure 10
Figure 10. Drawing a straight line

Hold down the Shift key while drawing the segment to force the line to be drawn at a multiple of 45° from the horizontal.

Hold down the Control key (Ctrl in PCs) to toggle temporarily your settings for Snap to Grid.

Hold down the Alt key to draw the line symmetrically from the start point (the line extends out to both sides of the start point equally). This lets you draw straight lines by starting from the middle of the line.

The line you draw will have the default attributes (such as color and line type). To change the line attributes, click on the line to select it and then use the tools in the Line and Filling toolbar; or for more control, right-click on the line and choose Line to open the Line dialog.

Drawing a rectangle

Drawing rectangles is similar to drawing straight line segments, except that you use the Rectangle button DrawRectIcon.png from the Drawing Toolbar. The (imaginary) line drawn with the mouse corresponds to the diagonal of the rectangle.

Figure 11
Figure 11. Drawing a rectangle.

Hold down the Shift key to draw a square. Hold down the Alt key to draw a rectangle starting from its center. To combine the effects, hold down both the Shift and Alt keys simultaneously.

Drawing a circle or ellipse

To draw an ellipse or circle, use the Ellipse Button DrawEllipseIcon.png from the Drawing Toolbar (a circle is simply an ellipse where the two axes are the same length). The ellipse drawn is the largest ellipse that would fit inside the (imaginary) rectangle drawn with the mouse.

Figure 12
Figure 12.Drawing an ellipse

There are three other ways to draw an ellipse or circle:

  • Hold down the Shift key while drawing to force the ellipse to be a circle.
  • Hold down the Alt key to draw a symmetrical ellipse or circle from the center instead of dragging corner to corner.
  • Hold down the Ctrl key while drawing to snap the ellipse or circle to grid lines.

Note: If you first press (and hold) the Control key before clicking on any of these buttons (Line, Rectangle, Ellipse, or Text), the chosen object appears directly on the page with a default size, shape, and color. All of these can then be changed.

Writing text

Use the Text tool DrawTextTool.png to write text and select the font, color, size, and other attributes. Click on an empty space in the workspace to write the text at that spot or drag an area to write inside the dragged frame. Press Enter to drop to the next line.

When you have finished typing text, click outside the text frame. Double-click on the text at any time to edit it.

When you type text, the upper toolbar includes the usual paragraph attributes: indents, first line, and tab stops.

You can change the style of all or part of the text. The Styles and Formatting window also works here (select Format > Styles and Formatting or press F11 to launch), so you can create Graphics styles that you can reuse for other text frames. Graphics styles affect all of the text within a text frame. To style parts of the text, use direct formating with the toolbar.

Text frames can also have fill colors, shadows, and other attributes, just like any other Draw object. You can rotate the frame and write the text at any angle. These options are available by right-clicking on the object.

Use the Callout tool, located on the Drawing toolbar, to create callouts (also known as captions or figure labels).

If you double-click on an object or press F2 (or the Text icon in the Drawing toolbar) when an object is selected, text is written in the center of the object and remains within the object. Nearly any kind of object contains such an additional text element. These texts have slight differences to those in text frames concerning position and hyphenation.

Using connectors

Connectors are a type of line or arrow whose ends stick to glue points on other objects. When you move the other object, the connector moves with it. Draw has a range of advanced connector functions. You can change connector types using the context menu.

Connectors are particularly useful for making organizational charts. You can reorganize the blocks of your chart and all the connected objects stay connected.

Glue points are different from handles (the small blue or green squares around an object). Use the handles to move or resize an object; use the glue points to attach connectors to an object.

Selection modes

There are three selection modes: moving and changing size, rotating, and editing points.

The default mode for selecting objects depends on whether the Points button on the Drawing toolbar is active (appears lit) DrawPointsActive.png or not inactive (appears dark or dimmed) inline:graphics19.png .

When the Points button is not active, the default mode is for selections to be moved or changed in size; these selections are indicated by small green squares.


When the Points button is active, the default mode is for selections to be edited; these selections are indicated by blue squares. Some objects will have one or more extra handles, which are larger or colored differently. This is explained in more detail in the Draw Guide.


Selections for rotating objects are indicated by small red circles and a symbol representing the center of rotation. To choose these selections, click on the Effects drop-down button DrawEffectsIcon.png from the Drawing toolbar.


Changing the selection mode

To go from one mode to another, you can do one of the following:

  • If necessary, toggle the Points button on the Drawing toolbar to switch from the simple selection mode to the Points mode DrawPointsActive.png. You can also use the keyboard shortcut F8 (Points).
  • Choose the Effects drop-down button from the Drawing toolbar DrawEffectsIcon.png to activate the Rotation mode for a selected object.
  • By choosing the Rotation Mode after Clicking Object button RotationModeIcon.png from the Options bar, you can cycle through normal and rotation modes just by clicking on the object. This can be more convenient than clicking the object, then clicking the Rotate button from the Drawing Toolbar.

Selecting objects

Direct selection

To select an object, the easiest way is to click directly on it. For objects that are not filled, you have to click directly on the object's outline to select it.

Selection by framing

You can select several objects by dragging a large rectangle around the objects with the select button, as shown.

For an object to be selected, it must be entirely within the rectangle.

Selecting hidden objects

When objects are located behind others, they can still be selected. To select an object that is covered by another object, hold down the Alt key and click the object. To select an object that is covered by several objects, hold down the Alt key and click through the objects until you reach the required underlying object. To cycle through the objects in reverse order, hold down the Alt+Shift keys when you click. To help in making accurate selections, you can check the number and type of the selected objects, shown at the left of the status bar.

Note: There may be some variation in the use of the Alt key on different operating systems.

To select an object that is covered by another object using the keyboard, press Tab to cycle through the objects. To cycle through the objects in reverse order, press Shift+Tab.

The easiest method is to use the Tab key to cycle through the objects, stopping at the object you wish to select. (This may not be practical if you have a large number of objects in your drawing.) When you click on your selected object, its outline will appear briefly through the objects on top of the selected object.

In the illustration below, the square located beneath the circle was selected in this way (the circle was made transparent in order to see the square).

Selecting a hidden object

Arranging objects

In a complex drawing, you may have objects stacked up, one on top of the other. To rearrange stacked objects, use either of these methods:

  • Select one of the stacked objects and then click Modify > Arrange and select the appropriate Bring Forward or Send Backward options.
  • Right-click the object and select Arrange from the pop-up menu, then select the appropriate Bring Forward or Send Backward options.

Draw also provides tools for aligning multiple objects; details are given in the Draw Guide.

Selecting several objects

To select or deselect several objects one by one, press the Shift key and click on the various objects to be selected or deselected.

Moving and dynamically adjusting an object's size

There are several ways of moving or changing the size of an object. The method described here will be called dynamic in the sense that it is carried out using the mouse.

When you dynamically change an object, remember to check the central area of the status bar at the bottom of your screen. This area shows detailed information about the ongoing manipulation. For example, during a resizing manipulation, you will see the following information displayed. This information changes when the mouse is moved.

Dynamic movement of objects

To move an object, select it and then click within the object's border and hold down the left mouse button while moving the cursor. To drop the object at its new location, let go of the mouse button. During movement, the shape of the object appears as dotted lines to help with its repositioning.


Dynamic size modification of objects

To change the size of an object (or group of selected objects) with the mouse, you need to move one of the handles located around the selection. As shown in the following illustration, the outline of the resulting new object appears as a dotted line.


The results will differ depending on which handle you use. If you choose a corner handle, you will resize the object along two axes at the same time. If you use a side handle, the objects will only be resized along one axis.

Note: If you press the Shift key at the same time as you carry out the resizing operation, the size change will be carried out symmetrically with respect to the two axes; this enables you to keep the aspect (height/length) ratio of the object.

Special effects

With Draw, you can apply many special effects to objects and groups of objects. This section describes a few of these effects. Others include distorting, shadows, and transparency. See the Draw Guide for examples of the many effects available.


Rotating an object lets you move the object around an axis. To do this dynamically, use the red handles, as you do when changing the size of the object.

Note: Rotation works in a slightly different way for 3D objects because the rotation occurs in 3D space and not in one plane. See also the Draw Guide regarding rotation when Edit Points mode is active.

To rotate an object (or a group of objects), drag the red corner handle points of the selection with the mouse. The mouse cursor takes the shape of an arc of a circle with an arrow at each end. A dotted outline of the object being rotated appears and the current angle of rotation is dynamically shown in the status bar.

Rotations are made about an axis which is displayed as a small symbol. You can move the axis of rotation with the mouse, as shown below.


If you hold down the Shift key during the rotation, the operation will be carried out in increments of 15°.


To incline or slant an object, use the red handles located on one of the edges of the selected object. The inclination axis is shown as the nearest handle to the opposite edge.

Inclining or slanting an object

As with rotation, you can set the inclination to occur as steps of 15° by pressing the Shift key while moving the handle.


This function duplicates a given shape while enabling you to change the options applied to the duplicates. The result of a duplication is a new group.

To start duplication, click on an object (or on a group of selected objects), then choose Edit > Duplicate. The dialog shown in Figure 13 appears.

You can choose:

  • The number of copies.
  • The displacement along the X and Y axes between two copies.
  • The angle of rotation between two copies.
  • The change in size between each copy.
  • The colors of the start and end copies.

Figure 13
Figure 13: Duplicating an object.

The options above applied to a blue rectangle produce the following result:



Cross-fading transforms a shape from one form to another, with handling all of the intermediate transitions. The result is a new group of objects.

To carry out a cross-fade, select both objects (hold the Shift key while selecting each object in turn) and then choose Edit > Cross-fading The following dialog appears.

Crossfading dialog

Here is an example of its use.

We start with two shapes...

Start of cross-fading

and carry out the cross-fade to obtain the following drawing.

Results of cross-fading

Editing objects

To change an object's attributes (such as color and border width), you can use the Line and Filling toolbar or the right-click menu.

If the Line and Filling toolbar is not visible, you can display it using View > Toolbars > Line and Filling. From here you can edit the most common object attributes. You can also open the Line dialog by clicking on the LineOptionsIcon.png icon and the Area dialog by clicking on the FillOptionsIcon.png icon to see more options.


1 Styles and Formatting 4 Line Style 7 Area
2 Line 5 Line Width 8-9 Area Style / Filling
3 Arrow Style 6 Line Color 10 Shadow

When an object is selected, you can right-click on the object to bring up a context menu (Figure 14). The entries with an arrow contain a submenu.

Figure 14
Figure 14: Right-click on a selected object to see the context menu.

Most often the property you want to change is the line's style (solid, dashed, invisible), its color or width. These options are all available from the Line and Filling toolbar. You can also edit these properties from the Line dialog. You can also define new line and arrow styles (see the Draw Guide for details).

The OOo term for the inside of an object is Area fill. The area fill of an object can be a uniform color, a gradient, or an image. Most often you will want to use one of the standard fill options, whether it is a color, a gradient, or an image. These options are all available from the Line and Filling toolbar. You can also define new area fills (see the Draw Guide).

Inserting pictures from other sources

You can add pictures from several sources:

  • The Gallery—see Chapter 14 (Working with the Gallery)
  • Directly from a scanner (Insert > Picture > Scan)
  • Images created by another program, including photographs from a digitial camera (Insert > Picture > From File)

Draw provides tools for working with bitmap images such as photographs: the Picture toolbar and the bitmap image management palette. See the Draw Guide for details and examples.

Exporting objects and files

To save a Draw image in a foreign format, use File > Export. Draw can save to many graphic file formats, as listed in Chapter 3 (File Management).

You can also export Draw files to HTML, PDF, or Flash. PDF export is the same as for any part of, as described in Chapter 3 (File Management). Flash export creates a .swf file.

HTML export uses a conversion wizard that creates as many web pages as there are pages in your Draw document. You can optionally choose to display the pages in frames with a navigator and can set an index page. For more information, see Chapter 16 (Creating Web Pages: Saving Documents as HTML Files).

Content on this page is licensed under the Creative Common Attribution 3.0 license (CC-BY).
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