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Formatting Lines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2003 and 2002 for Windows

Make changes to the appearance of shape lines in PowerPoint 2003 and 2002 for Windows. You can change line color, weight, dash type, arrow-ends, add gradients, and remove line attributes altogether.


Product/Version: PowerPoint 2003 and 2002 for Windows

OS: Microsoft Windows XP and higher

Learn PowerPoint

Solve this problem: Click, and all my text becomes white or disappears!

We have already covered the fill options in PowerPoint. In this series we will go through the many ways in which you can format lines. The term "line" in itself is confusing, because all the options explained on this page pertain to "outlines". Microsoft probably realized the confusion prevailing, and decided to call it an "outline" rather than a "line" since PowerPoint 2007. However since we are using PowerPoint 2003 or earlier for this tutorial, we'll continue calling it a line! For all practical purposes, a line is either of these two:

  • The perimeter areas of closed AutoShapes, such as rectangles, circles, etc.
  • The line itself, of regular Line AutoShapes, such as straight lines, curves, scribbles, or any other AutoShape that is not closed.

As already established above, formatting of line options doesn't require a closed area. Figure 1 shows a thick line around both a closed shape, and an open shape.

Samples of lines (outlines) in closed and open shapes
Figure 1: Samples of lines around closed and open shapes

As far as formatting any line is concerned, it really doesn't matter if the selected AutoShape is open or closed, because the process to do that is the same. However, there's one exception to the rule: you cannot add arrowheads to outlines around closed shapes, because arrowheads only show in open shapes. We have covered arrowheads in our Arrowheads and Arrow Styles for Lines in PowerPoint 2002 and 2003 tutorial.

Whenever a new AutoShape is inserted on PowerPoint slide, it is filled with a solid color and a line by default. Follow these steps to format line attributes, such as the color, style, weight, etc.

  1. Select the AutoShape that you want to format the line for. Alternatively, if you just want to follow this tutorial step-by-step, launch PowerPoint. Most of the time, PowerPoint will open with a new slide in a presentation, users can change the slide layout to Blank by selecting Format | Slide Layout, and then choose the Blank layout in the resultant Task Pane.
  2. You will find the rectangle AutoShape option in the Drawing toolbar located above the Status bar within the PowerPoint interface. Select this option, and click once on the blank slide to place a rectangle AutoShape.
  3. Select the AutoShape, and from PowerPoint's Drawing toolbar, choose options to make changes to the line attributes, as shown in Figure 2.
  4. Drawing toolbar
    Figure 2: Drawing toolbar
  5. Note: If the Drawing toolbar is not visible (normally at the bottom of the PowerPoint interface, above the status bar), choose View | Toolbars | Drawing. This is a toggle option that alternatively shows and hides the Drawing toolbar. Learn more about the PowerPoint 2003 interface here.
  6. All the line options are explained below, as marked in Figure 2:
  7. A. Line Color

  8. This opens a flyout menu, as shown in Figure 3.
  9. Line Color
    Figure 3: Line Color
  10. Here you can choose from:
    1. No Line to remove line altogether from the selected AutoShape.
    2. Automatic is the default line color, based on the active Color Scheme, this normally translates to the second color swatch in the row of 8 swatches below the Automatic option that you see in Figure 3 above.
    3. More Line Colors lets you choose any color you want, selecting this option summons the Colors dialog box with two tabs: Standard and Custom, first select the Standard tab (see Figure 4).
    4. Standard tab of the Colors dialog box
      Figure 4: Standard tab of the Colors dialog box
    5. This tab offers 127 colors in a honeycomb style palette, 14 gray shades, black and white. You can even change the transparency value of the selected color in the Transparency slider below. If you want more color choices, then select the Custom tab of the same dialog box, as shown in Figure 5.
    6. Custom tab of the Colors dialog box
      Figure 5: Custom tab of the Colors dialog box
    7. In this tab, you can chose any color from the spectrum and later adjust the selected color's luminosity with the slider on the right. You can even enter specific values of RGB and HSL to create a specific color, all these combinations provide 16 million color choices! Again, you can even change the transparency value of the selected color in the Transparency slider below.
    8. Click OK to exit this dialog box, and get back to your AutoShape or line.
    9. Patterned Lines allows you to apply a patterned line to an AutoShape, learn more about Patterned Lines in PowerPoint 2002 and 2003 here.

    B. Line Style

  11. Click this option on the Drawing toolbar to open a flyout menu as shown in Figure 6. Choose from different lines styles which include thick, thin, and double-ruled lines.
  12. Line Style
    Figure 6: Line Style
  13. Click More Lines, which opens Format AutoShape dialog box as you can see in Figure 7. Here you can increase or decrease the line weight to any value you want. Yes, you can also opt to have a 100 pt thick line!
  14. Line Weight
    Figure 7: Line Weight
  15. Click OK to exit this dialog box, and get back to your AutoShape or line.
  16. C. Dash Style

  17. This option on the Drawing toolbar opens the Dash Style flyout menu (see Figure 8). Choose any of these dash styles, more often than not, you'll want to use the default non-dashed, conventional line.
  18. Dash Style
    Figure 8: Dash Style
  19. Save your presentation often.
  20. Related Link: Learn how to do more with AutoShapes in this free excerpt from my book: Cutting Edge PowerPoint For Dummies, read a free chapter called AutoShape Magic here

See Also:

Shape Lines: Formatting Lines for Shapes (Glossary Page)

Formatting Lines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2016 for Windows
Formatting Lines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2016 for Mac
Formatting Lines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows
Formatting Lines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac
Formatting Lines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2010 for Windows
Formatting Lines for Shapes in PowerPoint 2007 for Windows

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