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Visio Stencils in PowerPoint

Learn how to use Visio stencils in PowerPoint.


Product/Version: PowerPoint

Learn PowerPoint

Learn how to use macros and scripts in PowerPoint.

Find Visio Stencils
Drag Visio Stencils into PowerPoint
Recolor Converted Stencil Shapes


Visio stencils are prebuilt shapes that function as building blocks in creating Visio diagrams. By default, Visio includes an amazing amount of shapes in its library and it is quite normal for users of other Microsoft Office applications like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to access Visio for these shapes. Most of the time, this involves saving Visio diagrams in a graphic file format from within Visio, and then importing them into other Microsoft Office programs.

However, there's another easier way in which you can bring in Visio shapes to other Microsoft applications. In this tutorial, we will be working on Visio 2007 and PowerPoint 2007, but you can use this trick with other Microsoft Office applications, and indeed with older or future versions of these applications as well.


Find Visio Stencils

Depending upon which version of Visio you have installed, and where you installed the program, the location of your Visio stencils may differ.

Typically, you'll want to access them in your Program Files | Microsoft Office | Office 12 | 1033 folder. Here, you can see all the Visio stencil files as shown in Figure 1, below.

Visio stencils
Figure 1: Visio stencils

Visio stencil files typically have the file extension VSS. It's quite a trick to understand which stencil file relates to a particular category of stencils but it's not too difficult to guess that COMPS_M.VSS file has something to do with computers!

Can't See File Extensions?

By default, you may not see the VSS or other file extensions in Windows. To turn on the visibility of file extensions, please explore our Show File Extensions page.

To make sure that you have selected the right VSS file, just double click it. Doing so opens the resulting stencil shapes library as a floating window (see Figure 2). This floating window is certainly an instance of Visio, but it doesn't show the rest of the Visio interface. If this is not the stencils that you were looking for, just shut the floating window, and double-click any other VSS file.

Visio computer stencil shapes library
Figure 2: Visio computer stencil shapes library


Drag Visio Stencils into PowerPoint

Follow the steps to use the Visio Stencil files in PowerPoint 2007 for Windows:

  1. Make sure that the stencil shape library is open as a floating window as explained earlier in this page. Also launch PowerPoint, and create a new slide so that you can drag the shapes to this slide.
  2. Select any shape within the floating Visio window. For example in this tutorial, we have selected the PC stencil shape. Now drag the shape to the empty PowerPoint slide. Figure 3 shows this new shape being placed as a Visio object on the slide.
  3. Visio object
    Figure 3: Visio object
  4. How do we know this is a Visio shape? That's easy. Just right click the shape and check what the context menu shows (see Figure 4). As you can see, the context menu identifies this stencil shape as a Visio object. While this will work fine in most scenarios, you will find that you still cannot use most of PowerPoint's formatting options on the object. This is easily remedied, as we show you next.
  5. Right-click menu identifies as a Visio object
    Figure 4: Visio object
  6. With the shape selected on the slide, copy the shape (Ctrl + C). Then, select the Home tab of the Ribbon, and choose the Paste | Paste Special option, as shown in Figure 5.
  7. Paste Special
    Figure 5: Paste Special
  8. This brings up the Paste Special Dialog box (see Figure 6). Choose the Picture (Enhanced Metafile) option, and click OK.
  9. Paste Special dialog box
    Figure 6: Paste Special dialog box
  10. This will place the Visio object as a picture on PowerPoint slide as shown in Figure 7. To make sure that this is no longer a Visio object, right-click the object and check the context menu options as shown in the Figure below. You can compare these options with the ones shown in Figure 4 (earlier on this page).
  11. Visio object as picture
    Figure 7: Visio object as picture
  12. Now that the shape is a native PowerPoint slide object, you can delete the earlier Visio shape. You can also use PowerPoint 2007's Recolor options on the converted shape, as we show you next.
Tip: You will also want to convert Visio stencil shapes to converted pictures if you need to share the presentation with someone who has no Visio installed, or if you want to share a presentation containing Visio shapes with someone who uses PowerPoint on the Mac (since there's no Visio version for the Mac yet).


Recolor Converted Stencil Shapes

Once you have changed the Visio object to a picture, you can use the options found in the new Picture Tools Format tab of the Ribbon in PowerPoint 2007 for Windows. You can add Picture Styles, add effects, and do much more. However, in this example, we'll just change the picture color to one of the prebuilt Theme colors:

  1. Select the picture and click the Picture Tools Format tab of the Ribbon as shown in Figure 8.
  2. Picture Tools Format tab
    Figure 8: Picture Tools Format tab
  3. Choose the Recolor button which opens the Recolor gallery that you can see in Figure 9.
  4. Recolor gallery
    Figure 9: Recolor gallery
  5. Choose any of the Recolor options. As you hover over the recolor options, you'll see a live preview on the actual slide object. Once you like a particular option, click on it to apply the recolor. Figure 10 shows the picture after recoloring.
  6. Picture after recoloring
    Figure 10: Picture after recoloring
Remember: The color options that you see in Figure 9 may be entirely different for you since they are based on the active Design Theme. You can learn to change and apply Themes in PowerPoint here.
Remember: You won't find these recolor options in Word or Excel 2007. Although, you can always do the recoloring in PowerPoint and take them later to Word or Excel 2007. Again, if the color changes in Word or Excel, that's because the current document may be based on a different Office Theme.


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