Editing a Visio EE master

Sorry for the delay. In researching for this article I found I had several versions of the shapes on my machine. This is not surprising because I have been voluntarily supporting Visio since version one. I had done a shape search looking for a shape and ended up with some duplicates, but no indication of their pedigree. Which were the newer shapes?

Recently, a Visio user asked in the Visio section of the Answers forum for help in editing an existing Visio master shape. The shape in question was in one of the Electrical Engineering stencils.

The EE shapes are a Visio creator’s dream. They are simple lines, circles and curves and with some simple shapesheet magic, can easily transform into very functional shapes.
In 2016, they had an update, but unfortunately some of the shapes used extremely heavy lines, not the standard weight used in the standard and is distracting. Not all the shapes have Shape Data.

The user wants…

“If you go into “More Shapes” -> Engineering -> Electrical Engineering -> Switches and Relays, there are a ton of examples of devices that need more than two conditions. Liquid Level Actuated, Flow Actuated, Limit Switch, etc.”

Actually, there should be eight states for this shape

float to openN.C.closedabovetouching
float to openN.C.openabovegap
float to openN.O.closedabovetouching
float to openN.O.openabovegap
sink to openN.C.closedbelowtouching
sink to openN.C.openbelowgap
sink to openN.O.closedbelowtouching
sink to openN.O.openbelowgap

“… but the shapes are not easy to edit.”


Shapes in Visio stencils (they are called masters) are protected from accidental changes. So, to change a master, you need to create a new stencil and drag the master you want to change to it. You can then right click the master and select Edit Master. On your next session, when you open the stencil you will not be able to edit the masters. The stencil has to be opened for editing

To address the issue of why editing the shapes is not easy…

To prevent accidental changes, Visio makes you go through a few extra hoops.

To edit a stencil, right click the stencil’s title bar and chose “Edit Stencil”.

Visio will add a yellow star to the title bar
to indicate that it is open for changes.

Since you will need to test/edit the shape, I prefer to create a new master by opening a Visio drawing and then create the shape, either by copying a master to the drawing to act as a sample or create it from scratch. I then copy the shape to a stencil to create a master.

“The issue I am running into is, I can’t find the place where the two different graphics exist, or how I would add two more to the set. Does that make sense? When I am in the edit screen and have the shape in the work area, I can still right click it and tell it to change from normally open to normally closed. It’s like I am one level above where I need to be in order to edit the different occurrences.”

“If you drag one of these items onto the workspace and right click it, the top option is to show the device in the other condition; if it is normally open, you can select normally closed.”

“It’s like I am one level above where I need to be”…

Visio has two ways of editing a shape, one is as a standard graphics program by drawing lines and the other is by opening the shapesheet(s) and modifying cell values. In this case, you are making changes in the shapsheet (“one level below”)

Flow actuated

For example, the “Flow Actuated” master is a group shape than contains two subshapes, one is the shape and the other the label. The group (or top) shape contains an Action section that controls the right click command and contains a user cell to remember the setting. The subshapes use that user cell to control the appearance of their Geometry sections.

The “two different graphics” is a Geometry section within the first subshape. In some master, the “NoShow” cell of a Geometry section is used to control if the Geometry section is visible by checking the value of a User cell in the group shape. In this case, a user cell controls the X,Y position of a Geometry row. So, it appears as a separate shape.

You can add extra Geometry sections to change the appearance and use the “NoShow” to control the visibility.

So let us look at the “Liquid level actuated” shape.

Liquid level actuated

The “Liquid level actuated” shape aka “Sheet.3”. Is made of three component shapes, Sheet.4, Sheet.5 and Sheet.6. I am not sure why Sheet.4 and Sheet.5 are needed, they are just lines from A to B and C to D. Something that can be done in Sheet.6. Which means that Sheet.6 can be rolled into Sheet.3.

So Sheet.6,


The Y value of Row 1 of Geometry 1 is an example of conditional using a Scratch cell. The NoShow cell in Geometry 2 and Geometry 3 is another example of conditional using a Scratch cell. Geometry 4 and Geometry 5 are just circles. All these Geometry sections could have been rolled up into one Geometry section.


The smarts of the shape is in “Liquid level actuated” (aka Sheet.3)

Did the shape have to be a group shape? No, there are two subshapes and all the Geometry sections could have been in the top shape. The purpose of the second subshape is to position the text, something that can be done in a single shape. Of course, limiting to a non group means you can not embellish the shape with extra labels.

Since this has been delayed enough, in Part 2 I will create the shape.

I hope you find this useful.

John… Visio MVP in x-aisle

Published by johnvisiomvp

The original Visio MVP. I have worked with the Visio team since 1993