Oblique Connectors For Your 3D Diagrams
…unless you’re the guys behind the creation of the Zeus ZXTM Appliance Network Stencil. Several readers have noticed the cool isometric connectors that the KnowledgeHub guys used in their sample illustration, and want to get ‘hold of ’em.
We’re not sure where the KH folks got those connectors, but a little light bulb went * bing * inside our Visio Guy heads as we remembered yet another an unfinished prototype gathering dust on our HD. Ah yes, Oblique Connector.vsd, from long, long ago…
Yes, we dug-up and dusted-off the old prototype and produced a finished shape that lets you connect 3D, or isometric looking shapes with connectors that match. In today’s download, you’ll find this master:
Which lets you create illustrations that look like this:
If you right-click on the connector, you’ll see a BUNCH of options:
Let’s briefly go over the menu items and other features of the shape:
The first menu item is Flip Direction. This changes the “S” orientation of the connector by 90 degrees (in our projected world…) In the illustration above, you can see the light-gray line represents what the black line would look like after this flipping operation.
Reset Bend Position
This sends the bend back to the middle position. You can reposition the bend by tugging on the little yellow control handle in the middle of the shape. But if you want to get a bunch of connectors to line up, like they are in the first illustration up top, it’s best to get the bend back to the default position. Note, if the bend is already there, then this menu item will be disabled.
The items are self-explanatory, but the point is this: it’s easier to send the connector behind the computer, then to try to adjust connection points so that they’re just on the edge where the connector meets the shape.
Angle and Slope
You can change the perspective of the connector by choosing one of the slope settings. 30°, 45° and 60° settings are probably pretty clear – the connector lines will follow those angles. For the other “ratio” settings, the numbers simply indicate how much the connector lines run horizontally versus how much they rise vertically. So the 1:3 setting means the connector goes over three units and up one unit. The 1:1 setting is the same as 45°.
Visio’s snazzy 3D network shapes appear to be drawn as true isometric projections. That means their lines run at 30° from the horizontal. So our connector should technically use the 30° setting to match the angles of the network shapes. We’ve found, however, that the setting 1:2 is very close to 30° (it’s 26.6°…) works very well, because it’s easier to position the network shapes in 1:2 increments by snapping to the grid.
Edit via Custom Properties / Shape Data
You can also change the flip direction and the slope of the connector via Custom Properties (Shape Data). Just show the property-editing window via View > Shape Data Window (in Visio 2007) or View > Custom Properties Window (in Visio 2003) and you’ll see the fields just waiting for your input!
Normally, as you connect shapes in Visio, you get that neat-o red rectangle that indicates you’re making a dynamically glued connection. With dynamic glue, a connector will automatically wander around the perimeter of a shape, finding the best place to which to connect.
We tried to implement this feature on the Oblique connector shape, but it just wouldn’t work. It seems that Visio’s Dynamic connector gets lots of special treatment from the engine. This treatment had the effect of hammering our carefully crafted ShapeSheet formulas and making the connector do scary things.