Robins's Visual Chart Form Tips

Selecting, Grouping, Editing

This page created 1 Sep 2014

Hosted by Terry's TMG Tips

This article discusses how to improve the use of space by moving chart objects to other locations.


  1. Selecting more than one object – There are ways to make the right selection. When a marquee (the dotted resizable rectangle) is used to select objects in a region of a chart only objects that are entirely within the rectangle are selected. [To draw a marquee, left click the mouse at one corner of your desired selection, hold down the left mouse button as the mouse is positioned at the diagonally opposite corner of the rectangle, then release the left mouse button.] Unfortunately, a chart does not easily divide in easily selectable regions. How do you select just what you want and not include other objects that you don’t want?

    The trick is to use this selection rule to your advantage by some careful preparation. Select a group of objects that you don’t want included in your final selection including enough other adjacent items such that at least one of them is outside your final desired selection region. Now while they are selected right-click > Grouping > Group. It may be necessary to do this several times around the boundary of your desired selection region. Now use the desired marquee and if you have grouped the unwanted ones correctly, the selected set will be what you need. Right-click > Grouping > Group to create the desired group of objects. Once you have made your desired Group, you can Right-click > Grouping > Ungroup those that you don’t think that you will need again.

  2. What objects should you select? –The critical decision is whether to include the connection point objects that are adjacent to a boundary used to form a group or not. When a Group is created all the ends of the elastic lines inside the box move as the Group is moved. But the other end of the elastic line remains stationary creating some wild connecting line paths. The art is to know when a connection point should be within the Group or outside the Group. In most instances it is best reduce the number of elastic lines that cross the group boundary. This is a descendancy chart, to include the connection point on the parent side of Group, but to omit the connection point for descendants that are outside the Group.
  3. Hazards of selecting objects by individual CTRL + Left-Click – It might seem easy but it may have unexpected consequences. Such an action should not be used to select objects that have been created automatically by VCF. It may work for objects that are annotations. It should not be used to form a group of VCF objects that may be moved. In some circumstances this will work if you want to change a unique property of all these objects. Line color, line width, fill color are all likely to work on lines and person boxes. Don’t try to change the font properties of a collection of person boxes as there are settings for both name lines and data lines. An action is likely to change both with unexpected results. The action may not be undone, and then require each box to be re-edited.
  4. Moving a Group – It is always easiest to move a Group to new location in 2 steps, up/down or left/right. The order doesn’t matter, but it is easier to visualise the impact of the move if it done in these 2 steps.

Select the Group, as you start to drag one horizontally or vertically, hold the SHIFT key down. If it is a large Group you are moving pause the motion for a few seconds until a ghost image of the Group objects appears, then continue the move.

Simple Layout Moves

  1. Boxes too far the left – When the layout algorithm chooses the place for the next box on the canvas it is processing from left to right or from top to bottom in some chart orientations. That is, it is trying to pack boxes as closely towards the top left corner. Often, this means early children in a generation without descendants are placed as far to the left as possible. But if the next child has a large descendant tree, this next child's box is placed a long way to the right to centre it over its own descendant tree. The dangling boxes that are unnecessarily placed far to left are never moved towards the right by the algorithm. Collapsing out this space makes the whole family easier to see. Identify and move each group of boxes that can be easily moved to the right.
  2. Unknown Person Gaps – The layout algorithm sometimes creates large horizontal gaps when a partner or parent is unknown. It has been recommended in Data Entry Issues that this can be overcome by explicitly entering a person with an “unknown” name for these situations. This removes VCF from having to create that entry and use different rules. These gaps can be easily edited provided the UK Marriage style is not being used.
  3. Second UK style Marriage Gaps – The traditional use of the UK style Marriage charting requires the line to the children of the marriage to equally subdivide the distance between the names. However, for multiple marriages this distorts the chart. In traditional hand-drawn charts the distance between the partners is kept small and constant, and the single line to the children of the marriage steps to the right to the sub-tree of the children and their descendants. This can be corrected in VCF charts to bring together all partners of the descendant in a much more compact layout. The double-line UK style marriage has a connection point at its mid-point. When editing or moving that line, the line that connects to children often is left dangling (not connected). To fix this select that line and move it towards the marriage bar midpoint. Once near the connection point it will snap to its correct location.

Block Move and Collapse

All methods of reshaping a chart involve:

  1. Selecting a block of person boxes
  2. Moving that block to a new location
  3. Repairing the connector line path to the above generation
  4. Moving the right-part of the chart to occupy the gap created by the moved block
  5. Reducing the required width of the canvas.

Sometimes it is necessary to create some working space by increasing the size of the canvas first.

Terry's TMG Tips Home Robin's VCF Tips Home Contact Robin



Copyright 2014- by Robin Lamacraft