This blog will go into two more advances features of Breakdown Notes: grouping and merging. With grouping, you can
select multiple shapes and do something on all these shapes in one go. For instance change the color, or move these shapes.
A grouping is temporary
With merging you can glue one or more elements onto another, the parent. Positioning a parent, will also have effect on all its children. This merge is of a more permanent nature.
Most of the options to group or merge elements are available from the "Merge Elements"" and "Group elements"" menu. Some are also available by using the contextmenu or hotkeys / keycombo's. All will be explained shortly.
To be more productive with Breakdown Notes, you will want to use grouping often. With this feature, you can select multiple shapes or elements and do an action on all in one go. You can group shapes, paragraphs or paths. We will talk about ways you can group elements, and about the actions you can perform on them.
There are multiple ways to group elements. With some, you will have to do most, for others, you can let the computer do part of the work. We will walk you throught them one by one.
Most simple way to group shapes/ paths or paragraphs in by holding control and clicking the elements you want grouped. To ungroup an element, just hold control and click again.
You can also group all the elements by dragging a rectangular area on the canvas. Everything inside will be grouped. First press and hold control and the press shift. The mouse cursor should now have changed because you have entered drag select. Now you an click and hold the mouse and drag over the area with the elements you want grouped.
You can alse reverse drag select elements, that is, remove elements from an already active group by dragging a rectangle. And, there's always the option by simply "control click" an elements that did not fall nicely inside the rectangle.
Another way to group elements is based of some particular (like shape, style, font, flow) of the shapes you want grouped. First thing you will need to do is open the grouping menu. Next click one of the shapes that has the particular attribute you want to group on. Let's say you want to group all rectangles, then click a rectangle. Then in the grouping menu, click shape. Result should be you have selected all the rectangular elements.
Works the same for colors and fonts (that is if you used the predefined in stead of custom styles). Just click an element with the particular you want grouped, and then the corresonding button. After that, you can also filter the group by clicking another attribute.
Also good to know is you can first "drag select" some elements and then use grouping based on some attribute. The filtering on attribute will start from the then active group. Other shapes that are not already in the group, will be ignored.
Last feature is specific to paragraphs. If you have a group with shapes, you can 'trade in' your current group for all the 'n-th' paragraph inside the shapes in the group. So before you have a group of elements, and after you have a group with only paragraphs. You can specify the how manieth paragraph you want (thats to say the first of each shape, or the third). If a shape does not hold that many paragraphs, it will result in nothing.
As you have seen already, you can style groups all at once. Examples include changing the color, change the border width, or radius. You can also change the font family or font size. For paragraphs you can also change the margin or padding if you use "Paragraph controls" in the menu. For paths, this means that you an change the flow , by just clicking a new flow for one of the paths.
When elements are grouped, you can resize all or reposition all by using the "Align elements" menu. You can align shapes along the same line (vertical or horizontal): click align for that (thought this only works for one column or row). Or you can set the width or height (or both) of an example element by using the resize buttons.
When element are merged, moving, rotation or scaling will also move, rotate or scale the children. Styling the parent, will have no effect on the children. Merging is meant to be more permanent. Merging only works for shapes, not for paths or paragraphs.
Merging elements is mostly usefull when you want to make more complex shapes out of two or more shapes. For instance in an org-chart, you might want to merge a shape inside another: the inside shape can then contain a picture, or contact info, while the parent shape can contain more general information. The child element does not have to be inside the parent: after the merge you can still position it and style it independently.
There are two ways to merge elements. First by positioning the shape (A) you want to merge on top of another (B) and then click "merge covered"" from the context menu of shape B. This will be the parent. Moving B will now also move A. Second way to merge elements is to use "Group by dragging". First click the parent Element. Then click "Group by dragging" in the "Merge Elements" menu. This should change your mouse cursur. Next, drag a rectangle on the map containing the shapes you want merged. You should check the feedback menu to see if it was successful.
You can unmerge shapes by selecting the child shape you want to umnerge first. Then press the "Undo merge" button in the Merge Elements Menu.
To move the parent without moving the chidlren, you will have to hold shift while dragging the parent. Now the child elements should remain fixed in there absolute position.
There are also ways to make shapes merge or group by default. For merging this means you can make a sort of secondary canvas (in other drawing programs this is mostly called a layer). Anything added to the canvas by clicking in, will be merged. There is actually a shape for this (See picture). You can still merge pre-existing elements to this layer with the controls in the Merge menu.
For grouping there is an option to make a shape 'sticky'.
If a shape is sticky, any other shape that is placed on top, will stick to the sticky shape when you reposition the sticky shape.
This is an easy way to sort shapes and hold shapes together temporarily. Only action that is passed along from the sticky shape
to the ones on top, is positioning. Rotating, resizing or styling will not have any effect.
You can make a shape sticky by pressing the toggle sticky button in the Figure Controls menu (advanced tab). The same button you can use to undo the sticky-ness.