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Virginia Blakelock

Tips on using Lines and Ports

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VIDEO here.


The best way to learn about lines is to experiment with them as I did here. The boxes were created with the Box icon on the Symbol Toolbar. Unlike text boxes - to which you can add ports - these boxes already include them. I made the box lines a light color to better show the Ports - which you toggle in View (or with Ctrl-M).


Toolbars and icons used:

--- Drawing toolbar: Port

--- Symbols toolbar: Link, Link Orthogonal, Arrow Link, Box, Connection Line

--- Alignment toolbar: Used to align the bottoms of the 3 ports in the last section of the video. The last item selected is the one to which the others align.


The Link Orthogonal (right angle) lines behaved very nicely in this video, but that is not always the case. They occasionally take a wildly inappropriate path from one port to another. When that happens, you can sometimes manipulate the line back into place, but it is usually better to insert some ports and create the connecting lines yourself.


Disclaimer: I'm a fan of VCF, not an expert. There may be better and more correct ways to manipulate lines. Comments and suggestions are welcome and appreciated. Videos (make them free with Jing) are especially appreciated!



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Thanks Virginia. A good (and well behaved) video of the editing of orthogonal lines.


Just a few comments about what might happen <VBG>


There are 2 types of connection ports - those on the sides of person boxes and those that are floating on the canvas.


The ports on the side of a person box will always draw the first segment of the line at right angles to the side of the box, then make a track to the other end with same rule applying if the other end is also on a box.


The floating connection ports (eg from the toolbar) are really 4 connection ports, and the way that lines join to the port depends on which of the 4 ports you actually connect to. Sometimes if it draws a line in an unexpected path, drag the line end away from the port and approach the floating port from another direction and then a different path might be chosen.


An orthogonal line from, say, out of the bottom of a box to the top of a box below it, will always draw the spanning line at the halfway height point between the starting and ending vertical values. Similarly with left - right lines in the horizontal sense.


Lines that join a horizontal and a vertical port (like the US marriage L-shaped line) will take unexpected paths if one end point box is moved to a different displacement from the start box. It will even do a loop like part of a clover-leaf highway turn if the displacement gets to be less than 5/16 inch (30 pixels) or it will pass across the box, etc. If you try to reshape an orthogonal line by dragging its corners to a new location, then save the chart as a VC2 file, then there is guarantee that on re-opening the chart that the line will remain where you placed it. The only safe way is to insert a floating connection port in the path.


(The 5/16 inch constraint makes it impossible to make neat _very compact_ charts with joining lines.)

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Thank you, Virginia and Robin, for providing a lot of insight into the peculiar behavior of some VCF connector lines. The 5/16 inch spacing rule was a particular revelation and does explain a lot of connector line misbehavior.


As a pragmatist, the important thing is to get smooth right-angled lines that you want onto your chart where you want them. It is preferred that connector lines actually connect boxes at the desired points. As you have both shown, that is not always practical.


A work around, when severe VCF connector misbehavior is encountered, is to not actually connect boxes, but partially hide connector line end points behind boxes.


To accomplish this, copy and paste an existing VCF connector line onto your canvas (you can’t draw a connector from scratch without port end points, I haven’t tried incorporating free-floating port points yet). Move the copied-line to approximately where you want it. The line will assume a sideways Z shape when moved.


Manipulate and shape the line by dragging its inflection points to your exact desired shape and positions. With the line still selected, click the “back” menu icon (two gray squares partially covering a yellow square). Those portions of the line overlapping boxes will now be hidden behind those boxes. The boxes will not be truly connected, but will appear to be so on your chart.


A caveat, if you later move the line, it will reassume a sideways Z shape. So, insert these line types last. But, it is easy to reshape it to what you had before the move. Check your chart carefully, if you must move components after the “partially hidden” line was completed.


Sometimes, you will find that a single shape-manipulated connector line can pseudo-connect several boxes with this “partially hidden” line technique.


To plagiarize Virginia, I am an avid VCF fan, not an expert.


Good luck,

Mike Talbot


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Following on from Michael's suggestion about getting other connection points on the perimeter of boxes, think about the following concept.


Add a person box (from the toolbar). May be remove all but one line of content (right click > delete line). Make the outline transparent. Stretch it horizontally as required. Then align it with and on top of the box that you want extra extra connection points on. Now draw your new connecting lines attached to this extra box. When you are finished, group this new box and the original box so that when the group is selected and moved all lines now move as if they were part of the original box.


I have used this technique to create UK marriage line that come out of the exact middle of the person's name line (as is the standard printed convention for these charts). I have previously asked that this be an improvement in such styles of charts.

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Thank you so much Virginia for another lesson in using vcf. This is much appreciated.

I am late in thanking you because, in spite of repeatedly uninstalling and reinstalling flashplayer as per the instructions, I was unable to view the latest video until today.

It wasnt till I found the other videos not working either that I decided to by-pass aol and view direct with Internet explorer.

Until I watched your video I had not understood that one could create ports and linking lines.


I cant say that I had total success in redrawing my tree with straighter lines. (corrected image is not yet there). But I adopted a novice method using the line drawing tool.


I worked from the bottom upwards. I deleted all the crooked horizontal lines.

Then using the line tool, I drew short perpendiculars up from the ports on the childrens boxes, using the shift key to keep them straight on the grid.


Then I drew one straight line across. Again I used shift to keep it straight and it linked the tops of all my perpendicular lines. If one or two were too long and appeared above the line, I moved the end of the line (port) just a little lower.


Your tutorials are a great gift to us all. I am beginning to enjoy this.

Thank you so much.


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Virginia, thank you again for a very informative video. While practicting the techniques, I zoomed the screen up to 200%. After selecting the area, it was easy to see the multiple ports of the connecting point. Then, I placed the beginning of the orthogonal line directly over the center port of the connecting point, clicked, then placed the cursor over the desired port on the target box, and clicked again.


It seemed that when the line placed correctly, it was because the cursor was placed directly over the CENTER port of the connecting point. If the line did not place correctly, then I selected the line and tried to adjust the end directly over the center port OR deleted the line and started fresh. You'll see the line immediately snap into correct position when you are successful. It became easier with a little practice. Can't say this will work every time, but I'd be interested to hear if others can duplicate the experience.


Before doing all the above -- when the lines are only slightly off due to editing, aligning the boxes may improve or even totally correct line placement.



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Linda -


Thanks for the tip! Robin had mentioned that there were 4 connecting ports on each floating connecting port (the port selected from the toolbar), and you can see them clearly at 200%. I'll experiment with your method using the center and let you know how it works for me.


I really appreciate your and the other contributions to this topic. It has helped me get my head around the subject, and I'm sure will help others.


Thanks again -



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