Path and Curve Tools

Draw straight and curved paths in Artboard. Bezier paths and freehand paths contain curve handles at points along the path. Drawing with the Freehand Path tool is much like drawing with a pen, whereas Bezier paths give you absolute control.

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Moving, Grouping, and Converting Objects in Ortelius

Before you can move, modify or perform other operations on shapes, you must select them. A selected shape has handles that let you move and manipulate the shape. Use Artboard’s single direct select tool to select and move objects, and a variety of handy keyboard shortcuts and commands to modify them.

To Move, Resize and Rotate Objects:

  • REPOSITION – Move objects by selecting with the Select [s] tool and dragging, or use the Geometry panel to adjust the object’s x.y location.
  • RESIZE (SCALE) – Shapes by dragging any of the object handles with the Select [s] tool, or use the Geometry panel to adjust size.
  • ROTATE – Drag an object’s purple rotation handle with the Select [s] key to rotate around their center point, or use the Geometry panel to set the rotation angle.
  • REPOSITION AN OBJECT’S CENTER POINT – Drag the center blue crosshair target with the Select [s] tool to move the point of object rotation.

To Change the Stack Order of Objects – Moving Forward and Back:


Within each layer, objects have a stack order as they are drawn. Newer objects are drawn on top of existing objects. This is independent of layers, which control the display order of all objects among individual layers.

Do one of the following:

  • Use the Graphic > Bring To Front, Bring Forward, Send To Back, Send Backward commands from the main menu to change the stack order of objects.
  • Right-click on a graphic for quick access to the contextual menu stack order commands.
  • These functions are also available as toolbar icons via the Customize toolbar menu.

HINT: Occasionally, an object with a larger bounding box may be stacked “in front” of another object. Because of the overlap, the top object may either hide the lower object or make it difficult to select because the top object bounding box is in the way. Select the top object and use the Tab-key to cycle through a series of overlapping objects to select them.

To Group Objects:


Do one of the following:

  • Choose Graphic > Group from the main menu to group two or more objects.
  • Use the CMND-G keyboard shortcut.
  • Click the Group icon in the toolbar.

Note that when objects are grouped, they are moved to the top of the stack order. If a style is applied to a group, all objects within the group will receive the new style. Text within a group can be double-clicked for convenient editing without ungrouping.

HINT: When you place clip art onto your drawing canvas the clip art are composed of regular drawing objects, though they may need ungrouped to edit.

To Ungroup Objects:

Do one of the following:

  • Choose Graphic > Ungroup from the main menu.
  • Use the SHIFT-CMND-G keyboard shortcut.
  • Click the Ungroup icon in the toolbar.

To Convert Objects From Shape Mode to Edit Path Mode:


Do one of the following:

  • Double-click a path or shape to quickly switch between shape mode and edit path mode. For example, a path object can be converted to a shape object and vice-versa.
  • Choose Graphic > Convert To Path (or Shape) from the main menu.
  • Right-click and choose the ‘Convert To…’ command from the object’s contextual menu.

HINT: Special shapes, such as stars and round rectangles, will be converted into paths then back to normal shapes through this process (they cannot be converted back into special shapes).

HINT: Text objects are conveniently converted to Path, Shape, or Shape Group using the ‘convert to’ commands. Text-box text can also be converted to Text On Path. Converting text to a Shape Group enables several glyphs to be converted into a group of individual shapes. Ungroup the shape group to render each glyph as an individual shape which can be independently styled and manipulated.

Text Labeling Linear Features

Ortelius’ connectable tracks are labeled with the help of the Linear Select tool. The label is placed in either the default style and positioned above the track, or its style and position will be based on the Label Adornment style that has been applied. Once placed, the label is fully editable. Labels follow the path of their associated linear features. If the path is moved, the label moves with it.

To Add Labels to Tracks:

  1. Choose the Linear Select [n] tool to highlight the connectable track where your label will be placed.
  2. Do one of the following:
  • Choose Edit > Labels & Text > New Label from the main menu.
  • Right-click the selected area and choose ‘New Label’ from the contextual menu. A highlighted label “bubble” shows where the label has been placed.
  • Double-click the label bubble to edit the label text as desired.

HINT: Labels support multi-line text. Press OPTION-Return or SHIFT-Return on the keyboard to manually insert a line break.

HINT: Linear Select and associated labels apply only to connectable tracks. To convert a path to a connectable track, select the path(s) and choose Graphic > Convert To > Connectable Track from the main menu. Line shapefiles features are imported as paths. If labels are desired, converting paths to tracks is a necessary step after importing. Some features, such as roads, it may be desirable to join multiple line segments.

About ‘Just-Right Positioning’ of Linear Feature Labels:


Linear feature labels have handles for just-right positioning similar to the concept of handles with Bezier curves.

  • To control placement, the left handle (yellow diamond) slides the label along the track.
  • The right handle (orange diamond) controls the spread, or overall width, of the label along the line.
  • The handle on top (blue diamond) controls the vertical alignment of the label with respect to the line, moving the label up or down for perfect positioning.

To Flip a Label:

  1. Choose the Select [s] tool.
  2. Do one of the following:
  • Select the label and choose Edit > Labels & Text > Flip Label from the main menu.
  • Right-click on the label and choose ‘Flip Label’ to change the orientation of the label relative to the line.

To Smooth a Label on a Complex Track:


As with other curved text, it is good practice to keep linear text labels as simple as possible. Usually this means selecting a relatively straight section of the line to place your label.

Do one of the following:

  • To place smoothly curved labels on lines with complex, sinuous routes, right-click the label and choose ‘Follow Trend Of Path’ to enable basic label simplification.
  • Right-click the label and choose ‘Detach From Feature’. The result is a Text On Path object. Adjust its curve handles as desired.

To Copy a Label to Multiple Tracks:

  1. Add a label to a track.
  2. Position and edit style and content as desired.
  3. Do one of the following:

Right-click the label and choose ‘Copy Label’ from the contextual menu.
Choose Edit > Labels & Text > Copy Label from the main menu.

4. Select other tracks.
5. Choose Edit > Labels & Text > Paste Label from the main menu. The label, including its content, style, and positioning, will be copied to the other features.

HINT: Multiple labels can be placed along a line. Each one can have its own style and placement, as appropriate to your map.