Family issues kept me from CEDIA this year but I heard that one of the most anticipated features of SIX was the use of real pictures (RealPic) to represent actual electronic components when using Visio 10. Previous versions of Visio were always able to work with pictures but the images were always rendered in a way that blew the file size up making the drawings unresponsive after a certain number of shapes were added. However after testing this functionality with Visio 10 I found that if you insert the images in a certain way they will not add any artificial overhead to a drawing.

RealPic D-Tools/Visio shapes on the left. Default D-Tools/Visio shapes on the right

In SIX these new shapes will be created automatically as part of the MVP download process but I thought that some of my fellow Visio geeks would enjoy creating their own RealPic shapes in the meantime. This is a pretty straight forward process but it assumes that you know something about the Visio ShapeSheet. Basically it involves finding the appropriate front panel image, then embedding the image in a special Visio shape and then saving the new shape in a stencil.

Find the appropriate image

  1. Decide which product you want represented as a RealPic shape and find the appropriate image. In this case I am going to use a Denon AVR-5308CI(A). You can use google image search, the manufacturer site or a camera. What you are looking for is a jpg of the front panel taken straight on, a perspective view will not work. You are looking for an image around 25 kb and about 600 X 250 px. This one took about 3 seconds to find.
  2. Once you find the appropriate image you want to grab it with some sort of screen capture utility, I use SnagIt. When you grab the image make sure to just grab the front and not any of the top of the image or image background. Either crop the image when you grab it or crop in a photo editor. All you want is the front face.

Image before cropping

Image after cropping

  1. Save the image on your local desktop for use in the next step.

Populate the D-Tools/Visio master shape with the appropriate data, embed image

  1. Open the RealPic Master shapes stencil (download here) in SI5 and Visio and save with your other D-Tools Visio stencils. On XP they are here: C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\D-Tools\SI 5\Visualizations\Stencils and Vista/Win7 they are here: C:\ProgramData\D-Tools\Si5\Visualizations\Stencils. Ask your network admin if the stencils are on a server.
  2. I have pre-populated all of the relevant categories in the RealPic stencil. In this case drag the Receivers shape on the drawing page and select the Denon AVR-5308CI(A) receiver. (Note: product data must already be in D-Tools SI). This will embed all of the relevant properties in the shape that are unique to that specific product. Keep track of this shape because it does not have anything in it and can easily get lost on the drawing page.
  3. Right click on the shape and choose Group>>Open Receivers. This will open a new window
  4. From the main menu choose Insert>>Picture and find the picture you saved from above. This will drop the image into the shape but as you can see it is not sized or positioned correctly.
  5. Open the ShapeSheet on the picture that you just inserted and in the Shape Transform section set the Width*1, the Height*1, PinX*.5, PinY*.5. What this does is resize the image to the correct container size and puts the image directly in the middle of the container.
  6. Close the ShapeSheet. Close the Edit window. You should have a D-Tools/Visio shape with a Denon faceplate in front of you.

Save Stencil

  1. Drag Image back on to the RealPic Master shapes stencil it will name itself something like Master.29.
  2. Save stencil
  3. Double click the text Master.29 and replace with the model number of the unit.
  4. Drag back on to the page, it should default to the specific model you just created. Click add to project
  5. Right click the shape and choose D-Tools>>Shape>>Change Shape. Find the RealPic Master Shapes stencil and the specific model from the list. Check Save as default visualization for this view and click OK. Or double click on the shape and use the Visualizations tab to assign this specific shape to this specific product for future use


That’s it, at this point you have a custom shape that will automatically be used whenever anyone in your organization needs it. If you have any questions please use the comment function or hit me up on the D-Tools Facebook page.


  1. Elevation only
  2. Works best with rectangular components that fit on shelves or in a rack. Non rectangular components require additional processing
  3. Use the enclosed Rack Feet Strip shape to hide equipment feet if needed
  4. Don’t go nuts, we have a fully automated process for SIX