Excel — Taming of the Shapes with PyXLL May 2022

'Transformer Movie'

First Image Modified -- (90 deg turns are now 95 deg turns) -- Picassoesque
First Image Modified
(90 deg turns are now 95 deg turns)

Click to see variations in the ‘Picasso-Path’

Les Femmes d'Alger (Version O)
“Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O)”
Pablo Picasso, 1955
How's It Made

The Back Story

Using PyXLL, I have programmed automatic shapes in Excel. That is, I built a function that draws an arbitrary shape in a user spreadsheet: the shape is defined by a range of coordinates; as the coordinates are edited, a new shape can be drawn.

In the video, I provide a dropdown to allow easy access to the function/coordinates for each of the five letters in the banner. After drawing the shapes, I use Excel’s Format Painter to change the style of my letter shapes. Note that the shapes are drawn in a specific location to make a banner.

The shapes are just standard Excel shapes, they can be easily copied, translated, rotated, flipped, scaled, modified in any way.


Shapes are simply closed paths. An open path traverses the user vertices. A closed path traverses the user vertices and returns to the first vertex.

Use Case

The two examples are somewhat frivolous; my more serious use case is drawing diagrams for engineering work.


  • The shape is drawn accurately to scale.
  • Because the function is in PyXLL, it can be used in any standard (xlsx) spreadsheet
  • That is, it does not require a macro spreadsheet (xlsm).
  • The shape coordinates are in a standard Excel range; the range can be on any worksheet
  • The shape/path is drawn by a function; the function is called from an Excel cell formula
  • There are two boolean parameters:
    first, closed (default) or open shape
    second, arrow on the first line segment (default) or not
    tcmd function signature
  • Therefore, 4 possible combinations:
    Title Page
    Note closeup of the arrow

Side Note

Using PyXLL, I also programmed a shape building tool based on Turtle commands.  I built a function called tcmd (turtle command) that allows the following data commands:

  • x 7 → set xnew to 7
  • y 8.5 → set ynew to 8.5
  • xy 4 6 → set xynew to [4, 6]
  • lt 15 → turn left 15 degrees
  • rt 45 → turn right 45 degrees
  • hd 45 → set heading to 45 degrees (0 = +x; 90 = +y)
  • fd 3 → use current heading; move forward 3

For many applications, I find it (an order of magnitude) easier to specify coordinates using ‘path’ commands as used in Turtle software. For instance to draw a pentagon with side of length 5:

  • fd 5
  • rt 72
  • repeat 5 times

Even if no drawing is needed, the Turtle tcmd approach easily calculates coordinates for other Excel uses.

Here is a screenshot of tcmd calculating the pentagon coordinates

TCMD formulas
Using TCMD to draw AISC beams (formulas)
The dimensions are from a PyXLL database function
TCMD shapes
Using TCMD to draw AISC beams (shapes)
TCMD formula details
My database formulas in named ranges
TCMD formula details
Formula details (accessing named ranges)

Shear and Moment Diagram

The above shows the shear and moment diagram for a propped cantilever. The leancrew link has a full explanation of the mechanics involved.


A couple examples of Python use in my structural engineering

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