How to add a new shape to Dia

Steffen Macke

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$Date: 2012/05/22 08:53:32 $


This document describes (step by step) how to add a custom shape to Dia.

Dia is a diagram editor. More information about dia can be found on the dia homepage,

Dia for Windows is available from

Creating a shape

Just draw your shape in Dia like you draw a diagram.


You can also use other tools such as Inkscape to draw your shape, save it in the SVG format and import it to Dia.

The following will illustrate how to add a pre-silo shape to the Civil Engineering sheet. A pre-silo shape is just a square box with a circle drawn inside. Draw your shape in Dia as shown in Figure 1, “Pre-silo shape in dia”.

Figure 1. Pre-silo shape in dia

Pre-silo shape in dia

Select FileExport... from the menu to open the diagram export dialog (Figure 2, “Export diagram dialog”).

Select Dia Shape File (*.shape) as the file type.


Advanced users can use the option By extension and specify the *.shape extension directly in the filename.

Provide a meaningful name for your shape (pre-silo.shape in this example) and remember the folder in which you are saving the file.

Figure 2. Export diagram dialog

Export diagram dialog

You will be asked for the resolution of the icon that will be used in the Dia toolbar. While you are free to select a resolution yourself, it is suggested that you use 22 pixels as the height like all the shapes that are included in the main Dia distribution.


If possible, also try to use the a width of 22 pixels for your icons.

If you are following the example, specify a width of 22 pixels and a height of 22 pixels in the dialog (Figure 3, “Shape icon resolution”).

Figure 3. Shape icon resolution

Shape icon resolution

Adding a shape to a sheet

Once you have created a shape, you can add it to a sheet.

Select FileSheets and Objects from the menu to open the Sheets and Objects dialog.


You can press F9 to open the Sheets and Objects dialog.

In the left drop-down, select Civil to see the existing Civil Engineering sheet as shown in Figure 4, “Sheets and Objects dialog”.

Figure 4. Sheets and Objects dialog

Sheets and Objects dialog

To add the new shape to the sheet, click on the New button - a new dialog will be opened (Figure 5, “Empty new shape dialog”).

Figure 5. Empty new shape dialog

Empty new shape dialog

In the new dialog, click on the Browse... browse button to select the location of the new shape file. A file selection dialog will be opened. Browse to the new shape file and select it. For the example, pre-silo.shape has been selected in Figure 6, “Select SVG Shape File”.

Figure 6. Select SVG Shape File

Select SVG Shape File

Click the OK to close the file selection dialog.

Fill in a description for the new shape. Your dialog box should look now similar to Figure 7, “Filled new shape dialog”.

Figure 7. Filled new shape dialog

Filled new shape dialog

Click on the OK button to close the dialog.

Congratulations! You've added a shape to the Civil Engineering sheet, which should look now like the one in Figure 8, “Updated Sheets and Objects dialog”.

Figure 8. Updated Sheets and Objects dialog

Updated Sheets and Objects dialog

Click on the Close button to close the Sheets and Objects dialog and start a new diagram. You can add your newly created shape to this diagram.

You can use the same approach to add new shapes to existing sheets. Note that the shape will be added to the left sheet in the Sheets and Objects Dialog.

Create a new sheet

In the Sheets and Objects Dialog click on the New button and switch the radio button to "Sheet name:" as shown in Figure 9, “Create a new sheet”.

Figure 9. Create a new sheet

Create a new sheet

Enter the new sheet name and description. Click OK.

Share your shapes

Consider sharing your shapes with others, e.g. by sending an email to , adding it to a website, etc. The best way to do this is to create a new enhancement bug in Dia's bugtracker,

Note that you have to agree to place your shapes under the terms of GPL, if you would like to have your shapes included in the Dia distribution.

B. Other languages


Businesswoman draws a diagram