When you edit graphics, you do a lot of clicking and dragging to resize them. You may have realized that this interactive approach has a few limitations. If you’ve ever ended up horrendously distorting an image in your image editor, or an object in your drawing program, it helps to understand the concept of aspect ratio. The aspect ratio is the relationship between the height and width of an object. When you get overzealous in your mousing, it’s easy to change the aspect ratio and distort the image.
In many graphics programs, you drag a corner handle to resize an image or object. In most programs, there’s also a way to keep the aspect ratio fixed. Sometimes it’s called “constrain” or “constrain proportions.” Generally, if you hold down another key such as Shift or Ctrl while you click and drag a corner handle, you resize the image proportionally, so the aspect ratio stays the same as you enlarge or shrink the image.
Office programs all have a drawing component so you can try out this technique. In Word, show the Drawing toolbar by choosing View|Toolsbars and selecting Drawing. Click the little Rectangle button and click and drag to draw a rectangle. Now click a corner handle and drag it to make your rectangle smaller. You can see that it’s easy to distort the rectangle. Press Ctrl+Z to Undo your resizing experiment. Now this time, click and drag a corner handle, but hold down the Shift key at the same time. Notice the difference? You can’t distort the rectangle because its proportions have been constrained.
In some programs, you can check and see if you’ve accidentally distorted an image by viewing a dialog box that shows you the percentages that the height and width have been scaled. In Word, right click your rectangle, and choose Format|Autoshape. Under Scale, the percentages should both be the same.