I have a shape class with each shape having a coordinate for where its located. I have overloaded the - operator to calculate distance but it doesnt return the correct value. Any clues?

//Main file with figure pointer to the derived class functions

#include <iostream>
#include "shape.h"
#include "rectangle.h"
#include "triangle.h"
#include "circle.h"
#include "square.h"

using namespace std;

void SortShape(Shape* arr[], int n);

int main()
{
	Shape *shapes[5];
	Triangle tri(Blue, 50, 50, 5.0, 10.0);
	Circle circ1(Green, 30, 30, 5);
	Circle circ2(Red, 50, 50, 10);
	Rectangle rect(Violet, 15, 15, 5, 10);
	Square sq(Orange, 0, 0, 7);

	shapes[0] = &tri;
	shapes[1] = &circ1;
	shapes[2] = &circ2;
	shapes[3] = &rect;
	shapes[4] = &sq;

	for(int i = 0; i < 5; ++i)
	{
		shapes[i]->drawObject();
		cout << "Area of shape[" << i << "]: " << shapes[i]->getArea() << endl;
		shapes[i]->getAttr();
		cout << "Distance between Shape[" << i << "]  and Shape[" << 1 << "]: " << shapes[i] - shapes[1] << endl;
	}

	SortShape(shapes, 5);

	cout << endl;
	cout << "Sorted Shape Array by Area:" << endl;
	for(int i = 0; i < 5; ++i)
	{
		shapes[i]->ResetLocation(2, 2);
		shapes[i]->drawObject();
		cout << "Area of shape[" << i << "]: " << shapes[i]->getArea() << endl;
		shapes[i]->getAttr();
	}

	return 0;
}

void SortShape(Shape* arr[], int n) 
{
	bool swapped = true;
	int j = 0;
    Shape *tmp;
    while (swapped)
	{
		swapped = false;
        j++;
        for (int i = 0; i < n - j; i++) 
		{
			if (arr[i]->getArea() > arr[i + 1]->getArea())
			{
				tmp = arr[i];
                arr[i] = arr[i + 1];
                arr[i + 1] = tmp;
                swapped = true;
            }
        }
     }
}
//shape.h
//shape base class declaration header file
//virtual commented out for first run, uncommented on second run

#ifndef SHAPE_H
#define SHAPE_H

#include <iostream>
#include <cmath>

using namespace std;

enum Color{Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet};

void getColor(Color col);

class Shape
{
public:
	Shape():color(Yellow), x(0), y(0){};/*{cout << "Figure Default Constructor" << endl;}*/
	Shape(Color col, int X, int Y):color(col), x(X), y(Y){};
	Shape(const Shape& rhs):color(rhs.color), x(rhs.x), y(rhs.y){};
	virtual ~Shape(){};
	virtual void ResetLocation(int deltaX, int deltaY)
	{
		x = deltaX;
		y = deltaY;
	}
	virtual void getAttr()
	{
		cout << "X: " << x << " Y: " << y << " Color: ";
		getColor(color);
	}
	virtual void ResetColor(Color col){color = col;}
	virtual double getArea() = 0;
	virtual void drawObject(){};
	float operator-(const Shape& rhs)
	{
		float v = ((x - rhs.x)*(x - rhs.x)) + ((y - rhs.y)*(y - rhs.y));
		float z = sqrt(v);
		return z;
	}

protected:
	Color color;
	int x;
	int y;
};

void getColor(Color col)
{
	switch(col)
	{
	case 0:
		cout << "Red" << endl;
		break;
	case 1:
		cout << "Orange" << endl;
		break;
	case 2:
		cout << "Yellow" << endl;
		break;
	case 3:
		cout << "Green" << endl;
		break;
	case 4:
		cout << "Blue" << endl;
		break;
	case 5:
		cout << "Indigo" << endl;
		break;
	case 6:
		cout << "Violet" << endl;
		break;
	}
}
#endif

Your expression "shapes - shapes[1]" takes the difference between the two pointers, not the two objects. You need to dereference the pointers before you apply the difference operator. As so:

*(shapes[i]) - *(shapes[1])

Also, I would suggest you make your operator - a friend function instead of a member function, as so:

friend float operator-(const Shape& lhs, const Shape& rhs)

This is preferred for all operators which are not required to be member functions.

thanks! Do you know of a good explanation of pointers and referencing? I understand the basic definition of it but still don't get bigger picture in using them.

This FAQ site is likely to fill all the holes in your understanding, if you take the time to read through it. The page on references will help with the reference/pointer business.