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We’re excited to announce that Scott Helmer’s Microsoft Visio 2010 Step by Step (ISBN 9780735648876; 472 pages) is now available for purchase!  

You can find the book’s introduction in this previous post.

In today’s post, please enjoy an excerpt from Chapter 10, “Visualizing Your Data.” After you have data in your Visio diagram, you need techniques to make that data visible. With a Visio data graphic, you can do just that by displaying text or a graphic on a Visio shape based on the data inside the shape. Read more to learn how to use Visio 2010 data graphics to present shape data in a variety of attractive and useful ways.

Enhancing Diagrams with Data-Driven Graphics

A person using a Visio diagram you create can learn a lot about the subject of the diagram based on your choice of shapes, their position on the page, how they are connected, and many other visual cues. However, if your diagram is connected to an external data source, it can convey so much more information.

In this section, you will see four examples of diagrams that use data graphics to tell even more of the story behind the picture.

Network Equipment Diagram

The first example continues the network and rack diagram theme from Chapter 9, “Drawing the Real World: Network and Data Center Diagrams.” The story behind this diagram is as follows:

  • You are a data center manager and have created rack diagrams for each rack in your computer room.
  • You’ve populated your drawing with data by using the techniques you learned in Chapter 6 to connect your diagram to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or a database.
  • The data for each rack-mounted server includes the data shown in the following graphic.
  • The spreadsheet or database contains some static data about your equipment, but it also contains live status information that is updated periodically.
  • You have configured your Visio diagram to automatically read the data source and refresh the drawing at a preset time interval. The result is that you can use data graphics to turn your Visio drawing into a dashboard for viewing network and equipment status. In the following graphic, several data graphics have been applied to the equipment rack to highlight the following:

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  • Server name and type (left)
  • Server status (center)
  • CPU and memory (right)
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The following graphic shows the same equipment rack, at the same moment in time, but it uses different data graphics to highlight different information. In this version of the rack diagram, you see the following:

  • Server name and IP address (left)
  • Operating system name (right)

In addition, the status of the server is made even more evident by applying a color to the entire server shape rather than using an icon as in the previous example.

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Part of the appeal of data graphics is represented by these two examples—you can apply different graphics at different times depending on what you need to know.

Tip If you would like to work with a very similar diagram to the preceding example, click the File tab, and then click New. In the Other Ways To Get Started section, click Sample Diagrams, and then double-click the IT Asset Management thumbnail.

Process Improvement Workflow

In this example, data graphics have been applied to process steps in a swimlane diagram in order to show several process quality measurements. In the upper right of the diagram, you also see a data graphic legend. (You will learn more about legends in “Creating Data Graphic Legends” later in this chapter.)

The metrics in this diagram:

  • Show the duration of each step (look for a thermometer bar across the bottom of each task shape).
  • Display a warning if the step is taking either 5-9 days or 10 or more days (lower-left corner of each step).
  • Indicate whether each step is improving or being investigated (shape color).

The symbolism used for each of these metrics is explained in the legend that appears in the upper-right corner of the page.

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Tip If you would like to work with a very similar diagram to the preceding example, click the File tab, and then click New. In the Other Ways To Get Started section, click Sample Diagrams, and then double-click the Process Improvement thumbnail.

Casino Operation

The third example illustrates the types of near real–time information that a casino manager might view in Visio with the goal of monitoring critical operations. In all likelihood your job doesn’t involve managing a casino, but you can probably think of important operations that you do need to monitor.

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You see text callouts that highlight each bettor’s recent history, including current dollar standing, average bet, and number of blackjacks. There is also a red or green arrow showing how each player is trending.

Tip If you would like to work with a very similar diagram to the preceding example, open the Casino Floor drawing in the Chapter10 practice file folder. Be sure to notice that the diagram has multiple pages showing different parts of the casino floor.

Risk Management

In the final example, you are viewing part of a process map that was created using a Visio add-in called TaskMap (www.taskmap.com). The following graphic shows three tasks in the middle of a sales proposal process.

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In this diagram, the data graphics depict two aspects of risk management:

● Yellow triangles identify risks; the number in the triangle relates to an entry in a master list of risks. Green diamonds show the corresponding control that the organization has put in place to mitigate the risk. (An organization might maintain the master list of risks and controls in something as simple as a spreadsheet, or they might employ a formal risk management system.)

In a task like the one in the center, the organization has identified a risk but not a

control, so the risk is more significant.

● The red arrows identify tasks that exceed a defined time threshold—30 minutes in the case of this example.

There is a third data graphic in this example: the task on the right displays a red diamond to indicate that it is a decision point in the process.

Tip If you would like to look at the full page from which the excerpt above was taken, open the Sales Proposal Process TaskMap PDF in the Chapter10 practice file folder. In addition, a web-published version of this TaskMap that includes hyperlinks to Word and Excel documents, is available at www.taskmap.com/Scott/Visio2010SBS/RiskManagement.htm.

The examples in this section highlight the importance of the data behind a diagram and suggest a variety of creative ways you can add value to your data-connected diagrams.

Using Existing Data Graphics

Now that you’ve seen examples showing how varied and useful data graphics can be, it’s time to work with them.

In this exercise, you will work with the data graphics that are built into a sample diagram that is included with Visio 2010. First, you will learn how to turn data graphics off, then you will learn how to apply them to selected shapes.

MSVisio2010SBS_Ch10_300-306_img_21SET UP Start Visio, or if it’s already running, click the File tab and then click New. In the Other Ways To Get Started section, click Sample Diagrams, and then double-click the IT Asset Management thumbnail. When the drawing opens, close the External Data window and save the drawing as Network with Data Graphics.

1. Press Ctrl+A to select all shapes on the page.

Tip You must select one or more shapes before opening the data graphics gallery

because you can only apply or remove data graphics on preselected shapes.

MSVisio2010SBS_Ch10_300-306_img_222. On the Data tab, in the Display Data group, click the Data Graphics button. The Data Graphics gallery opens and displays available data graphics along with several menu entries.

 

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Tip The selected Apply After Linking Data To Shapes check box at the bottom of the data graphics gallery causes the currently active data graphic to be applied each time you link data from the External Data window to one or more shapes on the drawing page. If you do not want a data graphic to be applied automatically, clear the check box to turn this option off. (See Chapter 6 for more information about data linking.)

  1. In the Data Graphics gallery, click the thumbnail below No Data Graphic to turn off data graphics on all shapes. The drawing page now shows the unadorned network diagram.
  2. Select the six servers to the left of the longer network segment. (Do not include the network segment in your selection.)
  3. On the Data tab, in the Display Data group, click the Data Graphics button to open the gallery, and then click the Topology 1 thumbnail to apply that data graphic to the six servers.
  4. Select the pair of web servers located between the two network segments.
  5. On the Data tab, in the Display Data group, click the Data Graphics button to open the gallery, and then click the Topology 2 thumbnail to apply that data graphic to the two servers.
  6. Zoom in to view several servers in the center of the diagram.

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The servers on the left display a subset of the shapes’ data using one style of presentation, whereas the servers on the right show different data in an alternate format.

  • For the servers on the left, most of the data is displayed as underlined text to the left of the server icon, but the server name is displayed with a green background under the server.
  • For the servers on the right, the name is displayed to the left of the PC shape with a blue background and the administrator name is displayed as plain text. In contrast with the servers on the left, there is also a border around the data graphic on this server.

You control all of these formatting options when you edit or create a data graphic as you will do in the exercises that follow.

Tip You can only apply one data graphic to any one shape at any one time. However, as the figure above shows, you can apply different data graphics to different shapes on the same page.

CLEAN UP Save your changes to the Network with Data Graphics drawing but leave it open if you are continuing with the next exercise.

The data graphics used in this section all display text callouts in various formats. In upcoming exercises, you will see several types of data graphic icons.

Important Data graphics are applied to a single page at a time. If you want to apply the same data graphic to multiple pages, you must either apply it to each page separately, or write a Visio macro. You will learn about macros in the Appendix.

Tip Visio data graphics are automatically assigned to a special layer in a diagram. (See “Understanding Layers” in Chapter 3, “Adding Sophistication to Your Drawing.”) If you want to hide data graphics without removing them, you can change the view properties for the data graphics layer.