Visio has long been the tool of choice for documenting processes. Ever since the introduction of workflow support in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, we have been hearing from customers, “wouldn’t it be great to visualize SharePoint workflows in Visio like flowcharts? Wouldn’t it also be great to go from Visio business process diagrams to executable workflows on SharePoint?”
In Visio Premium 2010, we have partnered with the SharePoint Designer team to bring you that functionality to life. In this blog post and the next, we will introduce to you how you can author SharePoint workflows just like any flowcharts in Visio, and how such workflows can then be imported into SharePoint Designer 2010 for further editing before it can be executed in SharePoint.
What are SharePoint Workflows?
First of all, what are SharePoint Workflows? Workflow is just another way of saying process flow, something most Visio users are already familiar with. In SharePoint, there are pre-defined common activities (e.g. Send email) that can be executed together with others, and together this forms a “workflow”. Some SharePoint workflow examples include: document approval workflow, expense approval workflow, and document review feedback workflow. A user may originally create the business workflow in Visio, as shown below:
That same workflow, implemented as a SharePoint Workflow, can look like the following in SharePoint Designer 2010:
So how can you go from a business flowchart in Visio to a workflow published to SharePoint?
Starting from Visio: New SharePoint Workflow Template
In Visio Premium 2010, we are introducing a brand new drawing template just for SharePoint Workflow. When you start up Visio, you can go to New->Flowchart->Microsoft SharePoint Workflow in order to start authoring a Visio SharePoint Workflow from scratch.
This is especially handy for Business Analysts or Process Analysts who are already familiar with flowcharting in Visio, but would like to automate the workflow to be executed in SharePoint.
Upon opening the drawing, you will notice that key SharePoint activities are available in three separate stencils: SharePoint Workflow Actions, SharePoint Workflow Conditions, and SharePoint Workflow Terminators. Every SharePoint activity directly maps to those available in SharePoint Designer 2010.
To start authoring a SharePoint workflow, simply drop shapes to the drawing canvas, just like creating any basic flowchart in Visio. Note you can modify the original shape text and replace it with text more relevant to your business process:
Exporting Workflow to SharePoint Designer 2010
When you are done with authoring your workflow, you can export it in a file that can be imported by SharePoint Designer 2010. By exporting the workflow to SharePoint Designer 2010, SharePoint specialists or IT professionals alike can further parameterize the workflows by binding workflow activity fields with SharePoint lookups and then publish as executable workflows.
To export, simply go to the Process tab, and click Export:
Visio will automatically validate the workflow first to make sure the workflow is valid (for more information about our validation feature, see this earlier blog post). In the event that your workflow has issues, an Issues window will pop up, and the shape with the issue will be highlighted.
After you fix all issues, the workflow will be exported as a Visio Workflow Interchange (*.vwi) file, which can be imported into SharePoint Designer 2010.
Upcoming Post: Part 2 of SharePoint Workflow Authoring in Visio Premium 2010
In the next blog post, we will discuss in more detail about the round-tripping capabilities between SharePoint Designer 2010 and Visio 2010. We will also discuss the ability to publish Visio workflow visualization through SharePoint Designer 2010. So stay tuned! And don’t forget to send us feedback through the Send a Smile feedback tool or comment on this post!
Previously we showed how Visio Services lets you view diagrams in the browser. By default Visio Web Drawings open in their own web page for a full screen viewing experience. Visio Services also allows Visio Web Drawings to be embedded in other SharePoint pages.
Using the Visio Web Access web part you can embed either static or data-driven Visio Web Drawings in SharePoint pages adding visual flair and insights to portal pages and dashboards. By centralizing relevant information onto one page, viewers save time and can, at a glance, understand the state of their business.
Take a look below at a Supply Chain Dashboard featuring a Visio Web Access web part in the top left – in this case the data-driven visual quickly helps ground viewers in the current state of a supply chain, and its proximity to a relevant Excel chart, documents and links makes decision making and implementation easy.
Embedding the Visio Web Access Web part in a SharePoint page
To embed a Web Drawing in a page, you must be a site administrator for that page with either "Contribute", "Approve", "Manage Hierarchy", "Design" or "Full Control" permissions. Given you are an administrator, adding a Web Drawing to a page is as easy as editing the page and placing a Visio Web Access web part on it. To do so, follow the steps below:
At this point, an empty Visio Web Access web part should appear on your page. It looks like this:
To assign an existing Web Drawing to display in this Web Part follow the “Click here to open the tool pane” link, this will surface the UI see below and will switch the page into Edit mode. This is called the web part’s the tool pane.
Type in the URL to the Web Drawing you want to display in the text box, or better yet, use the browser button to navigate the SharePoint folder structure to find the drawing in question. Once the URL is in the input field, hit either the “Apply” or “Ok” buttons at the bottom of the configuration panel and voilà – your Web Drawing is now embedded in the page.
Note that you can only embed Web Drawings that are hosted within the same SharePoint farm as the site hosting the web part. Also note that Visio Services checks the permissions of page viewers before it renders a Web Drawing -- if the viewer doesn’t have at least “View” permissions, Visio Services will not render the Web Drawing.
To complete the dashboard shown at the beginning of this article, repeat the process by adding other SharePoint and Office web parts.
Further Configuring the Visio Web Access Web Part
If you look below the “Web Drawing URL” property in the tool pane (see the tool pane image above), you’ll see a host of other properties you can set to customize the Visio Web Access web part. They include:
What the customization does
Override the Web Drawing's default initial view using the web part's current page, pan and zoom
By default, when the web part displays a Web Drawing, it opens the page of the drawing that was open when the drawing was last saved, keeping the same zoom level and pan coordinates.
You can override this to display, by checking this box and manipulating the diagram directly in the web part; Visio Services will persist the current pan, zoom and page settings when you click “Ok” or “Apply”.
Force raster rendering
If the person viewing the Web Drawing has Silverlight 3.0 or later installed, the Web Drawing will be rendered using Silverlight.Otherwise, the Web Drawing is rendered as an image file in PNG format.
If you would prefer that the Web Part never use Silverlight, even if it is installed on the viewer’s computer, you can select this option.
Automatic Refresh Interval
If the Web Drawing is connected to an external data source, you can have the Web Part check the data source periodically to get the latest data.
Type the number of minutes you would like for the interval between data refresh attempts. Leave this at 0 (zero) if you prefer that users refresh the data manually by clicking the Refresh button on the Visio Web Access web part . Values must be integers and greater or equal to 1.
Note that while a page designer may set the automatic refresh rate to occur frequently, a high refresh rate may tax the server. The Visio Services service administration may throttle this centrally by using the “Minimum Cache Age” service setting to improve performance.
Expose the following shape data items to web part connections
If you’ve linked the Visio Web Access web part to another web part via the “Send Shape Data To” web part connection, the data fields that you specify in this box are sent to the other web part on each shape click. Make sure to separate data field names you want to send with semi-colons.
If you’re not familiar with web part connections, don’t worry… we’ll have a detailed post about them in the future.
Various options in the “Toolbar and User Interface” section
The options available in this section of the tool pane are tools that are available to the Web Drawing viewer to navigate the Web Drawing.
You can remove tools from the UI that you don’t want users to see by clearing the check box beside those items. However, users will still be able to perform some of the actions using the mouse or keyboard shortcuts. To disable functionality completely, use the options in the Web Drawing Interactivity section.
Note that un-checking the last option “Show default background” will make the web part background, which is by default gray, transparent.
Various options in the “Web Drawing Interactivity” section
Select the check boxes beside the options that you want to disable for users of the Web Part.
As with any SharePoint web part, the Visio Web Access web part inherits and will honor the settings found in the “Appearance”, “Layout” and “Advanced” sections of the web part configuration panel.
Try it out! Try out various web part configurations to understand which configuration best suits your needs and tell us about it either by commenting on the blog or via Send a Smile.
With the past few posts we’ve shown you how you can share your diagrams with everyone using Visio Services. In this post, we’ll talk about how IT Administrators can provision and configure Visio Services in SharePoint 2010. Visio Services is included in SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise Client Access License (ECAL). This post is intended to show you how to quickly get started with provisioning Visio Services, and to give you an idea of what things you should consider for configuration. The instructions in this post assume that you have already installed SharePoint 2010.
Quick Start with the Farm Configuration Wizard SharePoint 2010 includes a Farm Configuration Wizard that makes it easy to quickly provision services, assign a service account, create a web application, and create a site collection. The easiest way to start using Visio Services is to use the Farm Configuration Wizard from Central Administration.
When you first install SharePoint 2010, you will be prompted to run this wizard. You can also easily run it again later from central administration:
Once you’ve launched the wizard, choose to have the wizard walk you through configuration. As one of the first steps of the wizard, you need to assign a service account, and then choose which services you want to provision. Make sure that “Visio Graphics Service” is checked. Visio Services is implemented in SharePoint 2010 as a single shared service called the Visio Graphics Service.
Select all the other services you would like to provision and click Next. (If you want to connect Visio diagrams to Excel workbooks, make sure “Excel Services” is checked too!)
(Note: image above does not show the full list of services available in the wizard)
The Farm Configuration Wizard will provision the checked services, and then prompt you to create a site collection. You can choose to create a new site collection, or do this step manually later. For a quick configuration, choose the “Team Site” template and create a new site collection:
(Notice the Visio Process Repository template! For more info see our earlier post: Using a Visio Process Repository)
After the wizard is finished, you can access your site with Visio Services enabled. To publish a web diagram to your site, see the following posts:
Configuration Options The Farm Configuration Wizard gets you up and running quickly. If you want to work with all the configuration options, there are two ways you can do so:
Central Administration provides a web-based user interface for configuring all the service settings for Visio Services. If you prefer to use a scripting environment, you can use PowerShell to accomplish all the same tasks.
This TechNet article contains information about performing common configuration actions for Visio Services through both PowerShell and Central Administration. You can use also use the Get-Help cmdlet in PowerShell to see more information about and examples of specific cmdlets.
External Data Connections and Authentication Recall that Visio Services allows you to share data-driven visualizations that are connected to live data. (For more info, see section “Refreshing data-driven diagrams” of this post). Supported data sources include:
When Visio Services renders drawings that are connected to Excel Services and SharePoint lists, permissions and authentication are managed by SharePoint, and Visio Services uses the identity of the person viewing the drawing. This way, if a user tries to view a Visio diagram that is connected to an Excel workbook that they do not have rights to view, they will not be able view the Visio diagram.
When connecting to data sources that are external to SharePoint, such as SQL or ODBC data sources, additional configuration may be required to enable Visio Services to connect to them. Visio Services can authenticate with external data sources in any of the following ways:
· Integrated Windows Authentication
· Secure Store Service (requires additional configuration)
· Unattended Service Account (requires additional configuration)
For more information about these authentication methods and how to plan for them, see this TechNet article.
Trusted Data Providers Visio Services maintains a list of trusted data providers, so that you can manage what data sources the service is allowed to connect to. If a user creates a web drawing that is connected to a data source that is not trusted, Visio Services will not attempt to connect to the data source.
By default, trusted data providers include Excel Services, SharePoint lists, SQL databases, and some other ODBC data sources. You can easily add to or remove from this list using Central Administration and PowerShell.
Visio Services also allows you to create your own custom data providers to connect to additional data sources. These custom data providers need to be added to the trusted data providers list before the service will connect to them. We’ll be talking more about custom data providers in future blog posts.
Visio Services Settings Visio Services has some global settings that allow you to optimize performance, caching, and security. Specifically, you can control:
For more information about Visio Services settings, see this TechNet article. We will also be talking more about how to optimize settings in a future blog post.
This post was a summary of the various installation and configuration options you have for Visio Services. As you try out Visio Services, please let us know what you think, either by commenting on the blog or via Send a Smile.
You may recall that simplifying Process Management is one of the core areas we focused on in Visio 2010. Many Visio users build large process diagrams and a common tactic is to segment them into manageable, reusable pieces. Typically, processes are broken down into parts on different pages within the same document, or in some cases into separate documents. These subprocesses may be organized around ownership of the process, the people and groups who are related to them, or simply around the size of the diagram. Visio 2010 adds explicit support to create new subprocesses and reference existing ones.
When the diagram authors are building their diagrams, we found that they may take different approaches depending on the circumstances of what they are designing or documenting. Some build out from a higher level and know where subprocesses need to be referenced or created, adding subprocess shapes that act as placeholders for the subprocess that will be filled in later. Others build out full detail and then go back to move parts of the diagram into subprocesses. To reference each of these subprocesses, a hyperlink is typically added to a shape that refers to the entire subprocess. Visio 2010 builds on these common characteristics and provides ways to automate much of the manual work around creating subprocesses.
The Create New command is designed to help you build out a brand new subprocess represented by the selected shape. This will insert a new blank page and add the page name and a hyperlink pointing to the new page to the selected shape.
The Link to Existing command allows you to create a hyperlink on the selected shape that points either to a page in the current document or to an external document, such as one stored in a Visio Process Repository.
The Create from Selection command is used when you want to move a number of shapes from your current page onto a new subprocess page. Visio adds a new page, moves the selected shapes to the new page and adds a subprocess shape to the current page. The new shape represents the new subprocess and contains the name of the new page as well as a hyperlink pointing to it.
Hyperlinks are used to jump to and from the various subprocesses, so we looked toward our Ease of Use goals and made a few changes to how hyperlinks, in general, are managed. We improved hyperlink navigation in Visio 2010 by allowing you to Ctrl+Click on a shape to follow a hyperlink, which is common elsewhere in Office. The hyperlink still exists in the context (right-click) menu, and we added an entry point to the hyperlink dialog to make it easier to manage the links on your shape. Some of you are probably thinking, “Hey, Ctrl+Click is already used to select multiple shapes!” Not to worry – if you click to select a shape and then use Ctrl+Click to add more shapes to your selection, that still works.
You can add your own hyperlinks to shapes using the Hyperlink command on the Insert menu, which should be familiar from the other Office programs.
You may notice that the Hyperlink button is disabled if no shapes are selected. When rethinking the interface for Visio 2010, we found that many users accidentally added a hyperlink to the page rather than a shape because they didn’t have a shape selected. We also found that page hyperlinks are used mainly in custom templates or solutions and infrequently enough otherwise that we felt it was better to help users avoid accidents in the common case. Page hyperlinks can still be added via the API or PageSheet. And what about document hyperlinks? Developers can add those through the API or DocumentSheet and end users can do it in the Backstage View. Click the File tab, and go to the right side of the Info tab, where document properties are listed.
As usual, feel free to drop us a line about this using Send a Smile, or here on the blog.
In our last post, we talked about Visio Services--a new feature of SharePoint 2010 that extends the reach of Visio diagrams considerably. Visio Services lets you:
In this post, we explain how to create a Visio Web Drawing (*.VDW) file using Visio Professional 2010 or Visio Premium 2010. The Visio Web Drawing (*.VDW) is a new Visio file type that allows diagrams to be rendered in full fidelity in the browser using Visio Services on SharePoint 2010.
When you save a file in Visio 2010, you will see the option in the Save As dialog to save your diagram as a Web Drawing.
You can also easily create a Visio Web Drawing using the Save to SharePoint billboard on the Share tab of the Backstage View. This billboard allows you to quickly select a SharePoint location and the Web Drawing file type for saving your diagram.
Clicking on Save to SharePoint at the bottom of the billboard opens the Save As dialog so you can confirm or refine your selection.
To use the default publishing options, press Save. You now have a diagram ready for viewing in the browser!
By default, Visio automatically opens a browser so you can see your diagram as others will see it in the browser. You can turn off this behavior from the Save As dialog.
You can also click on Options at the bottom of the Save As dialog to launch the Publish Settings dialog. Using this dialog, you can select the pages that display and, for data connected diagrams, the data sources that refresh in the browser.
Visio Services allows you to refresh data-driven diagrams in the browser to present the most up-to-date view of the underlying data. The data sources selected in the Publish Settings dialog will be the data sources that refresh. Visio Services supports refreshing the following data sources:
In addition to giving you the option to customize your publish options, the Publish Settings dialog also indicates publishing issues. For example, in the image above, the data source titled “Sales data” has a warning icon beside it. This sales data is stored in a local Excel Workbook: this data source is not supported by Visio Services because it is stored on a local machine. If you want the data from an Excel Workbook to refresh with Visio Services, you should save the workbook to a SharePoint site, link your diagram to the workbook on SharePoint and then save your diagram to the SharePoint site.
On save, Microsoft Visio 2010 generates a Web Drawing file which is in fact a package containing:
Once your Visio Web Drawing file is saved to SharePoint, you can continue to work with it in Visio. Visio Professional 2010 and Visio Premium 2010 both fully support Visio Web Drawing files. This means that you can edit Visio Web Drawing files using the complete set of features provided by Visio.
As you try out Visio Services, please let us know what you think, either by commenting on the blog or via Send a Smile.
A Beta release of the Microsoft Visio 2010 SDK is now available for download! Due to high demand for an early version of the SDK, we have released a Beta version of the SDK with a partial set of supported features. Additional features and functionality will be available in the RTM version of the Visio SDK.
There are two versions available depending on whether you are running the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Visio. It is important to install the right version of the SDK to ensure that all the SDK tools function correctly.
The Microsoft Visio 2010 SDK contains the following items:
We explain these items in more detail below. Features listed with an asterisk (*) are not supported in the Beta version of the Visio SDK.
Once you install the Visio SDK, you will see SDK Tools available on the Developer tab in Visio.
The Event Monitor tool watches for events that are raised in Visio and it can help you debug your solution when handling events.
The Persistent Events tool provides a user interface that lets you add and modify persisted events.
The Print ShapeSheet tool provides a user interface that lets you print the contents of a ShapeSheet.
The Visio SDK also includes the Microsoft Visio Solution Publishing Tool*, which is an executable that you can run from outside Visio. This tool works with Windows Installer to add Visio-specific entries, such as Visio add-ons (.vsl and .exe files), stencils (.vss and .vsx files), templates (.vst and .vtx files), and Help files (.chm files), to the PublishComponent table of the .msi file that you create to install your solution on your users' computers.
The Visio SDK also includes a number of sample applications written in either Microsoft Visual Basic .NET, Microsoft Visual C#, or Microsoft Visual C++. You can experiment with these samples as you develop your own custom solutions for Microsoft Visio 2010. By default, the sample applications target the 32-bit version of Visio 2010.
After installing the Visio SDK, you will see a new category of template on the New tab of the Backstage View.
The samples are not functional, however, until after they are built in Visual Studio and then installed using the generated setup.exe or .msi file. Once a sample application is installed, the application can be launched by opening the corresponding template in the SDK folder shown above. The only exception is the Office Plan Sample, which uses the Microsoft Visio 2010 Drawing Control inside a Microsoft Windows Form and is launched from outside Visio. The available sample applications are shown below.
The Flowchart Chart Sample (available in C#, VB.NET and C++*):
The TreeView Sample* (available in VB.NET):
The Office Plan Sample (available in C#):
The Visio SDK installs wizards for creating Visio add-on projects in Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 and Microsoft Visual Studio 2008. These Wizards let you set up new Visio add-on projects in Microsoft Visual Basic .NET, Microsoft Visual C#, and Microsoft Visual C++, and create corresponding setup programs to install add-ons. Once you have used the wizard to create a Visio project, you can explore the project code and settings to learn more about how Visio add-ons should work.
Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 also includes wizards to generate Visio 2010 VSTO add-in projects. The Visio SDK is not required to use these wizards.
The Visio SDK includes documentation like the Visio Automation Reference, the Visio ShapeSheet Reference, the Visio Save As Web Reference, the Visio Viewer Reference and the Visio XML Reference. In addition, it includes the Code Sample Library—a library of interesting code samples. Note that the documentation included with the Beta SDK is Visio 2007 documentation.
We also include a number of support files in the SDK. We provide type libraries for three application programming interfaces (APIs) that Microsoft Visio 2010 exposes: the Visio type library, the Save as Web type library, and the Microsoft Office Visio Drawing Control type library. In addition, we provide support files to help C++ developers automate Visio. The Beta versions of these support files are in this release of the SDK.
Along with the content described above, we are working on some new features for the RTM version of the SDK. We are currently planning to release the following additions at RTM:
As you explore the SDK and use the tools provided, we encourage you to provide feedback about your experience. You can use the Office 2010 Send a Smile functionality to send us feedback about the SDK, or you can comment on the blog.
This morning Microsoft announced that the Beta versions of Microsoft Office 2010, SharePoint Server 2010, Project 2010 and Microsoft Visio 2010 are now available! You can download Visio 2010 Beta here. This is a public Beta, so anyone can install and use it.
Visio 2010 Beta has numerous refinements based on customer feedback from the Technical Preview. The most visible changes can be found in the Backstage View. This area has been redesigned to feel more integrated with the rest of the Ribbon, as is explained in the Office 2010 Engineering blog. Also there are several visual updates. In the screenshot below, you can see the new look of the Backstage View found under the File tab.
Saving files to SharePoint is also different in Visio 2010 Beta. Now saving to a SharePoint location, saving to a Visio Process Repository and publishing to Visio Services have been combined into a single place. You simply choose a location and then select whether to save out a standard Visio Drawing or a Visio Web Drawing.
In the other ribbon tabs, you will find visual updates to Themes and a more functional set of Callouts. For improved ease of use, we’ve refined the behaviors of several diagramming features including adjusting the sensitivity of AutoConnect.
You will also find functional and visual updates to Containers, Cross-functional Flowchart shapes, BPMN shapes, Data Graphics Legends and Wireframe shapes. If you created diagrams with these shapes in the Technical Preview, please be aware that your existing diagrams will have the Technical Preview version of the shapes while new diagrams created in the Beta will have the new versions of these shapes. Also for Cross-functional Flowchart diagrams, significant shape and functionality changes mean that Technical Preview diagrams will open in the Beta but will not be editable.
More information about the features of Visio 2010 can be found on this blog. End user help is also available on the Microsoft Office Beta site.
Coinciding with the release of Visio 2010 Beta, we are releasing the Beta version of Visio Services as part of Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Beta. You can download SharePoint 2010 Beta from MSDN here. In addition we are releasing a Beta version of the Visio Software Development Kit, a download for solution developers. We will provide more information about the Visio SDK Beta in an upcoming post.
We encourage you to download the Beta and give us your feedback. We’re rapidly approaching the end of the Visio 2010 development cycle, and your feedback is essential to ensure a high quality final product. You can comment on the posts on the blog or use the Send a Smile tool to let us know what you think.
Recently Mark Nelson from the Visio team sat down with Harry Miller (off-screen) to discuss some of the improvements in Visio 2010 related to process diagrams. The video includes explanations of our Process Management investments as well as demos for Cross-functional Flowchart, BPMN diagram and Validation features.
The conversation is the latest in a video series titled “Visio: Drawing on Experience” posted on Microsoft TechNet. Other videos featuring some of our Visio MVPs can be found here: http://edge.technet.com/Tags/Visio/
The Visio Product Team has been working for several years to design, code, test and deliver Visio 2010. It takes lots of coordination and collaboration to develop a complex software application. While there are many roles involved in the engineering process, it is the Program Managers, Developers and Testers that work together the most closely from beginning to end. Program Managers gather customer input and design the features for the release. Developers are the coders responsible for implementation of the software. Testers ensure both high quality and that the capabilities really address the customer scenarios we have targeted.
Microsoft has created a series of videos describing Office 2010 (the full wave of products being released) and some of the roles people play in the engineering process. Here is a video about the engineering behind Visio 2010 from the perspective of the Tester.