Visio Insights
The official blog of the Microsoft Visio product team

Wireframe Shapes in Visio 2010

Wireframe Shapes in Visio 2010

  • Comments 43

Visio has long been regarded by interaction designers and information architects as an essential tool in their work. Many software wireframes (aka software mockups) are built using Visio, and they can range from mobile software, interactive web sites, to enterprise application software.

In the past, Visio included a set of Windows XP stencils for such work. For Visio 2010, we decided to refresh those stencils by providing a brand new set of Wireframe shapes that are generic and not specific to the operating system. The intent is to offer the UX community with medium-fidelity UI shapes and icons that can be used to create wireframes for general software design for a wide variety of platforms (e.g. mobile, internet, windows). As an example, see the following mockup of Microsoft Internet Explorer and the homepage of using the new Wireframe shapes (mockup is on the left, and the actual software is on the right):


This new set of shapes not only allows easier creation of wireframes, but offer many customization options to meet specific design needs. Let’s further examine what Wireframe shapes are included in Visio 2010 and what functionalities are added to make building wireframes easier.

UI Dialogs, Controls, Toolbars and Icons

First, to create a Wireframe Diagram, go to New > Software and Database > Wireframe Diagram:


Similar to previous Windows XP UI shapes, Visio 2010 offer UI shapes for building dialogs, controls, and toolbars. What’s new however is the addition of common UI icons for Windows, web, and multimedia applications. Here is the full set of Wireframe shapes that is included:


Resizable and Configurable

Customizing wireframe UI components are easier than ever. Most Wireframe shapes are resizable and offer options to customize the visuals. For example, a button is a common control and has configurable state options through the right-mouse action menu:


Working with Themes and Formatting

Unlike previous Windows XP UI shapes, the new Wireframe shapes also allow users to customize the look of the UI elements through Themes or formatting. With Themes, users can easily customize color and effects schemes that can be applied to all UI components easily. Moreover, individual controls can be formatted to indicate highlight or indicate different UI states. As an example, the diagram below shows what the wireframes looks as default (no Themes applied), and with Themes applied:


Controls as Containers and Lists

With the introduction of Containers (see earlier blog post for more details), Wireframe shapes such as Dialog form, Application form, and Panel are built as Containers to “contain” any control that is placed inside it. By being a Container, when you move a Dialog form, all controls contained inside it will also move with it.

Also, Wireframe controls such as Tree Control, Drop-down Menus, List Box are shapes to utilize the new list feature, similar to Cross-functional Flowcharts and Data Graphic Legends. Lists allow users to easily add new element to be contained in a List shape through a blue arrow, as demonstrated below in a Drop-down Menu control:


As a result, users no longer need to add shapes through multiple drag-drop or copy-paste operations. Instead, the blue arrow allows for a super quick way to add a lot of UI components while properly aligning and arranging the items at the same time.

Feedback Welcome

We are excited to bring users a brand new set of Wireframe shapes that offer greater versatility and broader application. Please use the Send a Smile feedback tool or comment on this post if you have feedback on the Wireframe shapes.

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  • Are there plans to include "duplicate this page" functionality or paste-in-place in Visio 2010?  That would make life much happier for this UX designer!

  • This looks great - can't wait to get it myself.

    <April> There are macros available online that allow you to do these two things you list, and much more.

  • Thanks, erik.  I've tried the macros, but they introduce some other odd behavior I'd rather avoid.  It would be much more preferable to have this functionality built into Visio itself.  (Pretty please, Visio team!)

  • I second April's motion. The Paste in Place feature of InDesign is simple and extremely useful. The lack of something similar in Visio is a major drawback.

    Also on my wish list:

    --completely redo layers, again more like InDesign

    --completely redo the way pages are selected, inserted, copied, etc.

  • Web Modular Design's...  Do you know? I work with Visio for many years ago and recently, I've read this book. I would like to apply the same methodology of work with Visio but I can't because of the features of their stencils. I'd like to edit a stencil as a unique file, all components at the same time, not one to one, or save one component as one file.

    I believe that this features would be a great advance for Visio and a great feature for the designers.

    From Madrid, cordial greetings

  • I rarely find a feature essential enough to comment, rather than find a work around, but I third the notion that duplicate page is essential.

    I want to show an iteration of an existing design, buy copying the first page exactly, without having to worry about locked layers / positioning... hence duplicate.

    Other than that am a big fan of Visio. Been using is since pre MS days, and we're almost back to v2 features, which is nice (okay, slight dig, but I do generally like the product a lot).

  • This blog post talks about the improvements to Visio 2010 around Copy and Paste:

    Included in Visio 2010 is the "paste to same spot" capability that is essential for creating storyboards. I'm curious how far that goes to addressing requests for duplicate page.

    Mark Nelson

    Visio Team

  • Cheers for that reply Mark. That will do the job, although I may still try to do a macro that simply adds a page with the same page settings as the current page then performs the copy / paste.

    The other changes on that page a nice though - minor seeming UI changes that will speed work up more than they have any right to :)

  • While the "paste in place" concept is indeed an welcome addition, it doesn't really address the issue.

    It seems a critical burp to what should be a "standard" workflow, especially to those of us doing interaction design.  Powerpoint has "Duplicate Slide" under the insert, Publisher has the same.  Excel has "Move/Copy". Even Access has "Save As..." with tables.

    As a coder, I understand that often what seems to the average user to be a simple change is anything but.  That being said, the proposed workaround seems like a kludge.  The kind of thing that gives Apple the windows of opportunity they are so adept at exploiting.

    For the average user, duplicating a page seems like something everyone needs to do at some point.  Initially, I wasted time looking for this feature because it didn't occur to me that it wouldn't be a simple operation.  So, while the workaround is not much extra effort, the concept IS.

    I think Visio is still king of the hill for anyone who does interaction design (although there are other products on the rise.)  For me, it won't be surpassed for a long time if only because I wear multiple hats--doing storyboard, interaction design and database design.  I switched to the Mac when they made the jump to Intel, but use the Parallels product almost exclusively for Visio.

    Anyway.  I digress.  Please, please, please add a "Duplicate Page" option to Visio.

  • This feature is actually super-irritating.  Is the viso team aware that the single most common type of application in the entire world is "fill in a grid from a database"?  And yet, there isn't a "grid" item!

    How can I wireframe my app when the single most important item is missing?

  • Ditto "Duplicate this Page".  I am working in Visio today and just searched the application and help for this feature.  I couldn't believe that with all the other improvements to Visio 2010 this one is still not there!

    Also, a grid control for wireframes would be very useful.

    Many of the improvements are swell.  I really like the italicized font for background pages.  One change I don't like is moving the "Show Shape Sheet" command to the Developer tab.  I didn't even know there WAS a Developer tab until I had to search for the shape sheet.

  • Hi,

    How do I access the previous Windows XP shapes in Visio 2010?  They  enabled an interface to be quickly constructed without needing to actually worry about theming something and gave something that looked to most users like a real application and not some random wireframe.  Almost felt like uninstalling Visio 2010 and going back to 2007.

  • Duplicating pages is one of the most tedious things I do as a UX designer. I also tried the Macro. I had a tough time getting it to work properly. Copy/Paste, Drag/Copy or however you want to do it - duplicating pages is a MUST HAVE feature.

    I have Visio 2007 and will not upgrade again until page duplication is introduced.

  • I would love to have that "browser window" shape!

  • I agree with others - not having the standard "grid" for those of us that design for Microsoft ERP applications is really frustrating.  I wish I could go back to 2007 as well or at least be allowed to access the old template instead of being forced into the wireframe which does not allow me to develop UI as accurately as I could with XP UI template.

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