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User Interface Extensibility in Visio 2010

User Interface Extensibility in Visio 2010

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When Office 2007 was introduced, a new UI paradigm was adopted, and so was a new UI extensibility model, the RibbonX (Ribbon extensibility) model. RibbonX is a XML markup that allows developers to customize the Office UI. It enables 3rd party developers and solution providers to build custom tabs and groups on top of the Ribbon, and target scenarios unique to and optimized for their customers. As Visio 2010 adopts the Fluent UI, Visio developers now also have the opportunity to utilize this platform to build and customize Fluent UI to offer users a more discoverable and instructive UI experience.

Existing Visio Solutions

There are two existing mechanisms for UI extensibility in Visio: CommandBar and UIObject. Both would still work in Visio 2010: Visio 2010 automatically creates a new tab called “Add-Ins” with groups for these existing menu commands and toolbar commands and requires no extra work from developers. Here, as an example, we see a top-level menu item called Process Analysis.

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In the Ribbon, this menu becomes a drop-down control that opens to show the menu commands. This automatically-generated tab and its controls require zero-effort for your solutions to migrate to the next release of Visio.

Although the migration to ribbon can be zero-effort, this really is an ideal opportunity for solution developers to re-think their UI from a Ribbon perspective. The Ribbon provides contextually-relevant commands, and presents them in a way that is more results-oriented. Your UI can integrate more seamlessly with the rest of Visio, and look more like Office. Here is an example of how Visio 2010 reconfigured the Gantt Chart UI, allowing users to more easily discover commands and learn about them through controls of varying sizes, big icons and super tooltips:

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Note, if you are using UIObject in your solution, we especially recommend upgrading to the ribbon. UIObject is a legacy Visio-specific model for defining UI and it may become deprecated in the future.

RibbonX for Different Types of Add-in Technologies

Depending on what add-in technology you were using, Visio provides a number of ways to import Fluent UI controls through RibbonX and improve users’ experience. Here is how you achieve that for each type of add-in technology.

If you’re developing a Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO) add-in, you will have access to a visual Ribbon designer that provides a graphical construction environment, similar to other Visual Studio designers. Alternatively, you can specify your UI using RibbonX. Your add-in merely provides an override called CreateRibbonExtensibilityObject that returns an instance of your ribbon object. One-line, very simple to do.

If you’re writing a shared COM add-in, in your Connect class (the class that implements IDTExtensibility), define an override called GetCustomUI that returns your RibbonX XML as a string. GetCustomUI is the single interface through which the Fluent UI communicates with a COM add-in. Two-to-three lines, still very simple to do.

VSLs, or legacy Visio add-ons, may also use RibbonX. You add the RibbonX XML to your add-on’s resources. Your add-on defines the GetCustomUI callback and notifies the Visio Application that it has RibbonX XML by calling RegisterRibbonX.

For VBA, you simply provide the contents of a RibbonX XML as a string directly to Visio through the CustomUI property.

RibbonX and Visio XML file format

The Visio XML file format (*.vdx) may also contain RibbonX. The RibbonX markup is stored inside a new element in the Visio XML schema, called, unsurprisingly, RibbonX. The customUI element is the top-level wrapper element in the RibbonX schema.

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Since you can define custom UI directly in the Visio XML file, you have all the benefits of being able to read and write the file without Visio being present. For example, this enables an entire class of server-side scenarios where the server can not only manipulate diagram content, but can also make changes to custom UI in the document.

Developing with Visual Studio 2010

The recommended Visual Studio version to develop for Visio 2010 is Visual Studio 2010, which is currently available as Release Candidate. Visual Studio 2010 offers a friendly design environment with the Ribbon Designer, where developers can easily drag and drop ribbon groups and controls onto a graphical design canvas. Also, a Visio 2010 VSTO template is available for you to easily create a Visio add-in project. Multi-project deployment packages, post-deployment actions, and removing PIA dependencies are all benefits from using VS 2010. For more information on what’s new in VS 2010, see this MSDN article.

Conclusion

With Visio 2010 and the UI extensibility model available, you now have the opportunity to utilize our more intuitive attractive drawing surface to broaden your user base. We highly recommend moving existing solutions to the Fluent UI. It is worth the work to get rid of the old menu bars, and help your users realize the full capability of your solution by making it easier to use. For new and old solution developers alike, Visual Studio 2010 allows a great way to easily develop Fluent UI for Visio 2010 as well.

To get more details about UI extensibility for Office 2010 applications, here are some helpful links:

Microsoft Office 2010 Engineering blog

UI Extensibility in Office 2010- Including details on customizing Office Menu and Backstage View

MSDN documentation

Office Development in Visual Studio 2010

How to setup the Ribbon Visual Designer

Ribbon best practices

Do try implementing your own Visio ribbon and send us feedback through the Send a Smile feedback tool or comment on this post!

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  • Good  info !!!

    Could you add a subject on using the ribbon in a Visio drawing control application.

    Have you recommended link to using Ribbon in a winform or Wpf app ?

    Thanks

  • Talked about in great detail, thank you

  • The ribbon has been a detriment to revenue streams because the approach does not provide a migration path. 73% of the customers have declined proposals for the upgarade to Office 2007 and the adoption of software assurance has dropped nearly 90%. Please add a menu bar, to Visio, as an option and phase it out over time. Without that it will severly impact the fiscal streams of the channel partners.

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