December, 2010

Visio Insights
The official blog of the Microsoft Visio product team

December, 2010

  • Visio Insights

    Our favorite Visio Tips & Tricks

    • 5 Comments

    For this blog post, we put together a list of some of our favorite Visio tips & tricks. Learn these to save time and improve the look of your diagrams.

    Quickly create evenly spaced shapes

    Let’s say you’d like to make a grid of shapes like the following:

    clip_image002

    To create this, first make a copy of the individual shape (e.g. using Control+Drag):

    clip_image004

    Then, press Control+Y to repeat that operation:

    clip_image006

    In a similar manner, you can then copy this row multiple times to create a grid.

    Keep shapes aligned

    To keep multiple shapes aligned on a vertical or horizontal line (which can be challenging particularly when they are far apart), drag a guide from the horizontal or vertical ruler onto the drawing page:

    clip_image007

    You can then also glue shapes to this guide. More on this feature here.

    Select an overlapped shape

    If a shape is covered by other shapes, as is the case with the yellow square below, it can be hard to find a clickable region to select it:

    clip_image009

    An easy way to select this shape is to click on the blue shape 3 times, pausing in between so as not to double-click. Visio will cycle through selecting each shape that overlaps at your mouse’s location.

    Reset a connector

    Let’s say you manually changed the path of a connector, but don’t like the result:

    clip_image010

    You can reset its path by right-clicking the connector and clicking “Reset Connector”:

    clip_image011

    Add and position text on connectors

    If you want to label a connector, you can add and move text on it the same way that you add and move text on other shapes:

    1. Select the connector.
    2. Type your text.
    3. To move your text, move the control handle on the connector (clip_image012). This is useful when you want to fix an overlap:
    Before After
    image image

    Create connections that reposition dynamically

    Let’s say you have two connected shapes:

    clip_image018

    Sometimes when you reposition those shapes, you may end up with an undesirable jagged connector like this:

    clip_image020

    This happens because the connector stays fixed to its original connection points on the shapes. To prevent this from happening, Visio has a feature called dynamic glue that lets connectors automatically reroute to the nearest pair of connection points. When creating your connector, drag the connector endpoint not to an individual connection point on the shape, but rather toward the middle of the shape until a red box appears around the entire shape, like this:

    clip_image022

    The result is a more direct connector when you reposition the connected shapes.

    clip_image024

    Drag AutoConnect arrows (new in Visio 2010)

    Many people know that you can connect neighboring shapes quickly by clicking on the blue AutoConnect arrows around a shape:

    clip_image025

    Visio 2010 adds a feature where you can also drag a new connector from an AutoConnect arrow to a shape of your choosing:

    clip_image026clip_image027

    In the sequence above, after hovering over the AutoConnect arrow to the right of shape #1, a connector is dragged and connected to the target shape #3. You can read more about this feature in this blog post.

    Collapse the shapes window (new in Visio 2010)

    If you need more screen space for your diagram, you can collapse the Shapes Window by toggling the small arrow on the top right of the window, which still lets you drag shapes out:

    clip_image028

    You can read more about this feature in this blog post.

    Work faster with keyboard shortcuts

    Some of our favorite keyboard shortcuts are described here.

    Those are some of our favorite Visio tips & tricks. If you have one you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.

  • Visio Insights

    Flowcharts in under a minute

    • 1 Comments

    Visio has several features that are designed to make it easy to create a diagram quickly. Here are three examples of ways to help you create a simple flowchart in under a minute.

    Example 1: Capture a flow quickly

    Let’s assume you have a pretty clear idea of what the steps are that you want to diagram and the order that you want them in, so all you need to do is capture the flow quickly. Once you drop your first shape you can use the AutoConnect feature to fill in the rest of the diagram quickly (for more details on AutoConnect, see the blog post here.). When you hover over the selected shape, four arrows will appear. Hovering over the triangle that points where you want the shape to appear will display a mini-toolbar to let you pick any of the first four Quick Shapes from your current stencil. One click on the shape you want will add the shape, a connector and uniform space between the shapes.

     clip_image002clip_image004

    The ability to add connected shapes with a single mouse click works really well when your goal is to get shapes onto the page quickly and then add text and formatting. Once you’ve got the shapes in place, you can double-click on shapes and connectors to add the labels and, as a final step, click on the Design tab and pick a theme to make it look really professional. In just over twenty mouse clicks and some typing, you’ve got a finished flowchart in well under a minute.

    clip_image006

    Example 2: Get the details, then organize

    But suppose you know what steps you want to diagram, but you still need to figure out how to lay them out and how they all fit together. How can you make that process quicker? You can start by adding a shape for each step you know you need and labeling it as you go – don’t worry about where you place them for now, just concentrate on getting all of the items on the page. Once you think you have shapes for all of the major steps you need on the page, you can start dragging them around and organizing them into the real flow. Don’t worry about connectors for now, just get the shapes where you want them. Alignment guides make it easy to ensure that spacing is even; as you drag shapes near each other the guides will appear to help you out.

    clip_image008

    Once you’ve got shapes where you want them, those little AutoConnect triangles can help you out again. Hover over the triangle which points to the next shape just a little longer than it takes for the shapes toolbar to appear and a connector will appear. Click and it will draw connectors for your shapes automatically.

    Since you’re building your diagram as you go, it’s easy to forget a step. Don’t worry, that’s not a problem. If you’ve already connected shapes and realize that a step belongs between them, just drag the new shape over the connector between the two shapes where you want the new one. You’ll see the cursor connection points highlight, and when you drop the new shape it will be inserted between the two shapes and connected up. By the way, if you delete a connected shape, Visio will automatically reconnect the remaining shapes, too. Note that the connectors are using dynamic glue by default. You can learn more about dynamic glue here.

    clip_image010

    Just like the first example, you can add some theming to make your diagram look great and you’re done.

    Example 3: Using a variety of shapes

    As a final example, suppose you want to make a flowchart for a presentation and you want to use combine flowchart shapes with some non-flowchart shapes to make it look fancier. Because you want to use a variety of shapes, you want to be able to grab shapes from a number of different stencils to build up a good looking diagram. The AutoConnect triangles can help you do this quickly, too. This time, instead of hovering over the triangle and selecting a shape from the dialog that pops up, you can drag any shape from a stencil in the shapes pane, move it over the shape you want it to connect to and, when the triangle highlights, drop it to add a connected shape.

    clip_image012

    This allows you to quickly create a diagram that uses many different shapes from multiple stencils.

    That’s it!

    If you take some time to experiment with AutoConnect and its various features, you’ll find that just a minute is long enough to generate a simple flowchart that looks good and communicates well. Even better, you’ll find ways to shave some valuable time off of those bigger projects, as well.

    As always, we value your feedback. Please let us know if you have any feedback on Visio 2010, Visio Services, or suggestions for blog posts you would like to see.

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