As we get ready for next month’s launch of Visio® 2010, we’re ready to announce that Visio 2010 will be available in three different editions. This post explains the differences between the three editions (and also gives you a sneak peak of what our boxes will look like!)
Visio 2007 users will note the introduction of the new edition, Visio Premium 2010. Visio Premium 2010 is our highest offering. If you’re using the Visio 2010 Technical Preview or the Visio 2010 Beta right now, you’re using the “Premium” edition.
Many of the improvements and new features we’ve added to Visio 2010 are available across all editions, but Professional and Premium contain some additional functionality:
The main functionality differences between the three editions are summarized in the table below:
And too many more to list!
As usual, please comment on the blog if you have any questions about the differences between Visio 2010 editions.
Edited on 9/14/2010: Removed "Publish to Process Repository" from the "Advanced Process Management Features" row. This feature is available in all editions.
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 Microsoft.com 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.
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.
Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) is a standard maintained by the Object Management Group which gives businesses the ability to understand their business processes using a graphical notation and to communicate these processes in a uniform manner. The basic BPMN shapes are similar to traditional flowcharting shapes, which makes modeling in BPMN easy for new users. For advanced users, the BPMN standard contains a large number of detailed shapes—more specialized versions of the basic shapes—which are useful when modeling complex interactions or precise behaviors within a process.
Companies have told us that they would like to enforce a standardized notation, like BPMN, within their organization to ensure that processes are graphically expressed in a consistent manner. Based on this feedback, we introduced the following support for BPMN in Visio 2010.
You can find the BPMN Diagram template under the Flowchart category on the New tab of the Backstage View.
The BPMN Diagram template contains five stencils of BPMN shapes: the BPMN Basic Shapes, BPMN Events, BPMN Activities, BPMN Gateways and BPMN Connecting Objects stencils.
For new BPMN users, all the basic BPMN shapes are located on the BPMN Basic Shapes stencil. For more advanced users, additional BPMN shapes can be derived from the basic shapes or taken from the other BPMN stencils.
You can derive a more specialized shape from a basic shape by right-clicking on the shape. The menu below shows how you would change a Task to a Standard Loop Task or a Multi-Instance Loop Task. Each of these shapes have different graphical symbols to distinguish them and different BPMN properties, or attributes, associated with them.
Notice the BPMN Attributes… option located at the bottom of the above menu. This option launches the Shape Data window which displays the shape’s BPMN attributes, properties specified by the BPMN standard. This gives advanced BPMN users to option to edit the complete set of BPMN attributes associated with a shape.
The BPMN Diagram template and shapes take advantage of many of the new Visio 2010 features. You will notice that the ease of use and flowcharting improvements in Visio 2010 make it easy to build visually-appealing BPMN diagrams. Below, we focus on some of the other Visio 2010 features that you will encounter when using the BPMN template and shapes.
The BPMN standard contains a large number of rules about the visual, structural and semantic properties of a diagram: these rules must be satisfied in order to comply with the standard. The standard documentation is long and it is hard for new users to understand its intricacies. We use Diagram Validation to help users ensure that their BPMN diagrams are visually conformant with the standard.
The BPMN Diagram template includes validation rules based on the BPMN 1.2 standard. This means that you can use the Check Diagram button on the Process tab to check for visual issues with your BPMN diagram. After you validate your diagram, any issues are listed in an Issues window.
To easily find shapes with issues, you can click on an issue and the corresponding shape will be selected. Once you fix the issues, you can check the diagram again to confirm that there are no longer any problems. This makes it much easier to create a BPMN-compliant diagram.
Expanded Sub-Process and Group shapes in the BPMN template are Containers. This means you can take advantage of all the built-in container logic. For example, when you move an Expanded Sub-Process, all the member shapes move automatically. In addition, when you select an Expanded Sub-Process or Group, you see the containers contextual tab, which gives you the ability to further customize these shapes.
The Text Annotation shape in the BPMN template is a Callout. A callout points at or references another shape, which we call the “target” of the callout. When a target shape is moved, copied or deleted, any callouts attached to the shape will be moved, copied or deleted too. Thus callouts stay with their target shapes, though you can reposition the callout to any offset from its target.
The Pool /Lane shape in the BPMN template allows you to add a Pool or Lane shape to your diagram. This shape is based on our Cross-functional Flowchart (CFF) shape, which means that Pools and Lanes are easy to manipulate using CFF functionality. For example, to add more lanes, you can mouse along the edge of the cross-functional flowchart to where you want to add the lane and a blue arrow will appear. Click on the blue arrow and voila, you have a new lane!
The BPMN template combines a large number of new Visio 2010 features to make building BPMN-compliant diagrams easier. Both new and advanced BPMN users will benefit from the depth of functionality available while using this template.
We are interested in your feedback on the new BPMN functionality. You can use the Send a Smile feedback tool or comment on the blog to let us know what you think.
If you’re an IT administrator managing multiple copies of Visio and Office 2010, this post explains some changes and improvements we’ve made to the deployment experience for Visio 2010. Visio 2010 deployment is a little different than Office 2010 deployment, and this article will illustrate all those differences.
There are two supported volume activation methods for Visio and Office 2010:
For more information about those activation methods, see this article on TechNet. There’s also a great blog post on the Office Engineering blog that talks about the differences between these methods.
Visio 2010 comes in one single-image SKU. This means that the edition of Visio installed is determined by the key that is used to install it. There are three different Visio 2010 editions: Standard, Professional, and Premium. (For more info on the three editions, see this previous post). Before you deploy Visio 2010 to your users, you need to decide which edition(s) of Visio you want to deploy.
The Visio 2010 Single Image SKU is prepopulated with a Visio Premium 2010 KMS client key. This means that if you deploy the Visio 2010 Single Image SKU without making any changes, you will be deploying Visio Premium 2010. If you want to deploy different editions, you need to take additional steps.
Visio 2010’s new single image architecture was designed to make it easier for organizations to manage multiple editions of Visio 2010. Some of the benefits of single image include:
If you’re planning on deploying a different edition of Visio (other than Premium), or deploying multiple editions of Visio, you will need to install the correct product key based on the edition you want. This section is targeted towards those who are using KMS as the activation method, though you can use the same tools to install the correct MAK key. Here are some different options to help you manage this easily:
By default, the KMS client key in the Visio 2010 Single Image SKU is the Visio Premium 2010 key. You may use the “Enter another product key” under the “Licensing and user interface” section in the Office Customization Tool (OCT) to enter the correct KMS client key:
Visio Premium 2010
Visio Professional 2010
Visio Standard 2010
If you don’t enter the key in the OCT, then you can also enter the key in the config.xml file.
If you’ve already deployed and installed Visio Premium 2010 and want to change editions, it’s easy to do so, and you don’t need to reinstall Visio. Using the Volume Activation Management Tool, you can change the key for every installation of Visio client installed.
After you change the product key for an installation of Visio 2010, you will need to restart Visio twice for the changes to take effect. From then on Visio will update and run as the edition specified by the new key.
You can download and get more information about VAMT 2.0 here.
There’s also a great video here that shows how to use VAMT.
The Office Software Protection Platform script (ospp.vbs script) enables you to configure volume editions of Office 2010 client products. With this script, you can change which keys are used for specific Visio 2010 installations. This is the command you can use to change the key:
cscript ospp.vbs /inpkey:<Visio key>
For more information on how to use this script, see this article on TechNet.
The above section talked about how you can change the edition of Visio before installing the single image SKU, and even after you’ve already installed Visio 2010.
If you’re planning on deploying multiple editions of Visio 2010 in your organization, we recommend you do one of the following:
While we recognize that Visio 2010’s single image SKU requires a little bit of planning before deployment, we hope the benefits of it will save you time in the long run.
As always, let us know if you have any feedback on Visio 2010, Visio Services, or suggestions for blog posts you would like to see.
One of the things we all do a lot is reuse shapes or groups of shapes in several places and often the best way to do that is to Copy the existing shape and Paste it elsewhere. Even though you use it daily, there may be some behavior you’re not familiar with, especially with the Copy/Paste improvements in Visio 2010. So, here is a brief summary...
Copy and Paste is available in more than one way. Depending on your normal workflow and the result you want, you may want to use some or all of them.
the context menu,
and from the keyboard using CTRL+C to copy and CTRL+V to paste.
Pasting using the context menu, will always paste the object at your mouse cursor location, with the center of the shape where your cursor was when you right-clicked. This can be very useful when you want to copy items to specific places in your diagram.
Paste from either the Ribbon or using CTRL+V will paste the new object at the location of the object you originally copied. If you are pasting on the same page, the object will be offset slightly, to avoid “losing” it.
If you paste something onto a separate page and use CTRL+V or the Ribbon control, this puts the pasted object in the same location that it was on the original page. This can be very useful for ensuring that parts of a diagram are in the same location on multiple pages.
A quick way to make copies of selected items is to hold down CTRL and the left mouse button. This lets you drag a copy of the selected item to a specific location. This allows you to make multiple copies of a shape or a group of shapes you’ve selected very quickly.
Hint: This works with grouped shapes or multi-selected shapes, so it’s a really quick way to reuse a group of shapes in multiple locations on a page.
You can also duplicate objects that are selected using the Duplicate option in the Ribbon. Click on the arrow below the Paste icon to show the Duplicate option. Clicking on it will make a duplicate of the selected object or objects and drop them near the original, offset slightly, just like CTRL+V does on paste.
Hint: Note that if you duplicate multiple objects some of them may end up covering up the originals. As an example, if I selected the two rectangles above and did a Duplicate, the result might look like the example below. Though you can’t see it, there are really four shapes here, but one is exactly below the brightly highlighted shape. Hitting one of the arrow keys a few times while the newly duplicated items are still selected will move them enough to expose the shape underneath.
Since pasting using CTRL+V or the Ribbon will place objects on the same location on other pages, it becomes much easier to make a copy of a whole page.
First, insert a new page. You can either add a page by clicking the “add page” icon on the last page tab, or by clicking a page and right-clicking to insert a page immediately after it.
Once you’ve got a new page, go back to the page you want to copy. You can drag-select the whole page by left-clicking at one corner of the diagram and dragging the selection to the opposite corner. You can also select everything on a page by pressing CTRL+A. With everything on the page selected, copy it by using CTRL+C, or Copy from the right-click menu or the Ribbon. Navigate to the blank page you created, and press CTRL+V or click on Paste in the Ribbon (Remember that if you use Paste from the right-click context menu, everything will be pasted with the center around your mouse position, so the new page may not look like you expect). That’s it, a duplicate page in just a few clicks.
Hint: if you want to duplicate a whole page with the exception of one or two shapes, CTRL+A to select everything and then CTRL+left mouse click to deselect just the object you don’t want. Then you can CTRL+V everything else to the new page.
Of course, Office applications “play nicely” with each other, so you can paste objects you’ve copied from Visio to other applications, as well. In most applications your pasted Visio objects will remain Visio objects and you can still edit them by double-clicking. This can be very useful when you want to be able to fine-tune a diagram in a Word document or a PowerPoint slide.
Hint: If you would prefer the diagram not be editable, you can use the Paste Special option to paste it as a static image. You can find Paste Special on the menu that drops down when you click the arrow below Paste in the Home Tab.
Those are the basics of Copy/Paste.
Post a comment if you have any other tips you’d like to share and please let us know if you have any feedback on Visio 2010, Visio Services, or suggestions for other blog posts you would like to see.
Visio 2010 introduces a new way to apply a background or border and title design to your diagrams. The new Backgrounds and Borders & Titles galleries on the Design tab in the ribbon let you choose from a variety of styles and apply them with one click.
For several versions, Visio has provided a way to apply a background design to diagrams using shapes that you drag out from the Backgrounds stencil that opens with many of the templates. In Visio 2010, you can do this by clicking on a preview thumbnail in the Backgrounds gallery.
When you apply a background, Visio creates a background page (named “VBackground-1”, if it’s the first one), drops the background shape on it, and assigns it to the foreground page.
If you right-click on the preview thumbnail in the Backgrounds gallery, you can choose to apply it to all the pages in the document or just the current page.
Once the background page is created, you can click on its page tab to put additional items on it that you want to appear on all the foreground pages it’s assigned to, like your company name or logo.
The color of the background can be defined by a theme. After a background is applied, additional themes with background colors appear in the Themes gallery. When one of these themes is applied, the background takes the color from the theme.
You can also click on the Background Color command at the bottom of the Backgrounds gallery to pick a color.
Borders & Titles
You can apply border and title designs to your pages in a way similar to backgrounds, using the Borders & Titles gallery on the Design tab. As with the Backgrounds gallery, a background page is created to hold the border shape. And you can right-click on the gallery thumbnail to choose to apply the border to all the pages in the document or just the current page.
You can edit the border’s title by clicking on the background page tab, selecting the border shape, and typing a title. This title will appear on all the foreground pages that the background page is assigned to, so it works best as a document title rather than a title for individual pages.
If you don’t want the border’s footer (which usually includes a page number) to appear at the bottom of the page, you can right-click on the border shape on the background page and choose Hide Footer.
Let us know what you think about the new Backgrounds and Borders & Titles features in the Visio 2010 Technical Preview using Send a Smile or a comment on the blog.
In this post, we describe a great way to get help with Visio: the Visio and SharePoint 2010 forums. Microsoft employees, Visio MVPs and other experts monitor these forums and answer questions. This is an excellent way to pose a question to a large audience of Visio experts.
There are two Visio and a number of SharePoint forums where you can post questions:
Each one is targeted at a different audience. We explain these forums in more detail below.
Microsoft Answers is a community-based support site where you can ask and answer questions, or just browse other's answers. Its slogan is “Real People, Real Answers”.
The Visio Answers forum is located here.
Visio shares its forum with Project, InfoPath and Access, but you can filter on Visio to see only the Visio conversations.
This forum is targeted at end users and would be a great spot to post questions on the following topics:
The Visio MSDN forum is targeted at IT Professionals using Visio and is located here.
It is also mirrored on TechNet here.
The MSDN/TechNet forum would be a great spot to post questions on the following topics:
If you need help getting started with the Visio forums, there are FAQs available for the Answers forum here and the MSDN forum here. These FAQs are a great resource for creating a profile, posting to the forums, receiving notifications and general troubleshooting. These FAQs should contain all the information you need to start asking and answering questions: if not, there’s the option to ask your own question.
If you need help with Visio Services on SharePoint, a number of SharePoint 2010 forums are available on MSDN here. As described below, each forum specializes in a particular set of issues.
SharePoint 2010 - General Questions and Answers: General questions, comments and discussions on SharePoint 2010 products and SharePoint services such as Access Services, BCS, Excel Services and Visio Services.
SharePoint 2010 - Setup, Upgrade, Administration and Operation: Discuss setup, upgrade, administration and operation for SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint services such as Access Services, BCS, Excel Services and Visio Services.
SharePoint 2010 - Using SharePoint Designer, Infopath, and other customization: Discuss using SharePoint Designer, SharePoint Gallery Solutions, templates & other customization for SharePoint 2010 and SP services such as Access Services, BCS, Excel Services, & Visio Services.
SharePoint 2010 - Using Visual Studio with SharePoint and other programming: Discuss using Visual Studio and other programming with SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint services such as Access Services, BCS, Excel Services and Visio Services.
In addition to the Visio and SharePoint 2010 forums, there are many other Microsoft forums that might relate to your particular needs. We’ve posted a list of forums that might be most useful to Visio users and developers here. You can use the navigation panel on the left of the linked page to find relevant forums for other Microsoft Office products.
In the past, Microsoft hosted a number of Visio newsgroups. Last year, however, Microsoft discontinued its newsgroup support and migrated to forums.
The decision to focus on forums was based on changes in customer habits and requirements: many Microsoft customers wanted online resources, including forums, to find help. In addition, newsgroups became less popular. Given this trend, Microsoft decided to concentrate on online help and forums. Focusing on forums reduced the number of redundant resources and centralized content, making it easier for users to find content and making community contributions more broadly available and impactful.
You can read about the details of the transition from newsgroups to forums here.
Please let us know if you have any feedback on Visio 2010, Visio Services, or suggestions for blog posts you would like to see. In addition, feel free to visit the Visio and SharePoint 2010 forums, and ask us a question there.
For flowcharts that have clearly defined stakeholders and assignments, cross-functional flowcharts are often used. Today, cross-functional flowcharts can span a whole conference room’s wall. The number of swimlanes can grow to five or even ten! At the beginning of the Visio 2010 planning, we heard from our users that it is hard for them to manage swimlanes and to author large cross-functional flowcharts. We decided that we need to make our cross-functional flowchart more scalable and easier for repeated editing and collaboration.
Here is a list of the top cross-functional flowchart improvements we have made in Visio 2010:
1. Simpler Creation Experience
Just like in the past, you can create a cross-functional flowchart starting from the Cross-functional Flowchart Template. Upon creation, we will automatically create two swimlanes in the cross-functional flowchart for you. To add more swimlanes, you can now mouse along the edge of the cross-functional flowchart to where you want to add the swimlane, and a blue arrow will appear.
Click on the blue arrow and voila, you have a new swimlane inserted!
2. Cross-functional Flowchart Configurations (i.e. “You’ve got options!”)
Once you have created your cross-functional flowchart, you have several options to modify the cross-functional flowchart to your liking. While in the past you had to decide on the flowchart orientation at creation time, you can now change that any time you want, even long after the flowchart is created.
For example, here’s a horizontal cross-functional flowchart:
To change to vertical orientation, you can simply visit the new cross-functional flowchart tab and use the Orientation drop-down menu to switch to a vertical cross-functional flowchart!
Similarly, if you look at the cross-functional flowchart tab, you also have other options such as the showing/hiding of the title or phase bars and the direction of the cross-functional flowchart.
3. Swimlanes as Containers
We’ve discussed the idea of containers in one of our previous posts. One fun fact about the new cross-functional flowchart in Visio 2010 is that swimlanes are containers! Effectively, a cross-functional flowchart in Visio 2010 is in fact a list of containers. What does that mean to you? First, a swimlane highlights when shapes are added to a swimlane:
Second, you can easily reorder swimlanes and the shapes they contain will come along!
4. Editing with Fewer Fix-ups
One common feedback we get from users is that once they have created the flowchart, there is still a lot of fix-up needed. For example, users would often need to align the shapes and fix-up connectors. Cross-functional flowchart is no exception. In one of our previous posts, we discussed how flowchart routing hass been improved. This applies to cross-functional flowcharts as well: cross-functional flowcharts use the same routing style and direction as simple flowcharts, but the additional presence of swimlanes and phases can lead to routes that get hidden because they overlap with swimlane and phase boundaries.
In Visio 2010, the routing engine looks for these overlaps and adjusts routes to avoid them. If necessary, Visio also moves the glue points of dynamic connectors to different sides of shapes to avoid the boundary.
In future posts, we will introduce more improvements for flowcharting, many of which will also benefit cross-functional flowcharts. So stay tuned!
Please use the Send a Smile feedback tool or comment on this post if you have further thoughts on the cross-functional flowchart feature in Visio 2010. We would love to hear from you!
When you start a new diagram, you typically begin with a single drawing page that is the size of a standard piece of printer paper. Many diagrams grow beyond the size of a single printed sheet. Visio 2010 adds a dynamic page sizing capability that responds as you draw, so you no longer have to manually adjust your page size to your diagram.
As you draw beyond the edge of the current page, Visio expands the page in that direction by one additional tile, or printer paper sheet.
If you live preview adding a shape with AutoConnect, Visio also previews the tiles that will be added. As you drag shapes outside the current page or drag shapes from the Shapes window, Visio shows a translucent preview of the new tiles that will be added if the shape is dropped in its current location.
All sorts of things can affect the size of your diagram when printed, including adding shapes, deleting shapes, moving shapes, adding or removing text and changing text properties. Any of these will alert Visio to update the page larger or smaller to keep the drawing within full tiles.
You may also notice that the depiction of page breaks and margins is different than in Visio 2007. We simplified the look of page breaks and many people will find them similar to Excel’s. Margins are now a clear white area around the entire page. We think you will find this much more clear than the grey bars in past versions of Visio. We also enable showing page breaks and margins by default in new drawings, to help make it clear how Visio is adjusting your page.
This auto sizing behavior is controlled using the Auto Size toggle button on the Design tab. If you click the dialog launcher and open the Page Setup dialog, you’ll see we replaced the now-defunct “Same as printer paper size” option with “Let Visio expand the page as needed”. The sharp-eyed Visio expert will notice that the “Size to fit drawing contents” option is also gone from the dialog. Since that item was more of a one-time action than a persistent state of tightly fitting the page to the diagram, we moved it to the Page Size dropdown and renamed it “Fit to Drawing”.
Since we’re talking about page sizing, it’s also worth taking a quick look at manual page adjustments. The Orientation and Size dropdown buttons on the Design tab surface the most commonly-used items from the Page Setup dialog.
When Auto Size is enabled, these reflect the orientation and size of the printer paper (the tiles in the drawing page), because Auto Size controls the size of the page based on the printer paper settings. Changing them changes the orientation and size of the printer paper settings. If you change these, the number of tiles required to contain the diagram may also change, so your drawing page may change size.
When Auto Size is disabled, these reflect the orientation and size of the drawing page, because you are controlling it, not Visio. Changing them sets both the drawing page and the printer paper settings, to keep them in sync.
Essentially, we made Orientation and Size work as expected depending on context – whether Auto Size is on or off. That is, whether you have Visio taking care of the page size or if you are doing it.
We hope these additions will help you to more easily, and more fluidly, build and edit your diagrams. As usual, send us any feedback you have using Send a Smile or through a comment on the blog.
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!
Visio users and developers often wonder how to distribute their newly created Visio shapes to their colleagues, friends and family (all depends on your friends and family I guess J). Visio offers two mechanisms to publish content, each suited to different situations. This blog entry covers both. But first, an introduction for those new to content creation.
In the Visio world, content refers to shapes, stencils and templates; if you’re familiar with these concepts, please skip to the next section, if not please read on.
· Master shapes are the basic unit of content; they are Visio entities that you can assemble on a drawing page that graphically represent a real-world object or concept. Visio provides a rich set of pre-made master shapes and also enables the creation of custom shapes. To get started authoring shapes, read through this Visio Insights blog posting as well as this set of documents from Microsoft Office Online.
· Stencils are collections of related master shapes that are presented together in the UI. Again Visio provides a large set of pre-made stencils and lets you create your own stencils containing custom made and/or pre-built Visio shapes by following the steps outlined here. Stencils files have a “.VSS” or “.VSX” extension.
· Templates are Visio files that set up the Visio workspace for a particular drawing type by opening appropriate stencils, opening anchored windows and setting page properties such as scale and grid. For example the Space Plan template that ships with Visio opens four stencils, changes paper size and scaling. Instructions on how to create templates may be found here. Template files have a “.VST” or “.VTX” extension.
Publishing a piece of content to Visio adds entry points to the user interface side-by-side with content created by Microsoft. For a stencil this translates into a menu entry added to the File > Shapes fly-out menu while for a template this means an entry in Visio’s startup screen (as seen below) and in the File > New fly-out menu. In this blog entry we will focus on publishing templates to Visio; publishing stencils is quite similar.
The simplest way to publish a template to Visio is to use the Path Discovery method described below:
1. Copy your template and supporting stencils to a known location on a drive.
2. Add the location defined in step 1 to Visio’s “Template Paths”; this tells Visio where to find extra content to populate its startup screen. This can be done manually by following the steps here or may be automated using code that sets the TemplatePaths property on the Visio Application object.
3. Restart Visio – your template should appear in the (Other) category.
The advantages of this approach are:
· It is simple.
· It is supported across most versions of Visio.
It however has a few drawbacks:
· Your users may be subjected to potentially long and error prone manual work.
· Your templates will always end up in the (Other) content category in the startup screen.
· You don’t have any way of repairing content on a user’s machine if it gets damaged.
· You cannot control which language of Visio will load your stencils and templates.
· This approach does not scale well. The Path Discovery publishing method does just that: every time you boot Visio it searches a user’s hard drive for content files – an expensive operation.
Sharing templates through Path Discovery is good for small scale content deployments as well as deployments to older versions of Visio.
The PublishComponent system introduced in Visio 2003 lets developers use Windows Installer technology for template distribution to register their content with Visio in a richer and more robust way. The main advantages of this method are quite interesting:
· The Windows Installer setup wizard is familiar to users and easy to use.
· You may choose where your content appears in the File > Shapes or startup screen hierarchies.
· You benefit from Windows Installer repair, install-on-demand and add/remove features.
· You may choose what language versions of Visio to publish your content to.
· The approach scales well: Visio only rebuilds its content cache, a moderately expensive operation, when new content is published.
· The approach is tried and tested since the product publishes its own content this way since the 2003 release.
That said, using the Publish Component system is:
· A little more complicated than the Path Discovery method.
· Will only work for Visio 2003 and or later.
To use this method you’ll need Visual Studio .NET or later, the Visio 2003 SDK (or the Visio 2007 Beta SDK) and the following steps:
If you installed the package as it is; Visio would not discover the files the MSI installed. To notify Visio on the whereabouts of these files, the next thing to do is populate the PublishComponent table of the MSI produced above with registration data. Once installed, this extra information will force Visio to rebuild its content cache and incorporate and display the new templates and stencils.
The extra information you need to add may be found here. Be warned however, it is not for the faint of heart to enter this data manually. For those of us who would rather not spend their Saturday night writing MSI tables entries you can follow the steps below using the PublishComponent tool shipped in SDK to populate the appropriate MSI table easily:
To make the changes described above double click on each entry to bring up the “Template Information” dialog seen below, or its counterpart the “Stencil Information” dialog.
The MSI can now be distributed; Windows Installer and Visio will do the rest. Although we haven’t discussed it here, the same techniques can be used to publish add-ins and help files. For the curious, use ORCA and the guidance in the KB article above to understand what modifications the tool made to the MSI.
As a final note, you’ll see that the template you just published shows up in the startup screen, however the template preview is blank; I’ll leave it up to crafty souls out there to figure out how to get template preview’s this working… OR you could stay tuned to the Visio Insights blog for more info =).
As the Visio product team began planning for the Visio 2010 release, we collected a lot of customer drawings. Even though there were many different types of diagrams represented, we found some similarities. We noticed that as diagrams got more complex, users added special shapes to help keep things organized and understandable. Often users drew boxes around clusters of shapes to define a logical grouping. That got us thinking whether we could help with this kind of organization, and the Containers feature was born.
You’ve probably used something like a container in Visio already. In the past, you would draw a rectangle around some shapes, choose Send to Back to move it behind the shapes, add a text label and position it near the rectangle edge, and finally group everything to keep the shapes together. This works but it makes it hard to access the individual shapes, and you must ungroup and regroup every time the contents changed.
The Containers feature in Visio 2010 makes it easy to add a visual boundary around shapes, including a label. Visio does all the work to maintain the relationship between the container and its contents. To add a container to your diagram, first select the shapes to be contained. Then choose the Container command from the Insert tab of the ribbon. A gallery appears with several different container styles. Click on a style to add the container to the diagram.
The shapes inside the container are not in a group, so you have direct access to continue working with them. Shapes are added or removed simply by dragging them in or out of the container. When dragging a shape, an orange highlight appears around the container to indicate that Visio will make the shape a member of the container. The container can automatically grow or shrink as needed to fit the contents. Moving, copying or deleting the container will move, copy or delete the contents as well.
Containers can be formatted just like regular shapes. In particular the alignment of the heading is changed using the paragraph alignment buttons on the Home tab of the ribbon. There is also a contextual tab that allows further customization of containers. You can control how tightly the container bounds its contents by adjusting Margins or using the Fit to Contents command. You can switch between different visual styles and change the position of the container heading. It is also possible to lock the container to prevent shapes from being added or deleted.
The primary benefit of Containers is that you get both a visual grouping and a logical grouping of shapes in your diagram. Your diagram is more readable and looks professional. Visio does all the work to keep things together. You just need to decide which shapes belong in the container.
In our next post, we’ll take a look at more capabilities of containers and how to create your own container shape. Please tell us what you think about containers by using the Send a Smile feedback tool or by commenting on this post.
The most common set of questions in the newsgroups asks about the difference between Visio Standard and Visio Professional. For Visio 2007, Microsoft has published a handy guide detailing the differences between the two editions. There are breakdowns by feature and by diagram type.
There are a couple points worth making here. First, for those using the Visio that ships with Visual Studio for Enterprise Architects or Visual Studio Team System, there is no Visio 2007-based version as of yet. The latest Visual Studio offering includes Visio 2003.
Second, this is the first release where some features of the Visio engine are only available in Visio Professional. For those unfamiliar with Visio's archictecture, the product consists of a drawing engine plus lots of content (shapes and templates and add-ons) that work with the drawing engine. Historically, the drawing engine is the same in every edition and only the content varies by edition. In Visio 2007, the features related to data connectivity (Data Link, Data Graphics, Data Refresh) are only supported in the Professional edition. As in previous versions the Professional edition also has additional content.
Visio 2007 Standard can open files created in Visio 2007 Professional, but the data features are disabled. This delineation extends to Visio's programming interface. Automation related to the new data features will not function on Visio 2007 Standard. This behavior is somewhat akin to opening files in Visio 2003. While Visio 2003 and Visio 2007 share the same file format, Visio 2003 does not have the new data connectivity features. For example, in Visio 2003 you can work with a 2007 diagram that contains Data Graphics, but you cannot apply a data graphic to another shape or manipulate the existing data graphics.
Thanks to all our MVPs and newsgroup responders who answer questions about Visio's product editions. Now you can point them to the new Office Online link.
While Visio began mainly as a diagramming package for business, the product has always been capable of making technical drawings. Visio supports measured and scaled drawings. It has features such as layers, guides and dimensions to help users create complex and precise drawings. Not surprisingly then, some of the earliest adopters of Visio were engineers and technical drawers. This group loved the combination of power and simplicity that Visio provides.
In the engineering software marketplace, one of the most ubiquitous applications is Autodesk’s AutoCAD. Because AutoCAD is so broadly used, it was essential for Visio to offer the ability to work with AutoCAD drawings. By integrating with CAD software, Visio connects into engineering and design processes, and it extends technical drawing to people in the organization that either don’t have the training to use CAD software or don’t have the resources to afford CAD software.
Before describing the CAD integration features in Visio, we need to point out which CAD drawings Visio can work with. Visio 2003 can work with DWG and DXF files saved in the AutoCAD 2000 format (R15) or earlier. Users working with newer versions of AutoCAD must be sure to save their drawings in a format that Visio will read.
The basic CAD integration features in Visio are import, conversion and export. Import is the ability to open or insert a CAD drawing into a Visio document and display the drawing on a Visio page. A drawing is opened using the File > Open menu command and changing the file type to AutoCAD drawing. A drawing is inserted using Insert > CAD Drawing from the menu.
The CAD drawing remains in its native form inside an ActiveX control, but users can choose the insertion scale and layer visibility for the drawing contents. These properties are accessed by right-clicking on the CAD drawing object and choosing CAD Drawing Object > Properties.
Conversion is the process where some or all of the contents of a CAD drawing are changed into Visio shapes and placed directly on the page. The conversion command is accessed by right-clicking on the CAD drawing object and choosing CAD Drawing Object > Convert.
Export is the ability to save a Visio drawing out as a CAD drawing. Visio shapes are converted to CAD entities, and any inserted CAD drawings are written back out as is. A drawing is exported using the File > Save As menu command and changing the file type to AutoCAD drawing.
Visio and AutoCAD use very different ways to describe a drawing. Thus translation between a Visio document and a CAD document is not perfect. There are many differences between Visio shapes and CAD entities such as with text or dimensions or fills / hatches. Also Visio shapes are large and complex while CAD entities are numerous and simple. It would be fairly common for a CAD drawing to contain 20,000 entities, but Visio does not normally handle 20,000 shapes at a time. Expect performance and memory issues if you convert such a drawing.
Because of the challenges converting between AutoCAD and Visio, the most common integration scenario is to import a CAD drawing into Visio but leave it in CAD form. Then you draw on top of the CAD entities using Visio shapes. Consider a floor plan imported from CAD that has Visio furniture shapes or electrical wiring drawn on top. If you want to save everything back to AutoCAD, there are some gotchas to be aware of. In order for Visio to correctly export both Visio shapes and CAD drawing entities, the CAD drawing must have been imported into Visio using File > Open (not Insert > CAD drawing). Opening a CAD drawing directly from a file causes Visio to properly set up the page scale and page origin to match the contents of the CAD drawing.
Visio has made improvements in its CAD integration feature set every release, but there are still some issues with Visio 2003 that make conversion and export problematic at times. Visio 2007 remedies many of these issues. If you work with CAD drawings, please tell us how you use them with Visio. If you are having trouble using Visio with your CAD drawings, we’d like to hear about that too. In a future post we’ll talk about some specific issues in Visio 2003 and changes in Visio 2007.
Every once in a while a new feature idea comes along that is so unique and compelling that it revolutionizes the way people work. Insert Text Box is not such a feature. Adding text to a diagram is nothing new in Visio. However, usability studies have shown that adding text is one of the more challenging tasks for new users. Thus we added Insert Text Box to Visio 2007 to make diagramming a little more approachable.
Insert Text Box is a menu command that invokes Visio's Text tool. Choosing the command is the equivalent of clicking on the Text tool in the Standard toolbar. We found that new users were not aware of the little 'A' toolbar button. In contrast, most users were aware of PowerPoint's Insert Text Box command, and many would look for a similar command in Visio. Now that command exists.
One significant difference between the Insert Text Box command and the Text tool is that you can only insert one text box at a time with the command. Once the text box is created, Visio automatically switches back to the Pointer tool. With the Text tool you remain in text mode until you manually switch back to the Pointer tool. The one-shot method solves another problem for new users - not knowing about the Pointer tool. Even after users discovered the Text tool, they did not always realize that they had to switch back to the Pointer tool at some point.
Microsoft Office Visio 2007 - now with text box insertion technology. Buy it today.
This week Microsoft announced that Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, Microsoft Project 2010 and Microsoft Visio 2010 have reached the technical preview engineering milestone. A limited number of invited participants can now download Visio 2010 to try it for themselves. This milestone also kicks off our coverage of Visio 2010 on the Visio Insights blog!
Visio 2010 focuses on three major areas of investment:
Ease of Use
Visio 2010 incorporates the Office Fluent User Interface and design philosophy. The improved organization and presentation of Visio’s capabilities helps you complete tasks and create better looking diagrams with greater efficiency. The Shapes Window gets a new look and new capabilities to make organizing shapes and adding them to the drawing even easier. Within the drawing window we added productivity improvements like shape insertion and automatic alignment & spacing to speed up initial diagram creation AND assist with editing and maintaining diagrams over time.
Visio 2010 delivers a great new experience for working with process diagrams. We've redesigned our cross-functional flowcharts to be simple, scalable, and reliable. We've added new diagram types for the Business Process Modeling Notation standard and for designing SharePoint workflows, which can be configured and deployed with SharePoint Designer 2010. Sub-processes and containers break up a diagram into understandable pieces, and the Validation feature can analyze a diagram to ensure it is properly constructed. Visio integrates with SharePoint to provide a process diagram library for centralized storage of process documents.
Visio 2010 can take data-refreshable diagrams and publish them to SharePoint for broad distribution to anyone with a web browser. Visio Services performs data refresh and rendering on the server and delivers up-to-date diagrams in the browser. The diagram author no longer needs to repost the diagram every time the data changes, and diagram viewers no longer need the Visio client to see the diagram.
Visio 2010 application workspace
Over the coming weeks and months we'll introduce Visio 2010 in depth. We will cover the features in Visio 2010 as well as discuss some of the customer input and decision making that went into the release. Whether you are an interested user, a shape designer, an IT professional, or a developer you'll find valuable information about the product.
We also look forward to your feedback on the product and your discussion on the blog. Please tell us what you think and what you want to know more about.
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.
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.
Let’s say you’d like to make a grid of shapes like the following:
To create this, first make a copy of the individual shape (e.g. using Control+Drag):
Then, press Control+Y to repeat that operation:
In a similar manner, you can then copy this row multiple times to create a grid.
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:
You can then also glue shapes to this guide. More on this feature here.
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:
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.
Let’s say you manually changed the path of a connector, but don’t like the result:
You can reset its path by right-clicking the connector and clicking “Reset Connector”:
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:
Let’s say you have two connected shapes:
Sometimes when you reposition those shapes, you may end up with an undesirable jagged connector like this:
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:
The result is a more direct connector when you reposition the connected shapes.
Many people know that you can connect neighboring shapes quickly by clicking on the blue AutoConnect arrows around a shape:
Visio 2010 adds a feature where you can also drag a new connector from an AutoConnect arrow to a shape of your choosing:
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.
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:
You can read more about this feature in this blog post.
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.
Last week at the SharePoint Conference, the Visio team unveiled Visio Services – a new feature of SharePoint 2010 that extends the reach of diagrams considerably. In a nutshell, Visio Services lets you:
Let’s take a look in more detail at the features behind each of these scenarios.
A Visio diagram, saved to a SharePoint document library as a Visio Web Drawing (a *.VDW file) using Visio Professional 2010 or Visio Premium 2010, can be viewed in any web browser by simply clicking on its file entry in the document library.
The diagram renders in full fidelity in the browser if the person viewing the diagram has Silverlight installed on their machine or as a PNG if not; Visio Services renders seamlessly anything you can draw in Visio. Take a look below to get a feel for the experience:
Visio Services enables you to navigate diagrams using easy to use and familiar metaphors for panning, zooming, switching pages, following hyperlinks and discovering shape data. You can also open any Visio Web Drawing in Visio using the “Open in Visio” button. Note that the person viewing the diagram can do so:
Also note that because the diagrams are stored in SharePoint document libraries, diagram creators get a variety of useful document management features from SharePoint such as diagram access control using permissions, diagram change tracking using versioning and the ability to attach diagrams to SharePoint workflows.
Visio Services has ported Visio’s data connectivity features to the browser! In case you’re not familiar with those features please take a look at “Show it like it is: connect data to your Visio diagram” for a quick summary. Note this demonstration is in done in Visio 2007, but these features are also available in Visio 2010.
In a nutshell, before Visio Services renders a data-driven diagram it fetches the diagram's linked data from an external data source and updates diagram visuals accordingly. Note that once posted to SharePoint, your diagram is a living document that will always represent the current state of your data visually. You never need to update manually again!
Visio Services supports refreshing diagrams connected to one or more of the following data sources:
If the data source you plan to connect your diagrams to isn’t in the list above, don’t worry: Visio Services supports “Custom Data Providers” which enable you, with a few lines of code, to wrap your existing data source into one that Visio Services can consume. We’ll talk about writing your own “Custom Data Provider” in subsequent blog posts.
Finally, note that Visio Services supports refresh on open, user-triggered refresh as well as automatic periodic refresh.
Visio Services also enables you to embed Visio Web Drawings, regardless of whether they are static or dynamic, into SharePoint applications. Depending on your skill level with web technologies there are three ways of doing so:
Skill set required
The Visio Web Access web part
You can now embed Visio diagrams into SharePoint pages.
You should know how to create a web part page in SharePoint.
Web Part Connections
You can enable limited interactivity between the Visio Web Access web part and another on the page, without code. A typical example of this type of interactivity is to trigger one web part to show extra relevant information about a particular shape when it’s clicked in the Visio web part.
You should know how to create a web part page in SharePoint as well as how to set-up Web Part Connections.
The Visio Services Mash-up API
You can enable rich interactivity on your web part page by manipulating the different Visio web diagram objects programmatically. A typical example of this type of interactivity is to show custom visual overlays when the person viewing the diagram hovers over a particular shape.
The main take-away is that with very little effort you can add visualization to your dashboards and with a bit more page authoring or some coding you can add rich interactivity between Visio Services and other components on the page. For those of you hungry for details, we’ll be delving into the details of all of these integration features in future blog posts.
For the curious among you, here’s a recap of the architecture of Visio Services:
Visio Services is scheduled to ship as part of the SharePoint Services 2010 ECAL and will be available in the up-and-coming Beta and RTM releases of SharePoint in both hosted and non-hosted flavors.
The complete breadth of Visio diagrams can now be shared and refreshed in SharePoint, regardless of whether the person viewing them has Visio installed on their machine. What’s more you can now integrate rich data visualizations into SharePoint dashboards and applications with little effort.
There is much, much more to tell you about this brave new world of browser-based data visualization called Visio Services… but for now, we’ll let you digest this high level overview and start thinking about how browser-based data visualization using Visio Services can be useful to your organization. Stay tuned to the blog, we should have instructions on how to set-up Visio Services and how to create Visio Web Drawings in the next few weeks.
As you try out Visio Services, please let us know what you think, either by commenting on the blog or via Send a Smile.
In Visio 2010, we’ve made it easier to align and space shapes to make your diagrams look neat and organized. In a previous post we covered our new layout improvements that help clean up existing diagrams. In this post, we’re going to cover how improvements in Visio’s Dynamic Grid can help you drag a single shape and more easily position it in relation to other shapes on the page.
The Dynamic Grid is turned on by default for most diagram templates. You can turn it on or off by toggling the checkbox in the View tab:
To see the Dynamic Grid in action, simply drop a shape next to another shape and notice the orange lines that automatically appear:
In the example above, Visio detected that the selected shape matched the centerline of a nearby shape. If the shapes were of different sizes, Visio would attempt to align the shapes based on edge boundaries such as the top, bottom, left, or right edges of shapes in addition to the centerline:
Note that the Dynamic Grid only aligns the same edge boundaries of shapes. For example, a top edge of a shape will snap to the top edge of another shape, but not to the bottom edge of another shape.
The Dynamic Grid also displays orange line segments when evenly spaced shapes are found close to each other. This is useful for easily placing shapes in equal distances from one another. Simply drop a shape next to other evenly spaced shapes to see these line segments in action:
The Dynamic Grid scans both horizontally and vertically when displaying feedback. This allows you to easily position shapes in relation to many surrounding shapes:
When either an alignment or spacing relationship is found between shapes, Visio will gently snap the shape you have selected to an invisible grid. This snapping behavior makes it easy to grab a shape using the mouse and position it next to other shapes.
To help position shapes within a page, the Dynamic Grid also supports margins around pages. You can snap to page margins by simply dragging a shape towards the top, bottom, left or right margins of a page. If the page is completely empty, you can also snap to the center of the page.
To help position shapes within a container, the Dynamic Grid also supports container margins and centerlines. You can snap to containers, such as swimlanes, by simply dragging a shape around the container margin or in the center of the container:
We hope you enjoy using the new Dynamic Grid feature and we’re interested in your feedback. You can use the Send a Smile feedback tool or comment on the blog to let us know what you think.
If you can’t find the shape you’re looking for in Visio, it may be available online. There are several sets of shapes available only on the Web. In this post, we’ll talk about these shapes and how to find them.
The online shapes can be accessed using the Search for Shapes feature in Visio 2003 or Find Shape in Visio 2002. You’ll need to have an Internet connection, and you’ll need to check the Visio Web Shapes option on the Shape Search tab in Tools > Options.
There are Visio shapes representing most of the country/regions of the world (some are omitted because their boundaries are in dispute). These shapes are available to users of English, French, German, and Japanese language versions of Visio 2002 and 2003. In addition, the individual U.S. states are available to users of U.S. English Visio.
The best way to get the whole set of world map shapes is to enter “World Maps” (including quotes) in the Search for Shapes field at the top of the Shapes window. If you’re using U.S. English Visio, enter “United States Maps” (including quotes) to get the shapes for all the states.
Once you’ve added these shapes to your drawing by dragging and dropping them from the search results window, you can format them like any other Visio shapes and you can right-click on them to arrange them in their correct geographic locations using the “Arrange To Page” and “Arrange To Shape” commands on the right-mouse menu. See the articles on the Microsoft Office Online site for more details on working with these shapes. There are separate instructions for Visio 2002 and Visio 2003.
There is a set of Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) shapes available online to users of English Visio 2003. Enter “BPMN” in the Search for Shapes field to see the full set of shapes available.
Note: The BPMN shapes were based on a pre-1.0 version of the BPMN specification, and there have been a number of changes to the specification since then so they aren’t completely up to date. However, several third-parties have created BPMN templates for Visio.
For the Six Sigma practitioners, there are three sets of shapes available online for English Visio 2003:
There are other sources for third-party shapes in a wide variety of industries. These include the list maintained by Visio MVPs (Microsoft “Most Valuable Professionals”) as well as the Visio Cafe site.
We’re seeing quite a few reports in the newsgroups about a new issue involving hyperlinks in Visio’s HTML output and Internet Explorer 7. Basically, clicking a hyperlink in a drawing saved as HTML from Visio 2003 results in an error that says “Internet Explorer cannot open the Internet site. Operation aborted.”
In this post, we’ll talk about why this happens and some ways to work around it.
The problem occurs only with Visio 2003 (not with earlier versions or with Visio 2007, which will soon be available) and only when the Web output format is VML. Essentially, the way Visio 2003 structures the hyperlinks in VML output is not supported in IE 7, and hyperlinks that worked fine in IE 6 will fail in IE 7. Here are a couple of ways to work around the problem:
Workaround 1: Edit the hyperlinks in the Web output so they will work in IE 7
Look for the VML_1.HTM file in the set of supporting files included with the main .HTM file saved from Visio. (If there is more than one page in the Visio drawing, there will be one of these files for each page: VML_1.HTM, VML_2.HTM, VML_3.HTM, etc.) Open it in a text editor such as Notepad and find the block of HTML that represents each hyperlink. Here is an example of an uncorrected hyperlink to Microsoft.com:
[Edit #2: Because the blog software keeps trying to interpret our HTML as real code, we've turned the HTML into a picture.]
Tip: Use search & replace in Notepad to accomplish this quickly for all the hyperlinks at once.
Workaround 2: Use an output format other than VML
While VML is the default output format when Visio drawings are saved as HTML, you can use one of the other formats, such as JPG or GIF, to work around this problem. The downside is that you won’t get some of the enhanced functionality provided with VML, such as the ability to pan and zoom the drawing on the Web page.
To save the Visio drawing in a Web format other than VML:
1. Go to File>Save As Web Page.
2. Click the Publish button in the Save As dialog box.
3. In the Save As Web Page dialog box, click the Advanced tab.
4. Pick a different format in the Output Formats drop-down list.
5. Click OK.
Several people have posted in the newsgroups about Visio moving shapes around unexpectedly - particularly when documents are opened or saved. This random behavior can be infuriating to users. Perhaps more frustrating is that Visio may continue moving shapes around after the user has "fixed up" their diagram again. This post looks at automatic behaviors and tries to shine some light on the issues.
Perhaps the most common automatic activity in Visio is connector routing. Visio ensures that connectors stay glued to shapes when those shapes are moved around the page. Visio also finds the optimum route for connectors that will avoid other shapes along the path. Finally line jumps are added to connectors that cross over other connectors. Historically, crazy connector routing has been a frequent complaint, but routing logic has gotten significantly better over time. Recent versions of Visio do a pretty good job with routing. While users may object to the routes chosen, there are very few reports of routes randomly changing in the diagram.
If you are encountering routing issues in your diagram, you might find this earlier post helpful. You can also reduce the number of situations where connector routes are changed. Go to Format > Behavior and then the Connector tab and adjust the Reroute property. Reroute = Never means that Visio will maintain glue but never recompute the route to optimize it.
The second type of automatic behaviors involve Visio solutions. In this case we are referring to the Visio add-ons that provide extra capabilities for individual diagram types. For example, the Organization Chart solution is responsible for providing features such as dropping subordinates on top of managers, generating a diagram using the Organization Chart Wizard or synchronizing organizations across pages. You may not think of these capabilities as add-ons because Visio tries to make the functionality seem as integrated as possible with the core diagramming features.
Most frequently we hear about random shape movement with the Organizational Chart and Cross-functional diagram types. However, users have reported issues with a number of diagrams such as Gantt Charts and Timelines too. The root cause for random shape movement is that a diagram has solution managing the position of shapes, and something is triggering that solution to make it move shapes around the page. These solutions get in trouble when they fail to realize that a shape’s current position has been designated by the user and is no longer under the complete control of the solution.
Visio’s solutions that manage the position of shapes on the page can tolerate varying degrees of customization by the user. Sometimes it is okay for a shape to be in a different location than what the solution wants, and sometimes the solution is not capable of leaving a shape in a different location. Many problems arise when the user takes additional steps to prevent automatic behavior such as grouping shapes, replacing connectors with regular lines or disconnecting connectors. This increases the likelihood that the “proper shape arrangement” according to the solution is not at all what the user intends.
There are two basic approaches to correcting a diagram that is “misbehaving”. You can try to make the solution understand the diagram again. This typically involves removing non-standard shapes and using the ones provided in the template. It also means restoring connections between shapes using connectors and not lines. The other approach is to disable the “intelligent” behavior of the solution and work with the diagram using core Visio capabilities only. Depending on the drawing type and level of complexity in the diagram you may want the second option, although this is a more drastic measure.
For Organization Charts, the typical cleanup is to delete the connections between shapes and then drop each subordinate on top of their manager again. For Cross-functional Flowcharts, the typical cleanup is to drag each process shape outside the swimlanes and then drag them back in. Unfortunately, none of these remedies is guaranteed. There may be no way for a user to correct some situations.
To disable a solution, you need to disable the Persisted Events that get stored in the document and trigger the solution whenever the document is opened in Visio. Persisted Events can only be managed programmatically or through Visio’s XML file formats. The Persisted Events tool in the Visio SDK is a great way to modify Persisted Events. For those looking for something simpler, try pasting the VBA macros below into your document. Run DisablePersistedEvents to turn off solution behavior for the document. Run EnablePersistedEvents to turn solution behavior back on.
Public Sub DisablePersistedEvents()
Dim vsoEvent As Visio.Event
For Each vsoEvent In ThisDocument.EventList
If vsoEvent.Persistent = True Then
vsoEvent.Enabled = False
Public Sub EnablePersistedEvents()
vsoEvent.Enabled = True
Visio provides automatic behaviors to make diagrams much easier to create and manage. When the automatic behavior matches your expectations, Visio feels like a very powerful tool. When Visio seems to have a mind of its own, it becomes a frustrating application to work with. The Visio Product Team is definitely interested in your experiences good or bad with the automatic behaviors in the application. Your feedback helps us understand where we need to improve.
In an ideal world every business process would each fit on a single page. Users have employed a variety of techniques to squeeze more information into a finite space. Ultimately some business process diagrams must span across more than one page. To maintain connectivity between the pages, Visio provides the Off-page reference shape.
The Off-page reference shape can be found in the Basic Flowchart Shapes stencil that opens with flowchart diagrams. It works like any other flowchart shape. You can connect it to other shapes and add text or formatting. When the Off-page reference is dropped on the page, a dialog box appears asking where the shape should link.
By default a new page will be created, and a copy of the Off-page reference shape will be added to that page. The two shapes are linked to each other via hyperlink and as well as double-click. There is also an option for synchronizing the text between the shapes.
However, this behavior is not limited to the Off-page reference shape. The functionality behind the shape is provided by the Off-Page Connector (OPC) add-on. Your shapes can offer the same linking capability by adding a few calls to this add-on. Put the following formulas into these cells in the Events section of the Shapesheet for your shape.
The EventDrop cell is triggered when the shape is dropped on a page. /CMD=1 tells the Off-Page Connector add-on to show the Off-page reference dialog. Clicking OK in the dialog will cause the add-on to insert the necessary tracking and linking information into your shape. EventDblClick is the trigger for double-clicking on the shape. TheText is the trigger for shape text changes.
There is a bonus feature in the Off-Page Connector add-on that is not exposed by the Off-page reference shape. It is possible to link to separate documents in addition to other pages in the same document. Use these formulas to trigger the Off-document reference.
When an Off-document reference is triggered, the Off-document reference dialog appears asking what document and page to link to. Once the link is established, double-clicking or activating the hyperlink will take you to the other document. Visio will open the other document if it is not opened already. Note that text synchronization is not provided across documents.
The Off-Page Connector add-on is available in both Visio Standard and Professional editions, so your custom reference shapes will work with any installation. If you use the Off-page reference shape or create diagrams that span across pages, please tell us about it. We would like to hear what types of drawings you work with and how you set up the links.
One of the new features in Visio 2007 Professional is Data Graphics - the ability to display data on shapes in rich, visual ways. Many of you have already experimented with this feature and are looking for ways to create custom visualizations. There is an MSDN article that covers the full spectrum of customizations possible for Data Graphics. In this post we'll work through a specific example - changing the text size in callouts.
In the flowchart above, a data graphic is applied to the three process steps. The data graphic has two text callouts displaying the Cost and Duration shape data fields. The default text size for the flowchart shapes and the text callouts is 8 points. What happens if we do a Select All and change the text size to 12 points?
The flowchart shape text has increased in size, but the callout text has not. Normally when you apply formatting to a group shape, Visio automatically pushes that formatting to all sub-shapes as well. However, Data Graphics callouts are designed to prevent this automatic propagation. There are many scenarios where it is desirable to maintain separate formatting for the shapes and the callouts. Visio 2007 introduces a new protection on shapes to prevent group formatting from propagating to sub-shapes.
Group formatting protection does not prevent all formatting changes on a shape - just those pushed from groups. You can directly select (or sub-select) a shape and still format it. Data Graphics callout work this way. Not all Visio shapes allow selection of sub-shapes. This is controlled by the group selection behavior property found in the Format > Behavior dialog. If the selection property is set to Group Only, you will have to go to Edit > Open Group to make any formatting changes.
Thus it is possible to customize the formatting on individual data graphic callouts, but what about making a global change to the data graphic? The MSDN article explains more about the way that data graphics are structured, but essentially the callouts used in a data graphic derive from Visio callout masters. By editing the callout master, all the data graphic callouts can be changed. You may be accustomed to opening the Document Stencil to edit masters, but Data Graphic callouts are hidden masters. Go to View > Drawing Explorer to find them.
In the Drawing Explorer, you will find masters for the flowchart shapes in the diagram. There are also masters for the data graphics and the callouts used in the data graphics. For our example, we want to edit the Text callout master to update the text font size. You can right click on the master name, choose Edit Master Shape and make the desired formatting changes. Once you close the edit window and save the changes, all the data graphics in the diagram are updated.
It is a good idea to rename this callout master. Because this version of the text callout master is different from the built-in one, Visio will offer both in the Edit Data Graphic dialog. Assigning a new name will allow you to distinguish between the two.
You may want to make your custom data graphic callout available in all your documents. Visio 2007 does not offer a central storage location, so the recommended practice is to put the data graphic and callout masters into a template that you can use as you start each new diagram. You can use the custom callout in a data graphic on a shape in the diagram. Then copy that shape to another document. Visio will copy over all necessary data graphic and callout masters. We're interested to find out what types of custom data graphics you create to visualize information. Be sure to let us know how you use the feature.