Visio Insights
The official blog of the Microsoft Visio product team

  • Visio Insights

    New Structured Diagrams Whitepaper for Visio 2010

    • 58 Comments

    Microsoft has published a new technical article on MSDN about the Structured Diagram capabilities of Visio 2010.  Structured Diagrams help you organize the contents of your diagrams using intuitive, logical relationships between shapes.  These capabilities are exposed as the Containers, Lists, and Callouts features in Visio 2010.

    Structured-diagram shape relationships

    The article covers these topics:

    • Overview of the Containers, Lists, and Callouts features from an end-user perspective
    • Details for creating or customizing your own Structured Diagram shapes
    • Overview of the Structured Diagram API with code examples

    Readers of the Visio Insights blog will be familiar with much of the article, since it is based on a number of previous posts.  However, some of the details on Lists are new.  For reference, here are the related Visio Insights posts:

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

  • Visio Insights

    BPMN support in Visio 2010

    • 57 Comments

    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.

    • We support all shapes defined in the BPMN 1.2 standard.
    • Our BPMN shapes have associated element attributes, as specified by the standard.
    • Using Diagram Validation, a user can check the visual correctness of a diagram against logical rules specified in the standard.

    You can find the BPMN Diagram template under the Flowchart category on the New tab of the Backstage View.

    Backstage

    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.

    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.

    RMA

    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.

    Shape Data

    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.

    Diagram Validation

    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.

    Validation

    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.

    Containers

    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.

    Contextual Tab

    Callouts

    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.

    Text Annotation

    Cross-functional Flowcharts

    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!

    CFF

    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.

  • Visio Insights

    Tips for Copy/Paste in Visio 2010 (Including How to Copy a Page)

    • 44 Comments

    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...

    Where to find it

    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 Ribbon,

    clip_image002

    the context menu,

    image

    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.

    clip_image006

    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.

    Duplicating with Drag

    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.

    Duplicating from the Ribbon

    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.

    image

    Copying a page

    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.

    image

    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.

    Pasting to other Office applications

    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.

    image

    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.

    Happy pasting

    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 Insights

    Wireframe Shapes in Visio 2010

    • 42 Comments

    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):

    IEmockup

    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:

    clip_image004[6]

    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:

    clip_image006[6]

    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:

    clip_image007[6]

    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:

    clip_image009[6]

    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:

    clip_image010[6]

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

    Feedback Welcome

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

  • Visio Insights

    Automatic Page Sizing in Visio 2010

    • 41 Comments

    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.

    image

    image

    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.

    image 

    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.

    Start with this: image
    Add more text: image
    Delete the shape: image

    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”.

    image image

    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.

    image image

    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.

    Size = Letter (8.5” x 11”)
    Orientation = Landscape
    image
    Size = Letter (8.5” x 11”)
    Orientation = Portrait
    image

    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.

    Size = Letter (8.5” x 11”)
    Orientation = Landscape
    image
    Size = Letter (8.5” x 11”)
    Orientation = Portrait
    image

    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 Insights

    Visio 2010 Editions

    • 34 Comments

    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!)

    image image image
    Visio Standard 2010
    Simplify complexity with a diverse set of intuitive and professional tools for diagramming.
    Visio Professional 2010
    Bring your diagrams to life with dynamic, data-driven visuals that are connected to real-time data and can be easily shared online with anyone.
    Visio Premium 2010
    Improve consistency and accuracy across your organization with advanced diagramming and new process management tools.

     

     

     

    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.

    Which edition is right for you?

    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:

    • Visio Standard 2010 brings a brand new look with the incorporation of the Office Fluent User Interface and the redesigned Shapes Window. New features like Quick Shapes, Auto Align & Space, and easy insertion and deletion of shapes make creating and maintaining diagrams even easier. With the new containers and callouts, it’s easy to organize diagrams and make them look great. In addition to the new features that work with all diagram types, the improved cross-functional flowcharting template included in Visio Standard 2010 is designed to be simple, scalable, and reliable.
    • Visio Professional 2010 builds on top of Visio Standard 2010’s great diagramming features by allowing you to connect your diagrams to data and to publish them to Visio Services. With Visio Services, you can view refreshable data-driven diagrams in SharePoint, even if you don’t have Visio installed. The Professional edition also includes advanced diagram templates like Detailed Network diagrams, Engineering diagrams, Wireframe diagrams, and Software and Database diagrams.
    • Visio Premium 2010 includes all the features of Visio Professional 2010 and adds advanced process management features like new diagram templates for SharePoint workflows, Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN), and Six Sigma. SharePoint workflow diagrams can be exported into SharePoint Designer 2010 and further customized. The Subprocess feature allows you to break up your processes into manageable and reusable pieces. With diagram Validation, you can ensure that your diagrams are properly constructed. Visio Premium 2010 integrates with SharePoint Server 2010 to provide a process repository for centralized storage of process documents.

    The main functionality differences between the three editions are summarized in the table below:

     

     

    Visio Standard 2010

    Visio Professional 2010

    Visio Premium 2010

    Ease of Use Features

    • Microsoft Office Fluent UI
    • Quick Shapes and Mini Toolbar
    • Page Auto Size
    • Auto Align & Space
    • Dynamic Grid
    • Improved Cross-Functional Flowchart

    And too many more to list!

    image image image

    Visio Services and Data Features

    • Publishing to Visio Services*
    • Data Link functionality
    • Data Graphics
    • Data Graphics Legend
      image image

    Advanced Diagram Templates

    • Detailed Network Diagrams
    • Engineering Diagrams
    • Software and Database Diagrams
    • Wireframe Diagram template
    • ITIL Diagram template
    • Website mapping and documentation diagrams
    • Building architecture and service diagrams
      image image

    Advanced Process Management Features

    • SharePoint® Workflow Template
    • BPMN Template
    • Six Sigma Template
    • Diagram Validation
    • Subprocess
    • Validation and Validation API
        image

    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 Insights

    Automatic Behaviors in Visio

    • 26 Comments

    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.

     

    Connector Routing

    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.

     

    Solution Behaviors

    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.

     

    Remedies for Automatic Solution Behaviors

    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

            End If

     

        Next

       

    End Sub

     

    Public Sub EnablePersistedEvents()

     

        Dim vsoEvent As Visio.Event

       

        For Each vsoEvent In ThisDocument.EventList

     

            If vsoEvent.Persistent = True Then

                vsoEvent.Enabled = True

            End If

     

        Next

     

    End Sub

     

    Conclusion

    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.

     

  • Visio Insights

    Applying a Background or Border Design in Visio 2010

    • 24 Comments

    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.

    image

    Backgrounds

    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.

    image 

    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.

    image

    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.

    Apply al all or 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.

    Themes with dark backgrounds

    You can also click on the Background Color command at the bottom of the Backgrounds gallery to pick a color.

    Background Color Picker

    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.

    image

    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.

    Title Editing

    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.

    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.

  • Visio Insights

    Improvements to multi-page document support in Visio 2010

    • 22 Comments

    In this post, we’ll talk about the improvements we’ve made in Visio 2010 to make it easier to work with multi-page documents. With these changes, Visio provides more control when you copy and paste shapes between pages, as well as more efficient page tab management and navigation.

    Copying and pasting shapes

    The biggest change with copy/paste is that if you copy shapes from one page and paste them to another, the shapes will paste to exactly the same location as on the first page. In prior versions of Visio, the shapes would always paste to the center of the window. This change makes it easier to make an identical copy of a page or to create a multi-page document that has incremental changes between pages. For example, you might have a series of flowcharts that begin with the same set of steps or a storyboard that walks through a UI design.

    If you want the pasted shapes to go to a certain location on a page, rather than to the position they were copied from, you can right-click on the page at the location you want them to be placed, and choose “Paste” in the right-mouse menu. The shapes will paste to the spot where you right-clicked:

    image 

    Managing page tabs

    We’ve made several improvements to the page tabs to make them easier to use and more consistent with the sheet tabs in Microsoft Excel.

    First, there is a new Insert Page button at the end of the page tabs, which lets you quickly add a series of pages to the end of the page tab order:

    image 

    If you right-click on a page tab and choose Insert Page, the new page is inserted immediately after the page tab you right-clicked on, rather than at the end of the tab order. So you can insert the page where you want it, rather than having to add the new page at the end before dragging it to the desired location:

    image 

    Since the settings in the Page Setup dialog box apply to the currently active page, we’ve added the Page Setup command to the page tab’s right-mouse menu to provide quick access to that page’s settings:

    image

    Pages in Visio can be either foreground or background pages. Foreground pages are the pages you build your diagram on. Background pages have special behaviors and are intended as a place to put objects that you want to appear on multiple foreground pages. To help you distinguish between background and foreground pages, the names on background page tabs are italicized as a hint that they are different:

    image

    Right-clicking on the forward/backward navigation buttons to the left of the page tabs brings up a menu of all of the pages in the document, so you can move quickly from one page to another:

    image

    Finally, if you want to make all the pages in your document the same orientation or size, you can apply the same setting to all of them at once, instead of having to set it for one page at a time. Click on the Orientation or Size buttons on the Design tab in the ribbon, and then right-click on the setting you want in the menu. Choose to apply it to all the pages in your document or only the current page:

    image 

    All of these improvements were in direct response to feedback we heard from customers, so please continue providing us with more great feedback. Drop us a comment on the blog or use the Send a Smile feature in the Visio 2010 Beta to let us know what you think.

  • Visio Insights

    Remember to check out the new Visio blog!

    • 21 Comments

    Our new Visio blog is filled with tons of articles that can help you make the most of everything Visio has to offer. In it, we have posts on new features, tips and tricks, and ways to make your diagram look both professional and beautiful.

     

    To give you an idea, here's a sampling of our recent articles:

    Our blog has lots of helpful information, from revisiting features in earlier versions to highlighting offerings in the new Visio. Check it out for yourself today!

  • Visio Insights

    The Improved Dynamic Grid in Visio 2010

    • 19 Comments

    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.

    Turning On the Dynamic Grid

    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:

    clip_image002

    Aligning shapes

    To see the Dynamic Grid in action, simply drop a shape next to another shape and notice the orange lines that automatically appear:

    clip_image003

    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:

    clip_image004

    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.

    Spacing shapes

    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:

    clip_image005

    The Dynamic Grid scans both horizontally and vertically when displaying feedback. This allows you to easily position shapes in relation to many surrounding shapes:

    clip_image006

    Snapping to the Dynamic Grid

    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.

    Page margins and centerlines

    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.

    Container margins and centerlines

    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:

    clip_image007 clip_image008

    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.

  • Visio Insights

    Organizing Diagrams with Containers

    • 18 Comments

    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.

    Flowchart sample

    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.

    image

    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.

    image

    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.

    image

     

    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.

    image

    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.

     

  • Visio Insights

    Going Off the Page

    • 18 Comments

    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.

     

    EventDrop

    RUNADDONWARGS("OPC","/CMD=1")

    EventDblClick

    RUNADDONWARGS("OPC","/CMD=2")

    TheText

    RUNADDONWARGS("OPC","/CMD=3")

     

    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.

     

    EventDrop

    RUNADDONWARGS("OPC","/CMD=4")

    EventDblClick

    RUNADDONWARGS("OPC","/CMD=5")

     

    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.

     

  • Visio Insights

    Error #318 Explained

    • 16 Comments

    Every once in a while we hear from a user who has encountered a cryptic error message in Visio and is left helpless.  Most of Visio’s error messages are somewhat explanatory, though we continue to improve their wording.  However, there is another set of messages that report “internal errors”. 

     

    Internal errors are usually problems where the Visio program has done something wrong, whereas other errors are shown in response to things the user has done.  Internal errors can be identified by an error number included within the message text.  Often the message provides no clue as to the problem or possible remedies.  We’ll look at one of the more frequently encountered internal error messages in this post – Error #318.

     

    Error #318 can occur when you copy and paste a shape from one document to another.  There are some specific circumstances needed to trigger the error:

    • The shape is an instance of a master
    • The shape has a reference to a cell in the Document Shapesheet
    • The cell in the Document Shapesheet has a reference to another cell in the Document Shapesheet
    • The Document Shapesheet cells are not present in the target document

    This is not the only way to encounter this error, but it is representative of what can happen.  Here are the steps to reproduce the problem:

     

    • Create a new blank Visio drawing
    • Open the Drawing Explorer from the View menu
    • Open the Document Shapesheet by right-clicking on the top item in the explorer
    • Create two rows in the User-defined section named Test1 and Test2
    • For the value of User.Test1, enter =User.Test2
    • Close the Document Shapesheet window

     

     

    • Right-click on the Masters item in the Drawing Explorer and choose New Master
    • Enter the name Test for the master and click OK
    • Edit the Test master and draw a rectangle
    • Open the Shapesheet for the rectangle and create a row in the User-defined section name Test
    • For the value of User.Test enter =TheDoc!User.Test1
    • Close the Shapesheet and master edit windows and accept changes

     

    • Go File > Shapes > Show Document Stencil
    • Drag and drop the Test master onto the page
    • Copy and Paste the shape into a new blank document

    The problem for Visio is the secondary reference in the Document Shapesheet to another cell.  Normally when a shape moves between documents, Visio automatically copies over the page and document cells that the shape depends on – creating them if necessary.  Visio sees that the shape being copied has a reference to cell User.Test1 in the Document Shapesheet, and it creates this cell in the target document.  Visio does not know that the contents of cell User.Test1 themselves have a reference to another cell.  Cell User.Test2 is not created in the target document.  When Visio tries to complete the Paste operation and recalculates the cells, it finds that there is a missing reference.  Error #318 is shown and the Paste operation fails.

     

    Unfortunately this is no simple bug in Visio but a significant architectural limitation, which means that a fix for the problem is not forthcoming.  However, by understanding how this error can occur we can identify some remedies.  In order for the Paste operation to succeed, the target document must have the correct set of Document Shapesheet cells in place.  It is certainly possible to add the required cells prior to doing the Paste.  Another option is to make sure the shape has a direct reference to each of the Document Shapesheet cells itself.  This might be a solution for shape and solution designers to use so that their users don’t experience strange Copy / Paste failures.

     

    If you encounter internal Visio errors, please tell us about it.  We’ll try to explain a few other common ones in a future post.

     

     

  • Visio Insights

    AutoConnect in Visio 2010

    • 16 Comments

    AutoConnect was a feature first introduced in Visio 2007. The original intent of the feature was to simplify the creation of connected diagrams such as business process flowcharts by accomplishing multiple tasks in a single action:

    1. Dropping a new shape on the page.

    2. Connecting the new shape to the original shape.

    3. Aligning and spacing the new shape attractively with other shapes in the diagram.

    The notable efficiency is that AutoConnect accomplishes these tasks without the need to switch to the Connector tool (and subsequently back to the Pointer tool).

    In Visio 2010 we have extended AutoConnect to make the creation of connected diagrams even more efficient. Here’s a summary of the new features.

    Adding a new connected shape from a stencil’s Quick Shapes

    In many ways, AutoConnect’s core ability of adding new connected shapes works much the same as it did in Visio 2007 – with one very significant enhancement in Visio 2010. AutoConnect now allows you to choose from up to four Quick Shapes from the current stencil as the added shape.

    Note: Quick Shapes represent a subset of shapes that are more commonly used within a given stencil. For more information on the new Quick Shapes feature in Visio 2010, see the earlier blog post concerning the new enhancements to the Shapes Window.

    clip_image004clip_image006

    In the image above, when hovering over the AutoConnect arrow to the right of shape #1, a Mini Toolbar appears that contains the first four shapes from the Quick Shapes area of the active stencil in the Shapes window. As you point to a shape on the Mini Toolbar, a live preview of the shape and the connector is shown on the page. Clicking on the shape adds it to the page, connected, aligned, and spaced.

    Connecting to another shape in the diagram

    As you create and edit connected diagrams, very often the need is to connect one shape to another already on the drawing page. AutoConnect can simplify this task in a couple ways.

    clip_image008

    In the image above, AutoConnect automatically previews a connector between the original shape (#1) and a neighboring shape (#2) when hovering over the AutoConnect arrow. Clicking on the arrow completes the connection. The neighbor connect feature looks for a shape in close proximity in the direction of the respective AutoConnect arrow. (Note: The neighbor connect feature was not functional in the Tech Preview of Visio 2010 but will be fixed in the Visio 2010 Beta.)

    But what if the intent is to connect shape #1 to shape #3? In Visio 2010 this can now be accomplished by simply dragging a new connector from any AutoConnect arrow.

    clip_image010

    clip_image012

    In the sequence above, after hovering over the AutoConnect arrow to the right of shape #1, a connector is dragged to the target shape #3. The connector can be glued dynamically to shape #3 as shown or to a particular connection point if desired. Although the behavior while dragging is identical to that of the Connector tool, the important distinction is that switching to the Connector tool was not required and further diagram editing can continue with the Pointer tool.

    As always, we're interested in your feedback on the enhancements we’ve made to AutoConnect, so use the Send a Smile feedback tool or comment on the blog to let us know what you think.

  • Visio Insights

    The New Shapes Window in Visio 2010

    • 16 Comments

    The Shapes Window has been redesigned in Visio 2010 to streamline the identification and use of shapes when creating diagrams. We've made several enhancements to make it easier to move from the initial "creation" phase to the "editing" phase of working with shapes. In this post, you'll learn all about the new features and how you can use them.

    clip_image002clip_image004

    Stencil list view navigation

    In the screenshot above, you'll see the new and improved UI for the Shapes Window. You can easily navigate between stencils by using the list view at the top of the window. This makes it easier to find and select the stencils you want and eliminates the problem of losing track of stencils, which were stacked at both the top and bottom of the Shapes Window in past releases. To open new stencils, you simply click on the "More Shapes" menu to choose from a wide variety of stencils.

    Support for live rendering of master shapes

    With live rendering, shapes are now drawn as they will appear when dropped on the page, with the current theme applied in full-color. This provides a more accurate preview of a shape's appearance before you select it for use in a diagram.

    Support for re-ordering shapes

    You can customize the order of shapes by simply dragging the icons to a new position in the stencil. By doing so, you can easily access the shapes you use most frequently together in one place. Modifications are persisted and will appear the next time you use the stencil.

    Quick Shapes

    Quick Shapes represent a subset of shapes that are more commonly used within a given stencil. The faint horizontal divider line shown in each open stencil indicates the division between Quick Shapes (above divider) and non-Quick Shapes (below divider). You can choose your own Quick Shapes by dragging the icon of a shape above the divider line.

    You can also click on the new "Quick Shapes" view which generates a stencil showing all the Quick Shapes across your open stencils. This makes it easy to use common shapes across multiple stencils without having to switch between them.

    clip_image006

    Collapsed view

    You can also collapse the Shapes Window, by toggling the small arrow on the top right of the window. This provides more screen space when working with large diagrams or on small monitors. The collapsed view can show all the shapes in the current stencil or just the shapes in the Quick Shapes view. The collapsed view is fully functional with the ability to drag and drop shapes.

    clip_image008

    Stay tuned for a future post that will cover the new AutoConnect functionality that ties into Quick Shapes for faster diagram creation.

    We're interested in your feedback on the new Shapes Window in Visio 2010 Technical Preview, so use the Send a Smile feedback tool or comment on the blog to let us know what you think.

  • Visio Insights

    Cross-functional Flowcharts in Visio 2010

    • 15 Comments

    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.

    image

    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:

    image

    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!

    image

    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:

    image

    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.

    image

    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!

  • Visio Insights

    SharePoint Workflow Authoring in Visio Premium 2010 (Part 1)

    • 14 Comments

    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:

    clip_image002

    That same workflow, implemented as a SharePoint Workflow, can look like the following in SharePoint Designer 2010:

    clip_image003

    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.

    clip_image005

    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.

    clip_image007

    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:

    clip_image009

    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:

    clip_image010

    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.

    clip_image012

    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 Insights

    Hyperlink Problem in Internet Explorer 7

    • 14 Comments

    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.

     

     

     

  • Visio Insights

    Customizing Data Graphics

    • 13 Comments
     

      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.

       

       

  • Visio Insights

    Visio 2010 Technical Preview Released

    • 13 Comments

    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!

     

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    Visio 2010 Overview

    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.

    Process Management

    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 Services

    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.

     

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    Visio 2010 application workspace

     

    Looking ahead

    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.

  • Visio Insights

    Data Graphics in Visio 2010

    • 12 Comments

    In Visio 2007, we introduced the data graphics feature to make it possible to display data on shapes using text callouts, data bars, or icons, or by coloring the shapes based on the data. As the data changes, the data graphics update accordingly.

    With data graphics, Visio diagrams can be used to visualize dynamic data in powerful and succinct ways. For example, data graphics are used on these network server shapes to show their network name, operating system, and IP address as text callouts that appear next to them. Data bars show CPU speed and memory, and an icon is used to indicate each server’s current status. The data associated with each shape can be conveyed at a glance.

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    In Visio 2010, we’ve given the data graphics feature a makeover to integrate it into the ribbon and to address feedback we heard from users. We also added a legend feature, but we’ll talk about that in an upcoming post.

    As in Visio 2007, before you can display data using a data graphic, you first need to have some data in your shapes. You can add the data manually in the Shape Data Window for each shape, or you can import the data into the diagram from an external data source like an Excel worksheet or a SQL database, using the Link Data to Shapes button on the Data tab. The data will appear in the External Data Window.

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    Once you drag a row of data from the External Data Window onto a shape to establish the link to the shape, a set of data graphics is created in the Data Graphics gallery, which replaces the task pane used in Visio 2007. The first data graphic in the gallery is automatically applied to the data-linked shape.

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    You can also create a new data graphic or edit one of the data graphics that Visio built for you in the gallery.

    In addition to integrating the user interface into the ribbon, we made some improvements to the dialog boxes based on user feedback. First, if you want to change the way a data field is displayed in the data graphic, you no longer have to delete the data field item and add a new one. For example, if you want to make an item display as an icon instead of a text callout, you can simply edit the item…

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    …and switch its display type from Text…

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    …to Icon Set.

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    When you edit a data graphic, we now give you a choice between applying the changes to all shapes with that data graphic applied (the only option in Visio 2007) or only to the selected shapes, using radio buttons at the bottom of the Edit Data Graphic dialog box. The latter choice makes a copy of the data graphic and applies it to the selected shapes.

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    Visio 2007 users asked us for more control over the formatting of text and other elements in data graphics. In Visio 2010, you can choose the font size used for the value and label in a text callout or data bar, and you can specify the width of the callout.

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    Please check out the new Data Graphics user interface and let us know what you think, either by commenting on the blog or (if you’re using the Visio 2010 Technical Preview) via Send a Smile.
  • Visio Insights

    Printing Comments

    • 12 Comments

    Visio 2003 introduced a new Reviewer & Markup feature that allows users to add comments to diagrams.  A typical question we are asked is “How do I print the comments?”  This capability was not included in the markup feature, but our Product Support team has published a solution in a Knowledge Base article:

    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/898514/en-us

     

    The solution is a VBA macro that you can add to your document to programmatically collect the comment information and put it into a new shape in the diagram.  Please follow the link for detailed instructions and the code.  The shape is placed off the page at first.  You can resize the shape, format the text to your liking and then move the shape into the printed page region.

     

     

    The code operates on the current page and also any reviewer pages that may overlay it.  Comments are found in the Annotation section of the page’s ShapeSheet.

     

     

    This “comment report” is one way of addressing the need for printing comments.  If you use comments in your diagrams, please tell us how you surface them or how you would like to see Visio display and print them.

     

     

  • Visio Insights

    Improved CAD Support in Visio 2010

    • 12 Comments

    Some of the earliest adopters of Visio were engineers and others who created technical drawings, and they loved the combination of power and simplicity that Visio provides. One of the most ubiquitous applications used by engineers is Autodesk’s AutoCAD, and Visio supports AutoCAD files by providing basic CAD integration features for import, conversion, and export.

    While we made significant CAD improvements in Visio 2007, we did not provide support for newer AutoCAD file formats. This meant that Visio 2007 users required saving their CAD files in older formats in order to open them in Visio.

    Now in Visio 2010, we’ve addressed this issue by adding the ability to read the latest AutoCAD file formats while providing the same CAD functionality as Visio 2007.

    To learn about Visio CAD support, we recommend reading our past blog posts about Visio 2007 linked below:

    Please comment on the blog to let us know what you think.

  • Visio Insights

    Gluing It All Together

    • 11 Comments

    This is the third topic in a series discussing the essential features that make up the Visio application.

     

    Essential Feature:  Connectors

    The fundamental drawing type in Visio is the flowchart - a collection of boxes connected together by lines.  When Visio was first introduced, drawing programs mostly worked with geometric primitives.  Boxes and connectors were just sets of lines, with no intelligent behavior.  If you wanted to move a box to a new location, you also had to redraw the connecting line to make it reach the box again.

     

    To avoid the tediousness of fixing up drawings, Visio introduced a pair of diagramming innovations: connectors and glue.  A connector is a one-dimensional shape consisting of line segments.  Each endpoint is attached to a two-dimensional shape (the box) using glue.  When the box is moved to a new location, the connector stays attached and stretches as needed to maintain the connectivity between boxes.  Visio chooses the route the connector will take between its endpoints.

     

     

    Connectors have intelligent routing behavior.  They will avoid other shapes on the page where possible.  They will even show line jumps (or line breaks) where they cross over each other.  When you do choose to override Visio, you can easily control the connector path using green handles found on the shape.

     

    The default connector in Visio is the Dynamic Connector, which is the shape created by the Connector Tool.  However, any 1-D shape can be used as a connector.  You can turn an ordinary line into a connector by changing the ObjType cell in the Shapesheet from 0 to 2.  You can also make your own connector master shape.  If you name your master "Dynamic Connector", Visio will use it when you draw with the Connector Tool.

     

    There are some other interesting behaviors when using the Connector Tool in conjunction with masters in the Shapes window.  Try this:  Select an existing shape on the page.  Then switch to the Connector Tool and drag a master shape out onto the page.  Not only is the shape added, a connector is created and glued between the existing shape and the new shape.  You can also make Visio use a different connector shape with the Connector Tool.  Switch to the Connector Tool, then select a 1-D master in the Shapes window.  Now draw a connector on the page.  Visio uses the selected master instead of the Dynamic Connector.

     

    The Dynamic Connector is itself a master.  It's built into Visio.  The first time you draw with the Connector Tool, Visio looks for a master named "Dynamic Connector" in the Document Stencil.  If no master is found, Visio puts a copy of its built-in Dynamic Connector master in the Document Stencil (File > Shapes > Show Document Stencil).  You can edit this master to change the appearance of all connectors in the diagram.

     

    There's a lot more that can be said about connectors and also glue, but those are the basics.  Connectors streamline the diagramming process by maintaining their connections with shapes and managing their routing automatically.

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