Microsoft Visio is a very useful, popular and powerful diagramming tool. The tool does however have its quirks and following some basic ‘best practice’ can significantly enhance the effective and efficient use of Visio. The following tips apply equally to Visio 2003 and Visio 2007:
Particularly when using many pages in a single Visio file, use the same shapes repeatedly (i.e. standardised shapes). When loading a file, Visio ‘processes’ all the different shapes it finds and when there are a large amount of different shapes Visio has a habit of ‘falling over’. Shapes of the same kind which are the same size and colour are processed as a single shape hence the benefit of using standardised shapes.
A good means of achieving this is to either copy and paste shapes within the same page or between pages or alternately use the shapes as they are from stencils (or create custom shapes and use those repeatedly).
Recording and running macros can save significant time when repeating actions/tasks. For example, if you require shading various swimlanes (bands) in a flowchart (see the image below as an example) and then repeat the colouring to other pages, using a macro will greatly save time and effort.
The ShapeSheet contains significant information about each shape and allows manipulation of shapes otherwise not possible through the various Visio menus. I predominantly use the ShapeSheet to get shapes to have specific properties (e.g. the height and width). To use the ShapeSheet, Visio must be ‘run in developer mode’ (see the video below for further information).
Quick Zoom and Pan
Visio demands significant screen ‘real estate’. This generally means frequent zooming and panning. Instead of using the scroll bars to pan and the zoom drop-down use the following:
- To Zoom: Hold the ‘Crtl’ key and use the wheel on the mouse.
- To Pan horizontally: Hold the ‘Shift’ key and use the wheel on the mouse.
- To Pan vertically: Use the wheel on the mouse.
When requiring to include a Visio diagram into another file (e.g. a document) many people make the mistake of simply including the Visio file as an Object or merely pasting the diagram. These methods include the entire Visio file instead of just the required diagram which consumes considerable additional memory and disc space. Using the following method is a far more effective and efficient method of including a Visio diagram into an external file:
- Go to the Visio diagram and copy the diagram.
- When in the file where you want the diagram to appear, click “edit’, ‘Paste Special’ then ‘Picture (Enhanced Metafile)’.
There are many other ways of enhancing the use of Visio. The five tips as above are a great start!