Visio 2007 Tips and Tricks

Recently I decided to up my Visio-fu, and also to settle on a set of standard templates and shapes for my network diagrams. A quick browse around Safari Books Online turned up three Visio tomes, so on a quiet weekend morning I thumbed through Microsoft Office Visio 2007 Inside Out. Here are some tips and tricks I picked up along the way:

  • The Workspace is where your diagram is created
  • Workspaces contain Shapes joined together by Connectors
  • Save Workspace layouts, perhaps with default Titles, as a Template for re-use
  • Find out what’s in the Workspace by going to View -> Drawing Explorer
  • A document can contain multiple Pages (workspaces) each using a different scale, and with hyperlinks between them
  • Pages in a single document might be useful for high, medium and low level detail in your diagrams
  • Hyperlink Shapes are hidden in the Borders & Titles Stencil
  • Stencils are the “folders” on the left hand side which contain Shapes (strictly, Master copies of them)
  • Create your own Stencils (File -> Shapes -> New Stencil); drag favourite Shapes in from the Workspace (a new Master is created)
  • You can distribute the custom Stencil around your team, to encourage common conventions
  • Shift+Ctrl+Left Click for Zoom In, +Right Click for Zoom Out, +Right Drag for Panning
  • Drag new alignment guides out from the horizontal and vertical rulers (NB: they will not appear on a printout)
  • To set a horizontal or vertical Ruler’s zero point, Click+Drag the other Ruler
  • Go to Tools -> Snap and Glue to select the Dynamic Grid option for much improved alignment guide support
  • Visio has Layers (like a poor cousin of Photoshop, who knew?!) – go to View -> Layer Properties
  • Use Layers to add annotations (call-outs or balloons) to diagrams which can be hidden for printing
  • When the Connector Tool is enabled, dragging Shapes in from a Stencil will also automatically join them
  • Alternatively to join Shapes, click the workspace shape, click the other shape in the stencil, then click the blue arrow on the workspace shape
  • If you anchor a connector to the shape core rather than an anchor point, dragging the shape around also moves the connector
  • Right click on a connector (a line) and set to Straight or Curved
  • Straight lines have their “jumping” of crossed connectors enabled via the Format -> Behavior dialog
  • Use the Pencil Tool to alter the lines and vertices of Shapes; Ctrl+Click to add a vertex, Ctrl+Click on a vertex to reveal modification handles
  • When using the Ellipse Tool, hold down Shift to draw a regular circle
  • If you group shapes together (Shift+Ctrl+G, very useful) but want to edit the group, go to Edit -> Open Group
  • Ctrl+D will duplicate your selection on the Workspace
  • Various operations (combine, intersect, etc) are available for shapes if you look in Shape -> Operations
  • Themes are a little publicised gem, useful for reformatting all your text, lines, boxes etc in one go
  • To apply current format settings to a shape, use the Format Painter button on the Standard toolbar (sweeping brush), or Shift+Ctrl+P
  • Clicking a shape and then starting typing is the simplest way to add text; hit Esc when you are done
  • Switch to the Text Block Tool (hidden below the Text Tool button) to move/rotate text if you can’t see the move/rotate handles
  • Setting the background (fill) colour on connector labels will make the text stand out nicely
  • Don’t forget Tools -> Autocorrect Options to turn off annoying auto-corrections

Phew, that’s my lot, but do you have any other tips? Please comment. I hope this helps!

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