Hello and welcome

Hi everyone, I'm the Lead Program Manager for the Visio team and I'm going to be talking about the new features we've been working on for Visio 12.  I am also looking forward to hearing from you about your Visio thoughts.  A little bit about me:  this is the first release of Visio that I have worked on and I'm pretty excited about it (I think you will be too once we start getting into some of the features).  Previously, I was on the InfoPath team for the 2003 version of that product, and I’ve also worked on Excel, Internet Explorer, and Access.  

Let's start off with a quick discussion about what makes Visio, well, Visio.  Why is Visio different from any other drawing or diagramming tool?  Well, for me, it's three main things.  First, Visio made it easy for people who don't have the time or graphic skills to still be able to create a diagram. Instead of having to draw each line in each shape of a diagram from scratch, Visio allowed you to assemble one from a large set of pre-made shapes that came with the product.  This opened up the field of diagramming to many more people than before.  Suddenly anyone could do it!  Second, Visio is a platform on which custom solutions can be developed.  Do you need a different diagram than the ones we ship with the product?  We give you the tools to be able to build it.  Does your company need to extend the functionality of our of our diagrams, such as a flow chart?  Again, Visio makes this possible.  Finally, Visio shapes are smart.  They can have special behaviors programmed into them so that they know how to connect to each other, resize properly, and even contain extra data behind them.

Shapes and Data

The fact that our shapes can contain data behind them has become more and more important with each release.  Many of the main uses of the product are to visualize real systems or processes that are used at a business.  For example, a Visio network diagram is used to document how a network is actually implemented at a company.  Or a flowchart details how a specific business process is carried out.  Floor plans show how equipment is laid out in a factory.  You get the idea.  Many of these systems have real data that is super useful to track along with the diagram.  In the network example, it would be great to have the IP address, Server OS, and administrator identified right in the diagram.  For the flowchart, we could store information about process step owners, how long it takes to complete each step, etc.

Today it's pretty hard for people to work with data in Visio.  You can store this data separately from the diagram in an external data source such as an Excel spreadsheet or a database, but it is difficult today to import this data into an existing diagram and connect it up to the shapes.  We frequently hear that people end up just typing the data directly into the shapes in the diagram.  This makes keeping the data up-to-date a bit painful. Every time something changes, you have to remember to go and update your diagram. 

If you successfully get your data in the Visio diagram with the current version of Visio, it's not easy to display it.  People have to rely on separate windows that show you the data behind each shape, instead of displaying it in a richer, more visually appealing way.  Visio's all about showing things graphically, so how come the data behind shapes has to be all text?

You may have guessed by now that one of the big themes for Visio 12 is improving the way you can work with data in diagrams.  Well, you’d be right!  In future posts, I'll be talking about the ways in Visio 12 that we have made it much easier to connect to data and display it directly on your diagram.  In addition to this, I'll show you some new diagram types that take advantage of these data features right out of the box.

For those of you who aren’t that interested in hooking up your Visio diagrams to data, don’t despair.  We’ve made a bunch of improvements to the rest of the product as well.  I’ll also talk about the work we've done to simplify creating and formatting Visio diagrams, as well as the new templates and shapes that we’ll be shipping. 

I haven't shown you too much about what we are up to yet but please feel free to post your comments on what you think so far.  Until next time...

Comments (11)
  1. Dan says:

    Hello Eric…Thanks for this great information. I just recently purchased Visio 2003 Pro and found the data linking limitation an issue for me right away. It’s great that you are enhanceing this in V12 but when will that be out and how much will it cost to upgrade from 2003?

    Thanks, Dan

  2. MSDN Archive says:

    Hi Dan,

    We haven’t announced pricing or street dates for our product yet. I can tell you that we are tied to the same release dates as the rest of Office, so when these are announced, expect Visio to follow the same schedule.



  3. Glen Roberts says:

    I would love to see a way to create a network diagram that lets me associate a ping request to each shape with an ip assigned to it.  Once the ping or some other response does not reply back then change the lin to the switch or server to a RED line showing that it is down.

    If that could be done using the web pae version of the diagram that would be awesome.  It would be a real time network outage diagram.  More like a NOC center.  Why did they ever do away with the Visio Network Tools.

  4. Milton Eugene Futch says:

    Visio for Enterprise Architects

    Is there a way to import an Excel database into a database diagram (Tables and Views).

    I have exported the tables, fields, etc and would like to import into a Database Model.

  5. Neil says:

    Hi Eric,

    As an interaction designer, I utilize Visio almost extensively for my work (though I have a love/hate relationship with the app).

    Two really important improvements from an IA’s perspective would be dynamic stencils (meaning, a change to the stencil would result in a cascade of updates to the instances, similar to library items within Flash) the other, better drawing and layering tools. Not much has been done on either of these in latest releases of Visio, leading many IA’s down the path of Illustrator or Omni Graffle. Will Visio 2007 improve on any of these?

    Another point of pain from many IA’s is the ability (inability) to render better prototypes from Visio. I think Axure is on the right path, especially when designing for AJAX and software applications.



  6. visGeek says:


    thaks for nice posts.

    well, do you know A.DistanceForm(B, 0) is different from B.DistanceFrom(A, 0) in some A/B in Visio 2003?

    for example, if A is a circle and B is a rectangle, this occurs.

    the smaller value is correct.

    is this a bug or by design?

    if it is by design, tell me the detail about DistanceFrom.

    is this gonna be changed in 2007?



  7. DaveTasker says:


    I have been using Visio for the past 5 years as the basis for a Semiconductor FAB based metrology application. Basically we use Visio as a CAD engine to link a series of 1D and 2D shapes to a machine vision library. The shape regions are used to provide search regions for the machine vision. The machine vision results are also used to reposition the shapes locations or their connection point.

    Our product is basically a very large Visio AddOn for an in FAB Scanning Electron Microscope. It sounds a little strange, but the whole solution is reliable and full featured providing 400 hours between system failures (usually not software failures).

    In an effort to get back my process space, I have been looking over the Visio Diagraming Control that first appeared in Visio 2003. I haven’t taken the plunge to use this yet because what I really want is a way to separate Visio into a Model-View-Controller architecture, or at least separating the Geometry Engine from the UI, may be even running the two in different process spaces. I realize that Visio was not designed with this goal in mind, but then again, I never thought that Microsoft would consider making the Drawing Control either!

    I guess that I could consider binding two instances of Visio together, one forming the embedded engine, one forming the UI.

    Any comment on the separation?

    David Tasker


  8. Gabriel says:

    I do like the Visio themes as we always need to separate similar objects in the same page.

    However the same behaviour occurs when we use new shapes on a visio 2002 document … The normal shadig dissapears and a simple one is put in its place. I suspect there might be some page settings that come into play there.

    I do hope we can have the Themes soon.

    Thanks for the insight.  :o)

  9. Cornell says:


      Thanks for the posting.  I have spent over 5 hours searching the Internet on how to have Visio show a dialog box of specific information when you simply place your cursor over the object.  It looks as if the new version addresses this issue.  If there is a way to have this feature now, I would be appreciative for an answer.  Other wise. I will have to figure out another solution for documenting my network diagram I am creating.

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