Dev Luv: Are You A Visio Shape Developer?

Which option best describes how you use Visio shapes?

(a)     I only use the shapes that ship in the box or that I see in other peoples’ drawings; I don’t make any modification to the shapes when I use them.

(b)     I modify existing shapes with color or other formatting changes and reuse those shapes; my changes don’t really modify the structure or behavior of the shape.

(c)     I create new shapes using the Drawing tools in Visio or by substantially changing the geometry or behavior of existing shapes.


If you answered (b) but are also interested in (c) or you answered (c), you’ll probably be interested in checking out Visio’s ShapeStudio.


Visio’s ShapeStudio installs as part of the Visio 2003 SDK, and requires the presence of MSDE or SQL on the install machine. Once you install the SDK, you can launch ShapeStudio from the Tools | Addons | SDK | ShapeStudio menu option. (You’ll have to connect to the database that the install program creates for you to get started.) ShapeStudio gives you a shape development environment within the familiar user interface of Visio. If you want to learn a little more about the tool and check out the user interface, the Visio MSDN Developer Center has a new article that provides an overview of ShapeStudio. The Visio documentation team is also working on a ShapeStudio tutorial article for the Visio Developer Center – the step-by-step tutorial should be available sometime in the next few months.


Here are some of the key reasons for why you might want to use ShapeStudio:

1.       It can speed up the development of any shape. Shape Studio ships standard behaviors (like Hyperlink) that you can add to a shape without having to create it yourself.

2.       It can speed up the development of complex shapes by making it easier to define and reuse custom behaviors.

3.       It makes it easier to manage changes and modifications for shapes and stencils.

4.       It makes it easier to maintain consistency across shapes. In the past, you may have had two masters that had similar behavior to the end user, but the masters may have been implemented in completely different ways. With ShapeStudio, these masters can now behave the same way and have the same underlying implementation which makes it easier to maintain.


If you’ve already built a large library of shapes, it probably doesn’t make sense to re-implement them using ShapeStudio (there is no utility to convert existing shapes into a ShapeStudio shape with a specification). But if you’re developing new shapes – especially large numbers of new shapes – ShapeStudio can help you maintain a consistent level of quality among your shapes.


-- Mai-lan


This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights

Comments (4)
  1. Rohan says:

    "You’ll have to connect to the database that the install program creates for you to get started."

    Where is this database located? I’m running as a Domain User on Windows 2003 Server and the first time I launched ShapeStudio, it gave me that Select DSN dialog with LocalServer as the only DSN.

  2. Mai-lan says:

    Hi, there: If you look using the SSAdmin tool, the default location is the install location of SQL or MSDE, which is Program FilesMicrosoft SQL ServerMSSSQLData. However, the user is allowed to change this location during install. I wouldn’t recommend using a remote SQL server installation with ShapeStudio, though.



  3. Wojo says:

    I just started using ShapeStudio and I think the database has become corrupted. Do you know of a way to delete the database? Currently if I open the corrupted ShapeStudio database it crashes Visio. I created a new database and it seems to work fine but I can not check out my Stencils or Mastes from the old database. I would also like to be on the default (Global) database instead of the new I created.



  4. Mai-lan says:

    You can delete the database via SQL tools – ie Enterprise Manager. (These tools do not come with MSDE.) You should be able to use the osql utility to drop the database. Here is some information on MSDN:

    osql utility

    deleting a database using osql

    Deleting your ShapeStudio database will delete all of your Stencils/Masters. If you wants to use a new database, you will essentially be starting over with your ShapeStudio storage.

    We’re always interested in how your DB became corrupt, though. If you want to send me a note through the Comments section, we can maybe check out how it corrupted in the first place.



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