Shape Conversion in Process Engineering


    A recent newsgroup post asks for an explanation of the cells that get added to a shape when it is converted using the Process Engineering add-on. 


    The Shape Conversion command in Process Engineering allows you to make any shape work like the built-in Process Engineering shapes.  We recognized that customers who made Piping & Instrumentation diagrams often had custom equipment or valves or instruments that they needed to include in the diagram.  Shape Conversion modifies a custom shape to make it recognizable by the Process Engineering add-on and match the behaviors of built-in shapes.


    You can try this by drawing a rectangle and choosing Shape Conversion from the Process Engineering menu.  In the dialog, note that the shape Source is already set to Selected Shapes.  Process Engineering can also bring in shapes from other documents or CAD symbols.  Then comes the challenging part: you can optionally give the shape a Category and Tag Format.  Categories are used to organize the shape in the Component Explorer window.  You can choose an existing category or type in a new string.  Tag formats are used for automatically labeling and numbering shapes.  You must choose from an existing tag format.  Visio only offers you choices for Categories and Tag Formats that already exist in the drawing, so if you want your shape to be a piece of Equipment you should drop a built-in Equipment shape on the drawing before converting your custom shape.



    After clicking OK, you can open the Shapesheet window to see what changes were made to your shape.  The primary change is the set of User-defined cells added to the shape.  These cells identify the shape and control its behavior in the diagram.



    Here is a brief explanation of each cell:


    A GUID (unique identifier) that tells Visio what add-on is managing the shape.  All shapes that are used with Process Engineering, need the GUID matching the Process Engineering add-on.


    The Category that the shape is assigned to.  The shape appears under this name in the Component Explorer.


    The current tag name (label & number) for the shape.


    The Tag Format name and expression for the shape.  Unless the Component Tag has been overwritten, this is the automatically generated label displayed on the shape.


    The sequence number for the shape.  Visio updates this value when components are renumbered.  This value then feeds into the Component Tag.


    A Boolean value that determines whether the Component Tag is displayed on the shape.  This is manipulated by an Action in the Actions section.


    A value that references the global page setting for hiding tags.  If tags are hidden at the page level, then the local setting is ignored.


    This is a bit flag that controls the layout behavior of the components in the diagram.  Mostly these settings determine how the split and heal features in Process Engineering work.  Here are the bits:


    CAUSES SPLIT = 1 (Splits connector when dropped on connector)

    CAUSES HEAL = 2 (Heals connector when deleted)

    ALLOWS SPLIT = 4 (Connector splits when shape dropped)

    ALLOWS HEAL = 8 (Connector heals when shape deleted)

    ALLOWS JUNCTION = 16  (Connector to connector connection)

    JUNCTION IN USE = 32  (Temporary state)


    The default setting here is 31, which enables all the split and heal and junction behaviors.


    There are a few other changes to connection points, action cells and text to complete the conversion.  These are straightforward changes, and you can inspect the Shapesheet to see the details.


Comments (5)

  1. Jason Jia ( says:

    thank you for the detailed explanation. i am a process engineer and i used this add-on very often and love it. there is only one thing i am not satisfied with this add-on: the position of the tag text – it should be under the bottom of the shape converted instead of in the center of the shape converted. in fact all visio standard stencils and shapes for process engineering have a tag text under the bottom of the shape. so every time ater i did the conversion, i need to revise the "control" cell and "text tramsform" cell to make the tag number to be under the bottom of the shape. this additional process is really painful if you have many shapes to convert. maybe the next version of this visio add-on will improve on this point by adding an option of "selecting the tag text position" before you click on the OK button?

  2. Jason Jia ( says:

    another point is that the shape tag text, after the conversion, should be moved as easily as those shapes from visio stencils (valve, pipeline, equipment,etc., by a yellow point handler), but unfortunately this add-on does not offer such a feature, it just put the tag text in the center of the shape. if you need to move the tag text to another place in your drawing, you have to go to text block tool to complete this step. this is the main reason that, after the conversion operation,  i need to revise the "control" cell and "text transform" cell to have a yellow point handler for removing the tag text easily. if this add-on will include this step, that will be great.

  3. Visio Team says:

    Thanks for the comments, Jason.  If you haven’t seen this post yet, check it out.

    It includes a macro that can help perform the step you feel is missing from the Process Engineering converter.

    Mark Nelson

    Visio Team

  4. anonymous says:

    Offtopic but please include next Visio in the Ultimate SKU of Office 14.

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