The Developer tab in Visio 2010

Visio has long had a setting called “developer mode” that developers and shape designers can enable in order to surface extra functionality. In previous versions of Visio, enabling developer mode made new items appear in couple of different menus (Chris Roth has a good overview here). With Visio 2010, we have taken advantage of our new Fluent user interface by grouping this extra functionality into one Ribbon tab named “Developer”. The result is one central location for working with code and designing shapes in Visio:


Enabling the Developer Tab

The developer tab does not appear by default, since we want to provide a streamlined interface for users who do not need it. To surface the Developer tab, click on the Backstage Button, and click on Options. This brings up the Visio Options dialog. Click on the Customize Ribbon section. On the right-hand side, check the box that says “Developer” and press OK.

Visio Options Beta1

(Note: an alternate method is to go to the Advanced section in Visio Options and check the box at the bottom that says, “Run in developer mode”.)


Organization of the Developer tab

Here is an overview of how the Developer tab is organized, group by group.


Code & Controls


These two leftmost groups are common across many Office applications. Use them to work with Visual Basic code and ActiveX controls. Note that the Macros button is also available in the Ribbon’s View tab, so users who do not have developer mode turned on can still access this button.

Shape Design


This group contains functions used when designing shapes.

Clicking on the top part of the Show ShapeSheet button opens the selected shape’s ShapeSheet. (You can read more about the ShapeSheet in a previous post.) Clicking on the bottom part of this button lets you choose to instead view the ShapeSheet for the active page or the active document. This makes these ShapeSheets easier to access than they were in previous versions of Visio.


The geometry tool is a split button that contains different drawing tools. Note that although a similar button is available on the Home tab, that button only contains the Rectangle, Ellipse, and Line tools, and not the Freeform, Arc, and Pencil tools.


Clicking on the Shape Name button will open up the dialog that in previous versions of Visio was available under “Format > Special” (this dialog box has been renamed “Shape Name” to better reflect its purpose):

Shape Name

The Behavior and Protection dialogs that were previously in the Format menu are in the Shape Design group now:

Shape Design Group



This group lets you create a new metric or US stencil.



This group lets you toggle the view of the document stencil, drawing explorer window, and master explorer window.


We hope the Developer tab makes your development and shape design tasks more convenient. We’re interested to hear your feedback, so use the Send a Smile feedback tool or comment on this post to let us know what you think.

Comments (9)

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  1. Tobias says:

    Interesting to see that you allow changing the icons of the ribbon within the dev. view. I like that for a tool like visio that addresses poweruser.

    But anyway, interesting to see since janson harris wrote about it in office 2007 that there will not be such a thing since the ribbon doesnt work well with it.

    What made you change your mind?

    But there is one other thing I really hoped to see a change in with office 2010 that doesnt seem to have changed.

    Since you closed comments on your other post (why?), I will write it here:

    Please, please improve the shape-sheed!

    1. Dont make it a windows. It belongs to the current window, not in its own frame/thread. I hate to have it overlap my current window and when you have more than one doc or a shape-edit-window open your space is cluttered with windows which just is not the way it should be in 2010!

    2. Its a pain to change between all these shape-windows. Having to click on the next object and then manually have to click the shape-sheet-button again is to complicated. please give us a tree-list of all the objects or some kind of help with the ShapeSheet to change betweeetn shapesheets for different objects easily.

    What do you think?


  2. Al Grosser says:

    In previous versions of Visio, there used to be the SmartShape wizard. Please bring it back. It was very convenient to use to add a smart label to an icon, including gravity for labels, font scaling, and the ease of moving labels around an object.

  3. Visio Team says:

    Hi Tobias and Al,

    Thanks for your feedback. I have logged your feature requests/ideas with the rest of the Visio Team.

    Tobias: You can perform certain customizations to the Visio 2010 Ribbon. For instance, you can create your own Ribbon tabs and groups, show/hide built-in Ribbon tabs (e.g. Home/Insert/Design), and rearrange groups within the Ribbon tab. Your mention of Jensen Harris is interesting — do you have a link to this discussion?

    Chris Wickens – Visio Product Team

  4. Tobias says:

    Hi Chris,

    I belive a good articel by jensen harris about this is where he talks about designing for the 97,9 % of users and therefore not to include heavy ribbon customizations.

    So it might be that this feature is more important for you (visio usergroup) that it was for office?

    What do you think about the advanced ribbon tools that are developed by autodesc? They have a vertical ribbon and stuff for excample.

    And one simple customization method I am missing at office: Change the  default-buttonsize from small to big/big to small. Since I use some buttons rarely that are big and other often that are small. I addition: Change the shrink-behaviour for small screens: in outlook writing a mail for excample the "check names" button alsways gets hidden in my prevered windows-size behind the shrinked group. I would love to tell office to shrink another group first since i dont need those as often…

  5. Ted says:

    Hi, the most annoying feature ever invented for Visio is the line re-route feature. Turning this on by default and then burying access to this in the developer tab only is a real questionable move. A regular user would have no idea any one of the esoterically named "auto" settings in the Options tab is not this re-route feature.

    Good luck with this one, I searched 6 different websites (half not Microsoft) to eventually find how to turn this annoyance off.

    My suggestion is to elevate at least this line re-route feature if not more to the main Options tab. Requiring a user to enable the developer tab (which suggests programmer btw) is not intuitive at all.

  6. hemanth says:

    i am not getting Diagram tab in my visio pro 2013.. please help me out to get it

    can i know the procedure

  7. ScotH says:

    It is unbeliveable how many of your instructions call for opening the "Format Tab" yet you don't tell anyone that the Developer Tab has replaced it. I had to stumble on this page to find that out.

  8. JP says:

    "The geometry tool is a split button that contains different drawing tools. Note that although a similar button is available on the Home tab, that button only contains the Rectangle, Ellipse, and Line tools, and not the Freeform, Arc, and Pencil tools."

    *Home/Tools do have Rectangle, Ellipse, Line, Freeform, Arc, and Pencil tools

    -Visio 2010 (14.0.7117.5002) SP2 MSO (14.0.7116.5000)

  9. David B Huntington says:

    What a load of crap!  All I want is my format menu back.  The sheer arrogance of Microsoft, bastardizing what was once a easily used tool into nightmare for long time fans and professional users.

    I really have to try and find a replacement, because I am sick of trying to find the tools I need.

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