Inserting and Deleting Shapes in Visio 2010

Diagram maintenance is a task that everyone performs, and many users spend much of their time in Visio maintaining existing diagrams.  We realize that a fair amount of the time you spend maintaining your diagrams is spent in the mechanics of the task, rather than achieving the goals of updating the concept the diagram represents.  There are some clear gains we can effect to make your life easier as you go about editing your diagrams.

Consider a typical flowchart.  You documented an internal process and now need to add some steps to the process diagram.  Prior to Visio 2010, this meant facing what could be a tedious task of ungluing connectors, selecting and dragging shapes to make room for the new ones, adding the new ones, positioning them neatly, re-gluing connectors, adding new connectors and moving the other shapes into position to leave you with a nice, neat diagram.

In Visio 2010, as part of our focus on ease of use and improving core process diagramming, we have simplified this basic, repeated task dramatically.  Now, all you need to do is drag your new shape out and drop it on the connector you wish to split.  Visio highlights the endpoints of the connector to make it clear which connector will split.  When you drop, Visio moves all the “downstream” shapes over just enough to make room for the new shape.  Visio takes care of positioning the new shape so that it is aligned with and evenly spaced from the shape upstream from it.

Before: image
Hover: image
After: image

Visio identifies which shapes are “downstream” from the insertion point, moves them in the right direction the right amount and places the new shape in just the right spot.  The lower left rectangle is connected downstream from the inserted shape, but is to its left, so did not need to move.

At some point you may need to remove a few steps from your diagram.  Prior to Visio 2010, this meant deleting shapes, deleting excess connectors, re-gluing the remaining connectors to the remaining shapes and moving those shapes to align and space evenly with the rest of the diagram.

In Visio 2010, we take care of the connector healing for you.  When you delete a connected shape, Visio checks how many connectors go into and out of the shape, and which ones have text.  If it is clear how to re-glue the connectors without changing the diagram and which connectors can be removed without losing text, Visio deletes the extraneous connectors and re-glues the remainder.


We made an explicit decision not to move the remaining shapes to fill in the empty space, as that could easily lead to all those downstream shapes – which could be numerous – overlapping another part of the diagram.  Fortunately, you can simply select which shapes should tighten up and use Auto Align or Auto Space to help you neaten up the diagram.  As you can see above, we also preserve connectors that have text, even when that means not healing.  Text on connectors is important, so better safe than sorry.

As mentioned, we enabled this behavior for cases where we can make a safe conclusion about how the connectors should heal.  Other than to prevent losing text, when else don’t we try to heal?  If there is more than one connector coming into and going out of the shape being deleted, then it is ambiguous how all the shapes should be re-connected together.  Typical examples of this are shown below.


Our hope is that these additions, while seemingly small, will have a big impact on reducing your workload as you maintain the millions of Visio diagrams you have all created.  Let us know how this works for you using Send a Smile or through a comment on the blog.

Comments (11)

  1. AdamV says:

    This is brilliant!

    For flowcharts this also really simplifies the switching of a step type (when a multi-type smart shape does not do the job). For example taking out a process box, the connector heals but nothing moves, then dropping a sub-process box back on the ‘healed’ connector to replace it (so you can no define the elements of the sub-process somewhere else).

    On logic circuits it seems to make a fairly good job of healing connectors, but has no functionality for dropping new components in. I realise that many components have more than two input/outputs so it would be hard to do for all cases, but there are times when the inputs are equivalent (AND, OR, NAND, XOR etc) and either could be chosen. Things like inverters with only one input and one output ought to be easy to do too. Any thoughts on this functionality being extended beyond flowcharts and into other types of topological diagrams?

  2. Visio Team says:

    Hi Adam –

    This behavior is available in general across Visio.  It is geared for flowchart scenarios, so we made certain decisions such as always using dynamic glue when healing the connectors, if possible.

    This feature builds on the existing connector split feature that was added in Visio 2003, and as such is subject to the same constraints – it can be enabled/disabled for an entire page via the PageShapeSplit cell, for a splitter shape via the ShapeSplit cell and for the being being split via the ShapeSplittable cell.  All three conditions must be enabled for a given shape to split a given 1-D shape on a given page.  A number of templates and masters have disabled splitting since Visio 2003 as some drawing types don’t lend themselves well to splitting/healing.

  3. GaspodeTheWonderDog says:

    This is awesome. Having just been through a process mapping exercise, this would have saved lots of time.

    Will it also be possible to get Visio 2010 to automatically re-paginate my diagrams? When I am drawing up a business process, I don’t care about pages or off-page connectors, I just want to model the process. Then when I am done and am ready to "publish" the process, I want Visio to take care of off-page connectors and making it all fit.

    Is that something I can look forward to?

  4. Dr. Internet says:

    This is fine for one page flowcharts and process flow diagrams.  However, when multi-page documents are created, a means of connecting the flow across pages is required.  Thus, the off-pcage connector.  However, this shape has one major shortcoming.  It does not show the "From" and "To" pages, even though Visio knows them.  I have not found a way to make it show them.

  5. mikeR says:

    I would to find the steps for inserted the Date + Time and Initial on each drawings.

  6. Annoyed says:

    Why can't I delete objects in Visio 2010 using the delete key?  Why did this have to be changed from Visio 2007?  Does Microsoft take some perverse pleasure by changing basic commands and then not telling anybody in the help file.

  7. Tony says:

    How do you disable this "feature?"  I have numerous overlays on my process maps, and the automatic movement of shapes causes them to not be aligned.

  8. Sheila says:

    I have to insert and delete persons in an organization chart.  I can't get this feature to work.  Is this only available in flowcharts?

    Thank you.

  9. Ian Hall says:

    This did not answer the question. How do you delete a shape in Visio 2010?

  10. Jennifer Loniewski says:

    This is really helpful. It removes a tone of tedious work, and you are so right, it gives back time to actually work on the process rather than the diagram representing the process. Brilliant!

  11. Brian Chambers says:

    I don't think you answered the question.  How do you delete the object or item?  

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