Annotating Diagrams with Callouts in Visio 2010

One of the guiding principles for the Visio 2010 user interface is that commonly used shapes should be easily accessible.  We showed how the Quick Shapes view in the Shapes Window aggregates the shapes from multiple stencils together.  There are also common shapes that are useful in many different kinds of diagrams.  These are exposed directly in the Ribbon through shape galleries.  We looked at Containers and Backgrounds and Borders previously.  In this post we examine Callouts.


A callout is an annotation on a diagram that provides more information about a shape.  Callouts are Visio shapes themselves, which differentiates them from other forms of annotation such as comments.  Callouts are part of the visible drawing and can be edited and formatted like any other shape.  A callout points at or references another shape, which we call the “target” of the callout.  It is placed in proximity its target and may have a line connecting to it.  The connecting line is called a “leader”.

To add a callout shape in Visio 2010, select the target shape on the page and then click on the Callout dropdown in the Insert tab.  You will see the Callout gallery with many different styles of callouts.  Hover over a style to see it applied as a Live Preview and then click the style to add the callout.  The callout appears slightly above and right of the target shape.  (Note in the Technical Preview build the callout is placed a little too close by default and overlaps the target.  This will be corrected in the next beta release.)


Callout shapes are not new to Visio 2010, but Visio 2010 gives callout shapes special behaviors.  When a target shape is moved, copied or deleted, any callouts attached to the shape will be moved, copied or deleted too.  Thus callouts stay with their target shapes, though you can reposition the callout to any offset from its target.  Callout shapes are also designed to be displayed in front of other shapes.  Even if you add new shapes to a page and overlap them with callouts, the callouts will appear in front.

There are additional options for the visual style of callout shapes, which you can access by right-clicking on a callout.  The Callout Style flyout menu allows you to switch to a different geometric style and has the same choices as the Insert Callout gallery in the ribbon.  The Orientation flyout menu lets you control which side the callout’s leader attaches to.  Callout Line controls the visibility and placement of the leader line.  Finally you can choose whether the callout shape resizes to fit the amount of text in the shape.


We hope you find the improved callout behaviors and convenient access from the ribbon a welcome addition to Visio 2010.  Feel free to tell us what you think through the Send a Smile feedback tool or by commenting on this post.

Comments (11)

  1. Ivan says:

    How do you flip a callout so the line points in the other direction?

  2. Peter James says:

    Completely unintuitive compared to the callouts in powerpoint 2010.  I had to download another stencil to do a simple enlargement callout – KISS guys.

  3. Jeff says:

    The idea of attaching a callout to a shape is great.  However, to support callout protocols used in engineering and patent drawings, what is needed is greater flexibility to specify/manipulate the leader portion of a callout.  For example, a leader with two segments joined at a bendable elbow would be nice (the segment attached to a shape can be any angle or length; the other segment is always horizontal but can be any length).    

  4. T.D. Beau says:

    I am looking for a way to auto hide a callout or comment to display text only when the mouse hovers over a shape. I read the above article and have read other help article and searched the Internet. There does not appear to be a way to do this. Please tell me I'm wrong, and explain how to create a mouseover pop up text box.

    The Screen Tip does not work well enough for two reasons. 1. It takes too long for the screen tip box to pop up and display, and 2) the text screen tip box does not resize to display all text entered.

    Please tell me there is a solution that doesn't require writing code.

  5. Brent says:

    I agree with beau.  I would like a simple  callout box that only appears on mouse over.  I see you have limited double click events that can be added but there should be more event options and effects that can be used on all graphic objects.

  6. R Maxim says:

    Has the roll-over call-out issue been resolved? this is functionality I would also like to have.

  7. Habibullah Allah Yar says:

    If the bottom of the Help Viewer says Offline, click Offline, and then click Show content from Click Refresh on the toolbar Click Back on the toolbar, and then click the link to the page again

    ⦁ If the bottom of the Help Viewer says Offline, click Offline, and then click Show content from

    ⦁ Click Refresh on the toolbar

    ⦁ Click Back on the toolbar, and then click the link to the page again

  8. Marc says:

    Can I position the callout onder the process box with he tip pointed at the box (so on top) ?

  9. robin R says:

    Can't figure out for the life of me how to resize them.  Trying not to use them – I agree with previous poster … unintuitive.

  10. Ken says:

    Has Visio 2010 eliminated the ability to use callouts from Visio 2007? Right clicking on the Visio 2007 callouts (process engineering/process annotations stencil) in Visio 2010 brings up the option to "Configure Callout" like in Visio 2007. However, clicking on this does nothing. So I can no longer use the Visio 2007 callouts. This is a problem, because it does not appear to be possible to associate the Visio 2010 built-in callouts with pipelines, which are connectors rather than shapes.

    Perhaps this is more in the latest Microsoft trend of "upgrading" products by removing features or making the products more cumbersome to use.

    If I can't configure the callouts to be associated with a connector, I have lost 50% of the functionality of Visio that I need.

  11. John says:

    Back when Visio was a good tool, one could paste is picture and then use callouts to point out items in the picture.  Now all callouts do is snap to the picture. Turning off Snap & Glue doesn't.  I'll just go use power point and forget about visio.  Please never work on powerpoint, it is still usable