The Improved Dynamic Grid in Visio 2010


In Visio 2010, we’ve made it easier to align and space shapes to make your diagrams look neat and organized. In a previous post we covered our new layout improvements that help clean up existing diagrams. In this post, we’re going to cover how improvements in Visio’s Dynamic Grid can help you drag a single shape and more easily position it in relation to other shapes on the page.

Turning On the Dynamic Grid

The Dynamic Grid is turned on by default for most diagram templates. You can turn it on or off by toggling the checkbox in the View tab:

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Aligning shapes

To see the Dynamic Grid in action, simply drop a shape next to another shape and notice the orange lines that automatically appear:

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In the example above, Visio detected that the selected shape matched the centerline of a nearby shape. If the shapes were of different sizes, Visio would attempt to align the shapes based on edge boundaries such as the top, bottom, left, or right edges of shapes in addition to the centerline:

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Note that the Dynamic Grid only aligns the same edge boundaries of shapes. For example, a top edge of a shape will snap to the top edge of another shape, but not to the bottom edge of another shape.

Spacing shapes

The Dynamic Grid also displays orange line segments when evenly spaced shapes are found close to each other. This is useful for easily placing shapes in equal distances from one another. Simply drop a shape next to other evenly spaced shapes to see these line segments in action:

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The Dynamic Grid scans both horizontally and vertically when displaying feedback. This allows you to easily position shapes in relation to many surrounding shapes:

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Snapping to the Dynamic Grid

When either an alignment or spacing relationship is found between shapes, Visio will gently snap the shape you have selected to an invisible grid. This snapping behavior makes it easy to grab a shape using the mouse and position it next to other shapes.

Page margins and centerlines

To help position shapes within a page, the Dynamic Grid also supports margins around pages. You can snap to page margins by simply dragging a shape towards the top, bottom, left or right margins of a page. If the page is completely empty, you can also snap to the center of the page.

Container margins and centerlines

To help position shapes within a container, the Dynamic Grid also supports container margins and centerlines. You can snap to containers, such as swimlanes, by simply dragging a shape around the container margin or in the center of the container:

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We hope you enjoy using the new Dynamic Grid feature and we’re interested in your feedback. You can use the Send a Smile feedback tool or comment on the blog to let us know what you think.

Comments (20)

  1. Chris says:

    This is a very cool feature. I haven’t been following Visio 2010 development REALLY closely but one thing that has bothered me a lot is that slightly misaligned objects cause small adjustments in paths. I’m using Visio 2003 so maybe this has already been fixed but if not I sure hope 2010 will.

  2. Sean says:

    I hate the snapping feature, where did the disable snapping go!!!

  3. Margin-setter says:

    How does one set the page margins? No entries in help, no menus or dialog box options — automatic, dynamic, etc is all great. But what if I want to actually set a page margin?  Who created this terrible terrible documentation????

  4. Auto snap and auto align are a nuisance! says:

    Please tell me how to turn this off!

    I am in a hurry and need to finish a visio digram soon for a major

    presentation to investors! And everytime I try to place a shape in a

    position this auto snap repositions it! This is annoying and frustrating

    and a complex diagram that should have taken one hour has already consumed four hours! Unfortunately I do not have access to my wonderful old Visio 2003 which worked like a charm. Please tell me how to turn this off! I will use auto-snap in the future and I am sure it has been well thought of but I will need to do that when I have more time to master it but for now I want it OFF!! Please! 🙂

  5. Greg says:

    To turn off Snap go to Tools – Snap & Glue and deselect.

  6. Jim says:

    In 2011, they moved Snap & Glue from the tools to the Visual Aids options.  To get there (way NOT obvious). Click on the View tab, then selection the little arrow on the bottom of the "Visual Aids" section.  That will bring up a dialog box where you can finally turn this stupid "feature" off.

  7. Natty says:

    @ Jim

    Thanks so much!

    That helped tremendously.

  8. Jacked says:

    Microsoft, what I REALLY love about visio is how sometimes you can copy a group of shapes, and move them over, and then you are GUARANTEED that they will never, ever, no matter what, align with the first group of shapes. It's like you wrote extra code to make sure they could NEVER be aligned again.

    And this is really handy in 0% of the work I do in Visio. Indeed, it is NEVER useful. Ever. Under any circumstances. And you have gone the extra mile to make sure it happens 100% of the time, and cannot be turned off.

    That is really great work.

    And what I also love is that things like this NEVER get fixed. Ever. I still find times when I cannot draw a simple horizontal line in Visio. And that's so awesome, becasue the world is too linear anyway.

    And the best part of all these features is that you NEVER fix them! So I don't have to worry about my crooked drawings suddenly becoming straight again! I can be certain that a crooked drawing done in Visio 2003 will be still be crooked when I open it up in Visio 2010!!!!

    You guys rock. Tell the PMs that punt these nagging bugs from release to release and keep adding in more and more eye candy instead that they rock too.

    It just doesn't get any better than this!

  9. JL says:

    I also hate snap and glue and would never have found how to turn it off till I found Jim's comment via google!! THANK YOU Jim!

  10. Andy Willis says:

    If this is the same dynamic grid as Visio 2007 then I hate it.  If you zoom in you place things on one grid, zoom out and they are all off the grid for that level of zoom.  The first thing I do when starting a drawing is set the grid to 5mm fixed spacing.

    Please please please offer a classic menu view before I get saddled with an unproductive FUI version in future

  11. Shapeware users says:

    I am really dissapointed in the new features – they are counter productive!!!

  12. James Dinkel says:

    Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo frustrating.  Shapes keep moving to snap!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Joe says:

    Don't bother trying to do any architectural drawing as there is no way to use real world sizes that can be joined without snapping to the gird.  Keep adding those useless features, and making the program less and less intuitive to use.  Time to dump everything microsoft and move on to Linux or Mac

  14. Steve Gardner says:

    Is it possible to make the grid darker?  I switched from an earlier version of Visio and the grid is so faint I can hardly see it on my screen.

  15. Dave says:

    The only way I've found to darken the gridlines is to alter the contrast of my monitor.  Not the best solution but at least the grid is now visible, I'm sure MS will get around to making 2010 usable again (Probably by 2017)

  16. Qwerty says:

    You morons… you have NOT answered the question.   HOW DO YOU SHUT OFF THE SNAP TO GRID???

  17. Constantine says:

    @Jim

    Thank you Jim so much!!!! Have been looking to turn off that snap and glue since ages.

  18. Steve Daly says:

    Visio 2010 is horrible compared to Visio 2003. I class myself as an expert on visio 2003 but the new snap and glue functions are simply shocking.

  19. Joe Kelly says:

    It is the height of aggravation when they take a workable tool and make it less workable.  I've been using Visio since it first came out.  I can't express how much I am learning to hate the 2010 version.

  20. Kevin Oates says:

    I, too, would love to see an option to make the grid darker and possibly change the color. I generally like the product for what I use it for; however, not all of us have 24-year-old eyes.