Working with Connected Diagrams Programmatically, part 1

In a previous blog post, we told you about the new Connectivity APIs in Visio 2010 that make it easier for developers to create and to move across a connected diagram. We’ve shown you how to use some of the new APIs to create new connected shapes (see here); now we’ll examine techniques for traversing connected diagrams. One of the most useful APIs for analyzing a connected diagram is the Shape.ConnectedShapes method, which allows you to get a reference to the shapes connected to a shape.

Let’s take a look at a specific scenario to demonstrate how this method can be used to walk through a connected diagram. Imagine that you have a simple project plan, created using the Basic Flowchart template:


In the shape data, each task in the flowchart includes a start date and an end date by which the task must be completed (shown in the chart below).

Shape name

Shape text

Start date

End date






“Assess needs for project”




“Is project well-defined?”




“Re-evaluate needs”




“Build a prototype”




“Prototype complete”



Ideally, no task in this project should start before the previous task has been completed. You could select each shape and compare the start and end dates in the Shape Data window, but the process would be very manual and tiresome. You could even use Data Graphics to display the start and end dates next to each shape, but it would still require visually inspecting each pair of connected shapes in the drawing.

With the ConnectedShapes method, however, you can write code that walks through each connected shape in your drawing and examine the shapes connected to it. The method returns an array of the shape IDs of all the shapes connected to a shape, filtered by the type of relationship between the shapes (e.g. is the connector “going out” to the other shape or “coming in” from the other shape?). You can also narrow down the returned IDs further by specifying a shape category as an additional filter.

Here’s some simple VBA that will iterate through each connected shape in a diagram and change the fill color of a connected shape if there is unwanted overlap between its start date and the task “before” it.

Dim vsoPage As Visio.Page
Dim shapeList

Sub TraverseFlowchart()

    Dim vsoShape1 As Visio.Shape
    Dim shapeIDArray() As Integer
    Dim searching As Boolean

    Set vsoPage = Application.ActivePage
    Set vsoShape1 = vsoPage.Shapes("Start/End")
    Set shapeList = CreateObject(“Scripting.Dictionary”)
    shapeList.Add vsoShape1.Name, 1

    GetConnectedShapes vsoShape1

End Sub

Sub GetConnectedShapes(shape As Visio.shape)

    Dim outgoingShape As Visio.shape
    Dim shapeIDArray As Variant
    Dim shapeIDArrayNext As Variant
    Dim outgoingNodes As Integer
    Dim node As Integer
    Dim prevTaskEnd As Date
    Dim nextTaskStart As Date
    Dim beenChecked As Boolean

    prevTaskEnd = shape.Cells("Prop.EndDate").result(visDate)
    shapeIDArray = shape.ConnectedShapes(visConnectedShapesOutgoingNodes, "")
    If (UBound(shapeIDArray) >= 0) Then
        outgoingNodes = UBound(shapeIDArray)

        For node = 0 To outgoingNodes
            Set outgoingShape = vsoPage.Shapes(shapeIDArray(node))

            nextTaskStart = outgoingShape.Cells("Prop.StartDate").result(visDate)
            Debug.Print shape.Name & " end: " & prevTaskEnd & "; " & _
                outgoingShape.Name & " start: " & nextTaskStart

            If (nextTaskStart < prevTaskEnd) Then 
                outgoingShape.Cells("FillForegnd").Formula = "RGB(255, 0, 0)"
            End If

            shapeIDArrayNext = outgoingShape.ConnectedShapes(visConnectedShapesOutgoingNodes, "")
            beenChecked = shapeList.Exists(outgoingShape.Name)

            If ((UBound(shapeIDArrayNext) >= 0) And Not beenChecked) Then
                shapeList.Add outgoingShape.Name, 1
                GetConnectedShapes outgoingShape
            End If
        Next node

    End If

End Sub

If we run this code on the project plan shown above, we get a result as shown below. Notice that the two shapes that have start dates that are earlier than the previous tasks’ end dates have a red fill applied to them.


In the code sample, the GetConnectedShapes subroutine uses the ConnectedShapes method on the shape passed in as an argument to get an array of the shape IDs (integers) of the shapes that it connects to. (That is, the shape contains the beginning connection of a connector that points to the shapes referenced by the IDs in the array.) Then the subroutine iterates through each shape referenced by the IDs in the array. Next, the value of the “Prop.StartDate” cell of each attached shape is compared to the “Prop.EndDate” cell of the first shape. If the values overlap, the value of “FillForegnd” cell is changed to red.

This code sample also uses the ConnectedShapes method to traverse the connected diagram in a manner similar to “walking” a tree data structure, starting from a specific shape (the first Start/End shape). After it analyzes a shape and one of its attached shapes, the GetConnectedShapes subroutine checks whether the attached shape has any shapes that it connects out to (making another call to ConnectedShapes). If so, the subroutine makes a recursive call to itself (and thereby halting the execution of the original call), passing in the attached shape as an argument. In practice, it is likely that you will need to use this programming technique in conjunction with the ConnectedShapes method in order to work all the way through each shape in a large connected diagram.

(Also notice that the code sample keeps track of each shape whose outgoing nodes have been checked by adding the shape to a dictionary object before the GetConnectedShapes subroutine is called. This will prevent the code from becoming stuck in an infinite loop if the diagram includes a circular reference.)

Even though we’ve used a project plan scenario as the example in this code sample, there are many other practical applications for this technique. In a related but larger sense, you could incorporate this technique within a custom validation checker to determine whether a connected diagram has been constructed correctly. Also similar to the code sample above, you could use this technique to extract and store data from each shape in a connected diagram. (Extending the project plan example, you could get the duration from each task in the workflow and then create a total of all the resource hours needed for the project.)

In the next blog post, we’ll look at another way that you can use this technique and the Page.SplitConnector method to add new shapes to a connected diagram.

Comments (5)

  1. Boyan says:

    Nice post, but it would be more helpfull for me if this article would about C# and Visio. Maybe C# could be added to.

  2. David Parker says:

    Shouldn't the line:

    Set outgoingShape = vsoPage.Shapes(shapeIDArray(node))


    Set outgoingShape = vsoPage.Shapes.ItemFromID(shapeIDArray(node))


  3. Eric Schmidt - MSFT says:

    David – Good catch!

    Yes, you should use Shapes.ItemFromID property to access the shapes on the page. The default property for the Shapes collection accepts either the NameUID of the shape or the index of the item in the collection. We want to get the item by its ID, and thus ItemFromID is the correct propery to use.

    We'll publish the second part of this blog post – including C# code! – to the Office Developer Blog in the next week or so.

    The Office Developer Blog:…/officedevdocs

  4. marketvnnet says:

    Viso is very good program for making diagram and flowchart.

  5. Sporty add-on says:

    I'm curious if you'd be wiling to post a sporty feature that I'm looking for. Specifically, if you modify the graph – it automatically re-runs the macro. A reference to do this or an example would be appreciated.

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