Everyone we work with has a love hate relationship with visio. We love it because our clients all have it so if we produce diagrams in visio they can view and edit them. We hate it because it is a pain in the *ss to use. The other day I was watching one of our clients try to use visio in a meeting to draw a few new boxes and move some boxes around. I generally use hot keys which isn’t too bad, but they used the mouse for everything which was painfully slow. I decided to see if I could figure out a better way to do a few of the most common things we do.
First of all the default lines in visio are usually the wrong color, thickness and have the wrong end point. This means that you can’t use the auto connect functionality. This functionality is cool because when you hover near a connection point an arrow appears. When you click the arrow, if there is no shape nearby it creates whatever shape you have highlighted in the shapes menu. If there is a shape, it will connect the shapes. However, the auto connect functionality creates a default line.
It turns out you can change the default line but it isn’t obvious at all how to do this.
First you have to turn developer mode on:
1) Go to tools->options->advanced tab
2) Check the run in developer mode box
This will give you the ability to format the style of your lines.
3) select the format->define styles option
4) Select the connector line from the dropdown
Now when you draw connectors they will default to this new style. When you use the auto connect button they will also use this new style. Using the auto connect feature is a huge time saver.
This next one may be obvious to a lot of you, yet I have used visio for years and didn’t realize this. When you connect two shapes together you can connect them by their connection points. The result of this is that the connectors always stay connected to that particular connection point. This means if you drag shapes around you often have to manually remove and reattach the connectors to the other side of the shape. However, if you drag a connector end to the general middle (but not the connection point in the middle of the shape) the shape will be highlighted in red. This type of connection is a shape to shape connection. With this type of connection, when you move shapes around, the connector will switch to a connection point on the other side of the shape automatically. When you use the auto connect feature, the connector is automatically a shape to shape connector.
I have used visio for years and just discovered these features which make it much more usable for me. I’m also investigating how developer mode may have additional features that will allow business analysts to use visio in a much richer way. I’ll keep you updated if I find anything cool.