What started off as a tool to create network diagrams has expanded to become a complete diagramming tool for organizations. Using Visio, you can make business and technical diagrams to convey complex processes, ideas, and more.
You can map your complete business processes, create building layouts, or even do brain storming sessions in real time and give them to the group for further discussion later.
The latest version of the product has so many interesting features that it would be impossible to talk about all of them in this review. These features have made the software extremely easy to use. The moment you run Visio, you get a window to choose the type of drawing you want to make. Here, you will see a left pane that lists the various categories of drawings you can make. Clicking on any one will display all the different templates available. For instance, Business Process is a new category in Visio 2003. When you click on it, you can choose from Audit Diagrams, Basic Flowchart, Cause and Effect diagram.
When you choose a particular template, you get a blank grid along with the shapes suitable for the diagram you want to make. For instance, there’s a Workflow template in the Business Process diagram. Under this, there are various shapes such as accounting, inventory, information system, etc. Just click on the shape you need and drag it to the grid and it would automatically snap into the right place. A new feature here, is the connector tool. If you enable it and then drag and drop the next shape to the grid, it will automatically get connected to the first one. You don’t have to manually create these links. Plus, a useful addition here is shape search. If you can’t find the shape you’re looking for, in the default ones given in a particular category, then type a brief description of the one you want, and Visio will hunt for it across all the shapes it has. For instance, while creating a network diagram, we were looking for an Internet cloud, which wasn’t present in the default ones. We did a search for the text ‘cloud’, and Visio showed all the options it had.
Another very useful feature of Visio is the online help. If you’re connected to the Internet, then a pane on the right keeps giving you updated information about Visio from Microsoft’s website. We found this very useful, because the help changes, based on what you’re working on. So if you choose to create a business process flowchart diagram, it will show you all the latest tips available on this particular topic from Microsoft’s website. Plus, like other Office products, you’ll find small and useful utilities for Visio on the Microsoft site. The interesting one there is Visio Viewer, which basically let’s you view Visio diagrams in IE without having to install the product. This is like the PowerPoint Viewer program, which allowed users PowerPoint presentations without having to install the product. It’s great for sharing what you create with others. Overall, it’s a great product not only for networking professionals, but also for managers. The Professional edition also contains diagrams for engineering applications, and therefore costs more.