|Microsoft Office Visio® 2003 (Professional only)
If your work involves setting up or maintaining a computer network, you probably already know that Visio is an excellent tool for network design and documentation. If you're a pro, chances are that you already have dozens, if not hundreds, of network diagrams, and your own tricks for using them efficiently. But even the most experienced Visio wiz can use a few tips now and then, so here are seven favorites.
In this article, you'll find out how to:
Getting the most out of your network diagrams is relatively quick and easy. Your coworkers will be impressed, so feel free to share these techniques.
Add a title block to your network diagrams
Title blocks are often used in architectural and engineering drawings, but there's no reason you can't use them in a network drawing. In fact, the title block shapes in Visio are a great way to display information about your drawing and drawing file automatically.
To use the title block shapes, simply open the Title Blocks stencil and drag the shapes onto the drawing page.
- On the File menu, point to Shapes, point to Visio Extras, and then click Title Blocks.
- From the Title Blocks stencil, drag a title block shape onto the drawing page.
- For instructions on using a title block shape, right-click the shape, and then click Help.
Find third-party network shapes
The Office Marketplace at Microsoft Office Online lists products and services that work with or complement the Microsoft Office System, including Visio 2003. This listing includes web-based productivity services, add-ins, software, templates, and professional services like training, support, and consulting. Office Marketplace is the first place to look for third-party network shapes for Visio.
In particular, you might want to check out the NetZoom Stencils for Visio from Altima Technologies.
The most popular 28,000 shapes from the NetZoom Stencils for Visio are included in the Microsoft Office Visio 2003 Resource Kit for IT Professionals. To learn more about the resource kit, follow the link in the See Also section.
Manage your network information
Visio offers more than network diagramming; it's also a way to manage vital network information. Using custom properties (custom property: Information about shapes in your drawings. Some Visio shapes come with custom properties already defined. You can edit or delete existing custom properties or create new ones.), each shape can store information about the network device it represents. For example, a PC shape can store the PC's IP address.
The shapes that are included in the network diagram templates have many custom property fields, including part number, product description, and network name. Managing your network information is as simple as entering your data into the custom properties.
- Right-click a shape, and then click Properties on the shortcut menu.
- In the Custom Properties window, select a custom property, and then enter the data for the shape.
To move to the next property in the list, press the ENTER key.
If you want to use Visio to discover and map your network automatically, you might want to check out the various third-party products that are available, such as Fluke Networks’ LAN MapShot. LAN MapShot lets you quickly discover all IP and NetBIOS devices, including switches, servers, routers, printers, hubs, hosts, and Fluke Networks tools, as well as IPX servers and printers, in your local broadcast domain.
LAN MapShot is included in the Microsoft Office Visio 2003 Resource Kit for IT Professionals. To learn more about the resource kit, follow the link in the See Also section.
Generate custom network reports
A Visio property report presents data that's contained in the shapes' custom properties. You control the form and content of the report by choosing an appropriate report definition. Visio 2003 provides 22 sample report definitions for common, everyday tasks.
For special tasks, you can create custom report definitions.
- On the Tools menu, click Reports.
- Click New.
- Follow the instructions in the Report Definition wizard to create a new report definition.
- When the wizard finishes and you return to the Reports dialog box, click Run to generate the report or Close to close the dialog box.
Show IP addresses on your network diagrams
The Label Shapes add-on was originally developed for the building plan templates, but it also works well with the new network diagram templates in Visio 2003. For example, you can use the Label Shapes add-on to show the IP addresses of devices in your network diagrams.
- Select the shape or shapes that you want to label.
- On the Tools menu, point to Add-Ons, point to Building Plan, and then click Label Shapes.
- In the Label Shapes dialog box, from the Shape type list, select the type of shape you want to label.
- From the Label 1 list, select the property you want to use as the label.
- If you want to, select additional properties for the Label 2, Label 3, and Label 4 lists.
- Click OK.
Link your network diagrams together
It's easy to add hyperlinks to the shapes and pages in your diagrams. The hyperlinks can go to:
- Another page in the same Visio drawing.
- A page or shape in another Visio drawing.
- A document other than a Visio drawing.
- A Web site.
For network design and documentation, linking a shape or page in one Visio drawing to a shape or page in another Visio drawing is an ideal way to reduce complexity.
- Make sure that both the file you're linking from and the file you're linking to have been saved.
- If you're creating a link to a specific shape, make a note of the shape name and the name of the page that the shape is on.
- To find a shape name, right-click the shape, point to Format, and then click Special. The text in the Name field is the shape name.
Tip To save time, copy and paste the shape name into Notepad because it's not possible to browse existing shape names when you create the hyperlink in step 6.
- To find the page name, locate the tab for the page at the bottom of the drawing window.
- Do one of the following:
On the Insert menu, click Hyperlinks.
In the Address box, click Browse, and then click Local file. Navigate to the file you want, and then click Open.
- To add a hyperlink to a shape, select the shape.
- To add a hyperlink to a page, display the page with nothing selected.
If you don't see the file you want, try changing the Files of type list.
- To link to a specific page or a specific shape on a page, or to choose a zoom level, click Browse next to Sub-address.
- To link to a specific page, select the page name in the Page box.
- To link to a specific shape, first select the page name on which the shape appears in the Page box, and then type the name of the shape in the Shape box.
- To specify a zoom level, type a percentage in the Zoom box, or click the arrow to select a zoom level.
Note You can use the zoom level to show more or less detail of the drawing. Use a low number to show more detail of a smaller area of the drawing or a high number to show less detail of a larger area of the drawing.
- In the Description box, type a name for the link. This text will appear when the pointer rests over the link in the drawing.
- To create a relative path link, select the Use relative path for hyperlink check box.
Tip If the check box is not available (that is, it appears dimmed), this means your drawing hasn't been saved. You can click OK to save the hyperlink settings you've made so far, save your drawing, and then edit the hyperlink to add the relative path. To edit the hyperlink, repeat steps 3 and 4, and then select the Use relative path for hyperlink check box.
- To add another hyperlink to the page or selected shape, click New, and then repeat steps 5 through 8.
- Click OK.
Save your network diagrams as Web pages
The Web is ubiquitous, so saving your network diagrams as Web pages is often your best bet if you plan to share them.
- On the File menu, click Save as Web Page.
- In the Save in list, open the folder where you want to save the file.
- In the File name box, type a name for the Web page file.
- To specify the title that will appear in the title bar when the page is displayed in a browser, click Change Title. In the Page title box, type a title, and then click OK.
- To specify the attributes of the Web page more precisely, click Publish.
In the Save as Web Page dialog box, click the General tab to specify drawing pages to publish and other display options.
Click the Advanced tab to specify the output format for the Web page, target monitor resolution, a color scheme for the navigation and search frame, or a host Web page for embedding the saved Web page.
Note To view a Web page in SVG format, you must have an SVG viewer installed. If you don't have an SVG viewer, the Web page is displayed in an alternate format, such as GIF.
- Click OK to open your Web browser and view the Web page.