Connect shapes in Visio 2007 flowcharts

Visio 2007 Step by Step book cover

Microsoft Office Visio 2007 Step by Step
By Judy Lemke and Resources Online

Judy Lemke specializes in documentation and training for Microsoft Office Visio. She is an award-winning writer with more than ten years of experience writing, editing, and designing everything from developer documentation and tutorials to product manuals and marketing collateral. Judy can be contacted through her Web site at www.judylemke.com.

To learn more about other books on the 2007 Microsoft Office system, visit Microsoft Press.


Many types of Microsoft Office Visio diagrams depict related ideas, relationships, or sequences by showing shapes that are connected with lines. For example, a flowchart shows each of the steps in a process as a series of shapes connected by lines. Organization charts show employee relationships as a hierarchy of shapes connected by lines. Network diagrams use lines to show equipment connected to hubs. This article shows you how to connect shapes in a flowchart.

Flowcharts visually represent processes

Flowcharts are the ideal diagrams for visually representing business processes in Microsoft Office Visio 2007. For example, if you need to show the flow of a custom-order process through various departments within your organization, you can use a flowchart. Visio includes several different flowchart templates; however, the most common type of flowchart uses simple shapes to represent the basic elements in a business process, as shown in the following table.

Shape name

Shape

What it represents

Process Steps in business process Steps in a business process
Decision Decisions in business process Decisions in a business process
Document Steps that require documentation Steps that result in or require documentation
Data Steps that requre data Steps that require data

 Tip   As you drag a flowchart shape onto the drawing page, a dynamic grid appears as a dotted line through the shape to show you how to align it with respect to the shapes already on the page.

Visio makes it easy to connect the shapes in these diagrams by using connectors—1-D shapes (usually lines or arrows) that connect 2-D shapes, such as the process shapes in a flowchart. If you rearrange the connected 2-D shapes, the connectors stay attached to the shapes and reroute for you, so you don’t waste time redrawing lines. In some diagrams, such as flowcharts, you can even drag a 2-D shape between two connected shapes, and Visio reroutes the connector and connects all three shapes.

Visio 2007 makes connecting shapes even easier by adding a new feature: AutoConnect. With AutoConnect, Visio does all the connection work for you. Just drag shapes onto the drawing page, and Visio connects, aligns, and evenly distributes the shapes for you.

You add connectors between these flowchart shapes to show relationships between them and the sequence of steps in a process. Flowchart connectors are usually lines with arrowheads that can include text to clarify the process being depicted. When Visio adds a connector (or you add one yourself), the endpoints of the connector glue to the shapes it connects—that is, Visio creates a bond that won’t break unless you move a connector endpoint or delete the connector. When you select a connector that is glued to a shape, the connector’s endpoints turn red, indicating that the connector will be rerouted when you move the connected shapes.

Connector routes

The method you use to connect shapes in a flowchart determines how the connectors reroute and how much control you have over where connectors are attached to shapes. If you simply connect one shape to another without specifying a point of connection, you don’t have any control over how the connectors reroute, which is preferable for many diagram types. However, when you need total control over your shape connections, you can connect shapes using connection points—specific points on a shape represented by a blue × symbol. That way, the connector stays connected to those specific points, regardless of where you move the shapes.

Visio provides several methods for connecting shapes. Each method offers different levels of control, and some are more suited for particular drawing types, as shown in the following table. When you work with Visio, you typically use a combination of these methods when creating your diagrams.

Connection Method

How To Use It

When To Use It

AutoConnect shapes by dragging a shape onto the drawing page. Drag a shape onto another shape on the drawing page, and when blue arrows appear around the shape on the drawing page, position the shape over one of the arrows.

Use this method when you want Visio to connect, align, and evenly distributes the shapes for you—all in one step.

Example diagram types: Any diagram that shows relationships, such as basic flowcharts, cross-functional flowcharts, or audit diagrams.

Level of control: When you don’t care exactly where two shapes connect to each other, how the connectors reroute, and the exact position of the connected shapes.

AutoConnect shapes by clicking a shape on a stencil. Click a shape on a stencil, and then position the pointer over a shape on the drawing page. When blue arrows appear around the shape on the drawing page, click one of them.

Use this method when you want Visio to automatically connect shapes for you and you want to rapidly connect multiple shapes.

Example diagram types: Any diagram that shows relationships, such as basic flowcharts, cross-functional flowcharts, or audit diagrams.

Level of control: When you don’t care exactly where two shapes connect to each other, how the connectors reroute, and the exact position of the connected shapes.

AutoConnect neighboring shapes that are already on the drawing page Pause the pointer over a shape on the drawing page, and when blue arrows appear around the shape, move the pointer over the blue arrow closest to the neighboring shape to which you want to connect. The blue arrow turns dark blue, a red box appears around the neighboring shape to which you can connect, and a Connect to Neighboring Shape ScreenTip appears. Click the blue arrow to connect the two shapes.

Use this method when you want to connect neighboring shapes that are already on the drawing page.

Example diagram types: Any diagram that shows relationships, such as basic flowcharts, cross-functional flowcharts, or audit diagrams.

Level of control: When you don’t care exactly how the connectors reroute.

Connect shapes as you drag them onto the page using the Connector tool. Click the Connector tool, and then drag shapes onto the drawing page. Each new shape is connected to the selected shape on the drawing page.

Use this method when you want to connect new shapes to the selected shape on the drawing page.

Example diagram types: Any diagram that shows relationships, such as basic flowcharts, cross-functional flowcharts, or audit diagrams.

Level of control: When you don’t care exactly where two shapes connect to each other and how the connectors reroute, but you do want to precisely position the connected shapes.

Connect shapes already on the drawing page using the Connector tool. Position the pointer over a shape on the drawing page, and then drag to another shape to draw a connector between the two shapes. Or, position the pointer over a shape’s connection point, and then drag to another shape’s connection point to draw a connector between two shapes.

Use this method when you want to connect shapes that are already on the drawing page.

Example diagram types: Basic flowcharts and data flow diagrams.

Level of control: This method gives you control over the precise point of connection between two shapes, if you connect the shapes using their connection points.

Connect shapes that are already on the drawing page using the Connect Shapes command. Hold down the Shift key, select all the shapes you want to connect, in the order you want to connect them, and then on the Shape menu, click Connect Shapes.

Use this method when you want to connect shapes that are already on the drawing page in a specific order.

Example diagram types: Any diagram that shows relationships, such as basic flowcharts, cross-functional flowcharts, audit diagrams, fault-tree analysis diagrams, and work flow diagrams.

Level of control: When you don’t care exactly where two shapes connect to each other or how the connectors reroute.

Connect shapes already on the drawing page by using a connector from a stencil Drag a connector from a stencil onto the drawing page, position one endpoint on a connection point on one shape, and then position the other endpoint on the connection point on the other shape.

Use this method in diagrams that use specific types of connectors—for example, a 3-D arrow in block or ITIL diagram and network equipment in racks.

Example diagram types: Basic, block, brainstorming, cause and effect, charts and graphs, ITIL, network diagrams, and value stream maps.

Level of control: This method gives you control over the precise point of connection between two shapes.

As you become more familiar with flowcharts, keep in mind that the techniques you use to connect flowchart shapes apply to other types of diagrams as well. As you modify shape connections and arrange connected shapes, you can take advantage of several layout tools that help you evenly distribute, align, and position shapes. You can even change the orientation of all the connected shapes in a diagram; for example, you can change the layout in a flowchart from top to bottom and from left to right.

 
 
Applies to:
Visio 2007