Get started using Visio 2007

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.


In this article


Have you ever tried to do any of the following tasks only to find yourself frustrated with the outcome?

  • Explain a new team organization or complex inter-departmental process in an e-mail message or a memo only to find that no one quite understood it.
  • Give a presentation about critical project milestones, and then watch everyone walk away with a puzzled expression.
  • Summarize data and key trends in a spreadsheet for coworkers who just stare at you with blank looks on their faces.
  • All of these situations are ideal opportunities to use Microsoft Office Visio 2007 — the business drawing and diagramming program that helps you visually communicate processes, systems, projects, and resources. Visually is the key word. This article explains how you can begin using Visio 2007 to effectively convey your message with a diagram.

Use Visio diagrams to aid communication

With Visio, you can show your audience what you mean by using easy-to-understand diagrams such as organization charts, flowcharts, and project timelines. Whether you need to analyze a new business process, visualize an office space, explore business data, track important data trends, or simply create a map to a company picnic, you can create professional-looking diagrams quickly and easily using Visio — and no artistic talent is required.

Create professional diagrams quickly

With advanced data connectivity and visualization functionality in Microsoft Office Visio Professional 2007, you can even take your diagrams to another level: integrate them with data to track key trends, identify issues, and flag exceptions — all in one diagram that’s easy to refresh and share with others across the entire organization. Explore data in hierarchical form using the new PivotDiagram template, identify server issues through data-connected network diagrams, or track resource data in project timelines. Visualize any process, system, project, and resource — in addition to the data behind it — by connecting your diagrams to data and dynamically updating them as the data changes.

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Start diagrams by using templates

Regardless of your drawing abilities, Visio makes it easy for you to create all types of drawings and diagrams. Shapes — pre-drawn symbols included with Visio—are the key to quickly creating effective diagrams. For example, in an organization chart, you might use a Manager shape (a box with a name and job title) to represent a manager in a department, whereas in a flowchart, you might use a Decision shape (a diamond with a label) to indicate a decision someone must make in a process. By simply dragging shapes onto the drawing page, you can assemble a complete diagram.

The best way to start a diagram is by using a template — a file that includes all of the tools, formatting, settings, and shapes you need to assemble a particular type of drawing or diagram. For example, if you want to create a flowchart, use the Basic Flowchart template. It includes shapes that represent data, processes, decisions, and so on.

Templates also set up the drawing page and formatting for you. The Basic Flowchart template, for instance, sets up a letter-sized page suitable for printing on a desktop printer, and the shapes are black and white — a style that is often used in flowcharts. In addition, some templates include special-purpose commands or toolbars. For example, the Organization Chart template includes the Organization Chart toolbar, which makes it easy to rearrange employee shapes in a chart that you created with that template. The Brainstorming Diagram template not only includes Brainstorming shapes, a Brainstorming menu, and a Brainstorming toolbar, but also an Outline window that tracks the shapes on the drawing page in outline form.

Outline window

Visio makes it easy for you to find the appropriate template by organizing them into simple categories of related diagram types, as shown in the following table. Office Visio Professional 2007 includes all of the templates available in Office Visio Standard 2007, in addition to advanced features and special-purpose templates that you can use to create PivotDiagrams, detailed network diagrams, database and software models, engineering schematics, process engineering diagrams, Web diagrams, and extensive building plans.

 Tip   If you don’t want to start your diagrams by using a template with a blank drawing page, visit the Microsoft Office Online Web site at www.office.microsoft.com for Visio templates that come with shapes already placed on the drawing page.

Just as templates are organized by categories, related shapes are organized on stencils. For example, when you open the Basic Diagram template, all of the geometric shapes included with the template are organized on the Basic Shapes stencil. Likewise, all of the border and title shapes for basic diagrams are organized on the Borders and Titles stencil, and so on. This makes finding shapes quick and easy. After you find the shape you want, just drag it onto the drawing page and you’re on your way.

Drag shape onto the drawing page

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Working within the Visio environment

When you start a diagram, the Visio window opens. The Visio window contains the Visio menus and toolbars. It also contains the Shapes window, drawing page, pasteboard, and rulers in a drawing window. The stencils that contain the shapes you need are located in the Shapes window to the left of the drawing page. Visio also includes special-purpose windows, menus, and toolbars for creating particular types of diagrams.

The main elements of the Visio environment that most people typically work with are the following:

  • Shapes windowThe Shapes window contains the stencils and Search For Shapes box that makes it easy for you to find any shape you need for your drawing. 
  • Drawing pageThe Visio  drawing page resembles graph paper with a grid that helps you position shapes.
  • RulersThe horizontal and vertical  rulers also help you position shapes and show you the size of the drawing page.
  • Menus and toolbarsAbove the drawing page are the Visio menus and the Standard and Formatting toolbars (shown by default), which contain the most commonly used tools for creating, modifying, and formatting text, shapes, and diagrams. 
  • Toolbar drop-down listsMany of the buttons on these toolbars have drop-down lists that include options or other tools you can select. To view the list for a specific button, click the down arrow on the button. If you are not familiar with a toolbar button, you can pause the pointer over it to display a  ScreenTip that tells you which tool or command the button represents.
  • Shortcut menuVisio also includes easy access to frequently used commands on a  shortcut menu that appears when you right-click an item. For example, right-click the drawing page, the toolbar area, a page tab, or a shape to view its shortcut menu.
  • Page tabsBelow the drawing page, page tabs help you move between pages in multiple-page drawings, and the status bar displays information about shapes that are selected on the drawing page. 
  • Task paneTo the right of the drawing page, you can display  task panes from which you can quickly access task-specific and diagram-specific information.
  • PasteboardThe light-blue area surrounding the drawing page is the  pasteboard, which you can use as a temporary holding area for shapes and other drawing elements. Shapes on the pasteboard aren’t printed.

Pasteboard as a temporary holding area

When you start a diagram, Visio displays the entire drawing page. As you add shapes to the diagram, you can zoom in to an area for a closer view of that area or zoom out for a broader view of the diagram. Visio includes several ways to zoom in and out, including a toolbar button and keyboard shortcuts. One method isn’t necessarily better than another — you can use the one that works best for you. However, when you zoom in using keyboard shortcuts, you can draw a selection net around the shapes or area that you want to zoom in on or out of, which gives you greater zooming control.

You can also pan large diagrams, which means that you can “grab” the drawing page with the pointer and move the page to see another area of it. Zooming and panning help you move quickly around the drawing page so that you can work efficiently in the Visio environment.

When it’s time to print your diagram, you can preview it first to see how it will look when you print it by using the Print Preview command on the File menu. Then, you can print the page shown in the drawing window by clicking the Print Page button on the Standard toolbar. For more printing options, such as printing all of the pages in a diagram or multiple copies of a diagram, you can use the Print command on the File menu.

Printing options for a diagram

Finally, saving a Visio diagram is just as easy as saving a file in any other program. Just click the Save button on the Standard toolbar or click Save on the File menu. The first time you save a diagram, the Save As dialog box appears so that you can name the file and choose the location where you want to save it. By default, the diagram is saved as a Visio drawing file with a .vsd file extension.

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Customize the Visio environment

Most of what you see in the Visio environment can be customized to suit the way that you like to work. For example, you can hide the grid if it makes the drawing page look too cluttered for your taste. You can also hide the rulers, as well as show or hide any toolbars.

 Tip   To display a list of the Visio toolbars that are available for the template that you have open, right-click the toolbar area to display the toolbar shortcut menu. Then click the name of the toolbar you want to appear. A check mark next to a toolbar’s name indicates that it is currently shown.

If you’re working with a low-resolution monitor and want more space on the screen, you can move, resize, or close the stencils. If you don’t want to have to scroll down a stencil to see all its shapes, you can make the list of shapes more compact by hiding the shape names and showing only the icons. You can also float, or detach, windows and stencils from the drawing window, so that you can quickly resize them as you work. After you’re done working, you can dock, or snap, them back in to their default position.

For quick access to related commands or drawing shortcuts, you can use the tools in various windows, such as the Pan & Zoom and Size & Position windows. The Pan & Zoom window displays a miniature version of your entire diagram that you can use to quickly move to different parts of the drawing page. If you want to enter precise dimensions for the shapes in your diagrams rather than resizing shapes with the pointer, you can do that in the Size & Position window.

Pan and zoom window

 Tip   By default, the Visio menu bar and toolbars are docked on the Visio window. However, you can float any toolbar or the entire menu bar, or you can dock them in a different location if it’s more convenient for you. Position the pointer over the move handle on the menu bar or a toolbar, and when the pointer changes to a four-headed arrow, drag the bar to a new location. If you drag a floating menu bar or toolbar to an edge of the Visio window, Visio docks the item in that location.

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Applies to:
Visio 2007