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Business Diagramming Made
Easy With Visio Professional

by Gordon Sellers

Visio Corp.'s business strategy is to provide the graphics engine for any business diagramming need. The company's original product, Visio, now in its fourth release, has captured a significant portion of the business diagramming market. In the last two years, Visio has focused on more vertically oriented solutions, including a run at the AutoCAD market with the Visio Technical product. Visio's recent introduction of Visio Professional continues to target a vertical market, including individuals interested in software development, network administration and process management.

The templates in Visio Professional incorporate relevant stencils, Wizards and drawing pages in one place to make it easier for users to work on specific diagram types. This means that users select their area of interest, and the product offers supporting tools and templates to make creating and editing diagrams easier.

The program incorporates Wizards to create many types of diagrams. Wizards are used to set up your page layouts, making diagram creation much faster and easier than before. The process management Wizards include top-down flowcharts, cross-functional flowcharts, force-field analysis and cause-and-effect diagrams.

More than 2,000 SmartShapes symbols ship with Visio Pro, including more than 600 shapes for network diagramming, more than 600 shapes for business diagramming and more than 300 shapes for software development. This new release includes 1,000 new SmartShapes symbols in the following areas:

* More than 350 vendor-specific network equipment shapes, including shapes from 3Com, Bay Networks, Cabletron and Hewlett-Packard.

* IDEF0 and IDEF1X process and data-flow shapes.

* New software-development shapes supporting methodologies, including Booch, Chen, Fusion, Gane Sarson, Jacobson, Martin, Nassi-Schneiderman, Rumbaugh, STEP and Yourdon.

* Software-development shapes for COM objects, program structure, system structure and Windows-based user interfaces.

* Internet diagramming shapes.


Visio Pro includes the same Visual Basic development environment as the new Office 97 applications. Visio also has implemented the new flat-button interface and the "Save As," "Print" and "Open" dialog boxes identical to those in Office 97.

Visio Pro includes database connectivity technology for linking Visio diagrams and shapes to databases created in ODBC-compliant applications. Users will be able to: link Visio custom properties or other ShapeSheet cells with fields in a database, browse a database to locate tables, browse tables to locate fields and update data fields for either the entire diagram or selected shapes.

Visio Pro integrates with the following desktop databases: Microsoft Access, Microsoft Excel, Borland dBase and Borland Paradox. Support for client/server databases includes: Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle.

As part of the enhanced database connectivity, Visio has developed new Wizards to help guide the user. They include:

The Create Database Wizard creates the table, column and key structure of a database from a Visio diagram. The database structure is determined by using entity shapes to represent objects and using relationship shapes to represent relationships between those objects.

The Map Database Wizard produces an entity relationship diagram that maps the structure of an existing database.

The Network Diagram Wizard lays out a network diagram automatically from a database or text file. The Wizard makes use of Visio Pro's new database connectivity technology to create network diagrams automatically from information stored in existing databases. Users can also update existing databases and create new databases directly from Visio network diagrams.

The Flowchart Wizard uses Visio Pro's new automatic layout technology to generate a flowchart from a database or text file. This Wizard also makes use of Visio Pro's new database connectivity technology to link a diagram or shapes to information in any ODBC-compliant database.

The Property Reporting Wizard gathers shape or custom property information from any number of specified shapes. A custom property can also be used as the selection criterion for the report, and the Wizard will report on all shapes with that property. In addition, the Wizard can perform arithmetic functions on the gathered data and save the information to a spreadsheet or text file.

The Hyperlink Wizard automatically creates links from a Visio diagram to a page, document or URL.

The Web Diagramming Wizard automatically generates a hierarchical diagram of all the sites' pages and links based on formatting preferences gathered from users. The shapes will contain hyperlinks that allow the diagram to be used to navigate between different pages of the site.

Visio has added new drawing tools such as trim, join, fit-to-curve, B-spline tool and intersect and subtract commands for combining and creating new shapes, giving users more control over creating new shapes within the application. In addition, a new set of features related to the auto layout and intelligent line routing of flowcharts and other diagrams has been added. These new features reposition shapes and connecting lines, automatically route lines around shapes and other lines, and provide line-to-line spacing for parallel lines. This makes the original creation and subsequent editing of charts swift and easy -- leaving much of the tedious diagram clean-up to the software.


Visio Professional is a versatile business diagramming tool operating under Windows. The Wizards included in the program help create many types of diagrams and set up the page layouts quickly and easily. The software ships with more than 2,000 SmartShapes symbols.

Recommended system requirements:

For Windows 95 and Windows NT 3.51 and 4.0 workstations; 16 MB RAM; Pentium 75 or higher; 55 MB disk space for full installation, 15 MB for minimum installation; VGA or better graphics adapter; mouse and CD-ROM drive required.

Price: Visio Professional costs $349.

Upgrade prices: Visio version 2, 3 or 4 or Visio Technical 3 or 4 cost $149 each.

Visio Technical 4.1 costs $99.


Visio Corp.
520 Pike St., Suite 1800
Seattle, WA  98101-4500
Telephone: (206) 521-4500
Fax: (206) 521-4501
Web: www.visio.com





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