Category Archives: software

Microsoft Visio to the rescue, where does one begin?

Having spent years working with engineers from various disciplines in trying to explain to them how to use IBM Rational DOORS I’ve faced the constant challenge of how to present the information in a clear format. A lot depends on the person’s level of experience with the tool and process that is being asked.

One thing is for sure though, a high level overview of the steps to follow is a great way to introduce one to the topic, and I write this in amazement that I didn’t start using Microsoft Visio sooner! Earlier this summer ago a colleague of mine recommended I start using Visio to create some high level architecture diagrams to describe how I believe data should be organized in DOORS.

Faced with the challenge of using a tool I had never touched in the past here are the steps that I took and have been having success with so I thought I’d share.

I am an avid reader of books and believe if you can get yourself information about a topic from an expert you will be so much better off than just trying to research and pick out information from a myriad of sources. So my search on finding an expert on Visio landed me on Chris Roth (Visio Guy). Now you might ask how one goes about searching for an expert, I turn to Amazon Books and read the reviews from others on which to base my decision on what books to read. Using this approach landed me on Using Microsoft Visio 2010 by Chris Roth.

Needing to quickly get myself up to speed on Microsoft Visio 2010 it didn’t take me long to buy this book, the idea that I could get tips from a Visio MVP and unlimited access to 4+ hours of video tutorials for under $20. I now have a copy of the book in hand and having only made my way through Chapter 1 can say it was definitely worth it.

The other learning tool I recommend here is turning to YouTube, I found a playlist that was put together by Chris and a couple of his fellow Visio MVPs: Scott Helmers and David Parker comprised of 24 5-7 minute videos for Getting Started with Visio 2010. Having just concluded watching the whole playlist it’s time well spent and will save me many hours going forward.

Here are my 5 favorites as far as information gleaned from the videos:

  1. Auto Align & Space button, having tried to do this manually with my flow charts this single piece of functionality already makes up for all the time spent watching the videos.
  2. More Shapes > My Stencil the ability to create your own stencil filled with shapes you use often (colors, text you name it) that you save to your computer and can use in any of your Visio diagrams.
  3. Hyperlink a shape to a section in a Word document. Ability to add multiple hyperlinks to a shape is already super but to be able to point to a specific section of a document using bookmarks is something I look forward to using.
  4. Process > Create from Selection for the high level flow chart where you’d like to take a process step of two and drill down into another lower level process flow. Using this function it creates a page for you and adds a hyper link back on the originating chart (quite a time saver)
  5. Process > Check Diagram ability to check your flow chart against known best practices, issues flagging the specific elements. This is part of the Visio 2010 Premium version.

Well I hope that gives you some ideas on how to get started, I have yet to finish this book but I now have it as a handy reference.