Microsoft Visio for Drawing Diagrams

From E-Learning Faculty Modules


Contents

Module Summary

People often draw on their visual skills for learning. Microsoft Visio is an adaptable software tool that enables the drawing of customized diagrams for use in digital learning objects (like slideshows, digital photo albums, and videos), learning modules, and websites. As such, it is an important software tool for the instructional design workflow for online (and F2F) learning.

  • Some common visualizations from Visio include timelines, flowcharts, and schedules.
  • Visio is helpful for resizing Microsoft Excel bar charts and other data visualizations in order to enable a fixed screenshot of such data visualizations (without occluded text or other labels)—for use in PowerPoint slideshows.
  • Another common use in online learning is to use an anchoring image (a photo, a map, a screenshot, or other) and then to use the Callout options to label parts of the image and draw learner attention.

This module describes some of the features of the Microsoft Visio tool for this particular use case.

Takeaways

Learners will...

  • Explore some of the features of Microsoft Visio
  • Gain an understanding of templating in MS Visio
  • Review some of the commonly used drawing features in MS Visio
  • Describe some uses of integrated images and data visualizations in MS Visio
  • Consider some situations in which MS Viso would be an effective tool to support the creation of contents for online learning

Module Pretest

1. What is Microsoft Visio, and what are some of the capabilities of this software tool?

2. What is a template? What is templating in Microsoft Visio? What are some options to templating in Microsoft Visio? What are some of the types of templates in Microsoft Visio? What are some of the features of these respective templates?

3. What are some commonly used drawing features in Microsoft Visio? What are “Tools”? What are “Shape Styles”? What is “Align”? What is “Position”? What are “Layer Properties”?

4. How well does Microsoft Visio handle photos and imagery created by digital cameras and / or edited in digital image editing software?

5. What are some situations in which Microsoft Visio would be an effective tool to support the creation of contents for online learning?

Main Contents

1. What is Microsoft Visio, and what are some of the capabilities of this software tool?


Microsoft Visio is described as a “flowchart and diagramming tool” on its home page. Essentially, this diagramming tool enables users to create diagrams in various ways—from templates, from ingested digital images, from scratch, and from ingested files (such as from Word or Excel or other compatible software). The tool itself has built-in templates for a variety of work-based purposes. There are a range of features that enable users to create different looks-and-feels for the two-dimensional diagrams.

The native Visio files export with the following file extensions: .vsd, .vss, and vst (diagrams, stencils, and templates), and more recent ones in .vdx, .vsx, and .vtx (to indicate the XML integration). In terms of exported digital images, MS Visio enables the output to .jpg, .gif, .png, .tif, .bmp, and others.


2. What is a template? What is templating in Microsoft Visio? What are some options to templating in Microsoft Visio? What are some of the types of templates in Microsoft Visio? What are some of the features of these respective templates?


A template, generically speaking, is a reusable pattern or “mold.” In instructional design, a template is a digital pattern that is used as the basis for creating a digital learning object or a part of one. (Of course, there can be templates for short courses, long courses, and other larger-sized aspects of online learning, too.)

In MS Visio, the various templates are listed in particular categories: software, flowcharts, business, floor plans, engineering, network, and schedules.

Image:SelectionforTemplateTypes.jpg


Within the respective categories, there are various common types of visualizations. In the figure below, the template thumbnail set is from the “Business” category.


Image:VisioBusinessTemplates.jpg


Once the template is open, the left menu shows common shapes and features of the particular data visualization or diagram. The left menu may be populated with preferred items that are regularly used. Regularly used templates are viewable at the top level of the Visio workspace.


Image:FishboneDiagram.jpg


When opening a particular type of template, Visio may also be used to conduct a broad search both within its own templates list but also to related files that are compatible with Visio but were created in other software programs. This may be seen in the visual below.


Image:Schedules.jpg


This image shows how calling up "schedules" also enables finding potential other file types from MS Excel, Word, Publisher, PowerPoint, and Access.


[There is a way to open and edit files for which the template was not carried over from a prior version of Visio. For example, the Icam DEFinition for Function Modeling (represented by the compound acronym IDEFo) template is not available in my current version of Visio. In this acronym, “ICAM” means “Integrated Computer Aided Manufacturing.” More about this visualization is available on "IDEFo" Article Page on Wikipedia. The trick to this is to open up an older file with the IDEFO elements and re-edit that.]


3. What are some commonly used drawing features in Microsoft Visio? What are "Tools"? What are "Shape Styles"? What is “Align”? What is “Position”? What are Layer Properties?


Depending on the regular use scenarios for a particular user, there will be certain parts of the MS Visio tool that will be used more often than others.

The general work sequence might look like this: Open Visio -> Select a general template -> Start the diagram -> Ingest additional artwork or imagery -> Export as a digital image -> Test in the use context -> Revise -> Export final imagery.

As noted earlier, a template is selected to get started usually in order to affect the preferred tools palette to the left. There are ways to set up with “My Shapes” palettes (which can draw from any of the tools in the other template palettes)…and selection for particular Quick Shapes.


Image:ShapeTypesfromExpandingMenu.jpg


Tools: The Tools part of the Visio ribbon enables the placement of various objects on the work space. These include a variety of shapes, including rectangles, ellipses, lines, freeform shapes, arcs, and (digital) pencil-based drawing. In this area, text boxes and text may also be placed. Also, there are connectors which enable the linking of the respective shapes. While it may be somewhat unwieldy to draw with a mouse, there are some stabilizing features that enable drawing lines and shapes in Visio. [Some may prefer drawing with pen-and-tablet setups, or “stylus” and tablet setups.]

Shape Styles: In the “Shape Styles” area of the ribbon, it is possible to adjust line width and features (various patterns). Also, the fill in shapes may be adjusted, including color, saturation, transparency, fill pattern, and so on.

Align: In “Arrange” (in the Home tab), it is possible to align and position various objects on the two-dimensional plane. Aligning shapes may be achieved in a number of directions: left, center, right, top, middle, and bottom—in terms of relationships between objects.

Position: Positioning may be done in the “Arrange” area of the Home tab as well. Positioning may involve the rotating of shapes (by degree, by rotating vertically or horizontally or left/right, and others). There are some auto alignment options as well.

Layer Properties: In the “Editing” area of the home tab in the ribbon, it is possible to separately create and edit “layers.” (This is similar to the Adobe Photoshop “layers” tool.)

Guide Lines: In the work space, it is possible to pull down guide lines from the top of the visualization and also from the side. These may be used to manually align objects, which will connect with the guidelines when they are dragged close to them. Or, these guidelines may be used to position objects using the arrows. (To move objects in Visio, make sure that the Scroll Lock key is not locked down, or else the background will move with the arrows instead of highlighted objects.)

Grids: Those who would prefer to have a grid show in the background may check the grid box based on the following path:

View -> Show area -> Grid


4. How well does Microsoft Visio handle photos and imagery created by digital cameras and / or edited in digital image editing software?


MS Visio enables the insertion of various image types: compressed enhanced metafile (.emz), enhanced metafile (.wmf), graphics interchange format (.gif), JPEG file interchange format (.jpg), portable network graphics (.png), scalable vector graphics (.svg), tag image file format (.tif), windows bitmap (.bmp), windows metafile (.wmf, .emf, .wmz, .emz).


5. What are some situations in which Microsoft Visio would be an effective tool to support the creation of contents for online learning?


In situations where a 2D diagram is desired—and the user has access to original or open-source contents—MS Visio seems like a great tool to use. As mentioned earlier, this tool may be used to draw various timelines, flowcharts, and schedules. It may be used to depict models visually. It may be used to draw floor maps and networks and other such classic images. This tool is useful for highly structured images but also for freehand ones for those who have the right input tools (styluses) to maintain control over the drawing.

Also, MS Visio is helpful for resizing Excel data visualizations (like bar charts and spider diagrams and others). It may also be used to annotate over ingested images and maps.

As with various software tools, there are the designed uses of the tools and then other applications of the technological capabilities. These other capabilities were not mentioned here.

Examples

Please refer to online sources (a Google image search, for example) for examples of Visio diagrams.

How To

There are many ways to step-through using Visio as an authoring / drawing tool.

The general work sequence might look like this: Open Visio -> Select a general template -> Start the diagram -> Ingest additional artwork or imagery -> Export as a digital image -> Test in the use context -> Revise -> Export final imagery.

It makes sense to save the original .vsd (Visio diagram) file in case further edits or revisions are needed in the future.

Possible Pitfalls

There are no obvious pitfalls to the use of Microsoft Visio. There are not obvious competitor products with the same capabilities. In the educational environment, the software tool is very reasonably priced. The software tool is easy to use. Its features are well documented (see the link below). The diagrams may be built using either U.S. units of measure or the metric system.

Module Post-Test

1. What is Microsoft Visio, and what are some of the capabilities of this software tool?

2. What is a template? What is templating in Microsoft Visio? What are some options to templating in Microsoft Visio? What are some of the types of templates in Microsoft Visio? What are some of the features of these respective templates?

3. What are some commonly used drawing features in Microsoft Visio? What are “Tools”? What are “Shape Styles”? What is “Align”? What is “Position”? What are “Layer Properties”?

4. How well does Microsoft Visio handle photos and imagery created by digital cameras and / or edited in digital image editing software?

5. What are some situations in which Microsoft Visio would be an effective tool to support the creation of contents for online learning?

References

MS Visio

Extra Resources

Microsoft Visio Home: https://products.office.com/en-us/visio/flowchart-software