A free floor plan design for every office, home and house!

Microsoft Visio Diagrams

Visio diagrams and Visio shapes

image of visio shapes

Microsoft Visio diagrams and Visio shapes.

Microsoft Visio diagrams are ultimate easy to create using just few Visio flowchart shapes. Shapes 1-6 are located on the Basic Flowchart Shapes menu, while Shape 7 is located on the Miscellaneous Flowchart Shapes menu. Both of these menus can be accessed by clicking on File -> Shapes ("Stencils" in some older versions of Visio) -> Flowchart. Microsoft Visio is an extremely powerful application to draw flowcharts and diagrams of any complexity.

Drawing Microsoft Visio diagrams and flowcharts

1. Process

The Process shape symbol is used to describe "processes", which can be defined for our purposes as a certain action being taken. Some examples of a process could be:

  • Performing a calculation, such as "Calculate the average of all the sales".
  • A group taking an action, such as "The Product Test group validates the software modules".
  • A generic action, such as "Document is placed in the tray".

These are most common building blocks of Visio diagrams.

2. Decision

Decision shape is used to branch out a Visio diagram based on a decision that is made. This is as an "If" statement in programming concepts.

There are two basic ways to use this shape:

  • Yes/No Path - This has two outcomes, Yes or No. An example would be "Is the average greater than 0?". Based on the answer, flow would either go down a "Yes" path or a "No" path.
  • Multiple Path - The flow can go multiple ways based on the outcome. For example, it could be "Choose location to check", and then each location could be a path.

The key here is to label each path, even if it is with a "Yes" or a "No". Otherwise, it is very difficult to navigate the diagram.

3. Terminator

Terminator shape is used to end or start a Visio diagram. Normally, there is one at the beginning labeled "Beginning of (process)", and one at the end labeled "End of (process)". However, if the diagram can end in many places, there is a terminator for each place the diagram ends. This also works if there is multiple beginning points, but this is less common. Terminator shapes should bear descriptive names instead of just "Begin" and "End".

4. Document

Document shape. If there is any kind of document that is being represented in a Visio diagram, this shape should be used. For instance, if the input to the process is a file, it would be represented by this shape. Another example would be if the output of the process is a file.

5. On Page Reference

On Page Reference shape should be used to "jump" back to another part of the process in a different part of the diagram, but can't be connected using a standard connector. Also, this can be used to modularise a Visio diagram. For example, if there is a repeatable process (like a "Function" in programming terms), that process could be referenced by just using this shape instead of repeating that part of the diagram multiple times. On Page Reference shape is used within the same page.

Another important point is that On Page Reference shapes work in pairs, like two ends of a connector. The key is to label them both with the same name so that it's indicated which reference goes where. Using numbers works fairly well for small Visio diagrams. However, if the Visio diagram is more complex using more descriptive text is recommended, like "Determine customer payment information function".

6. Off Page Reference

Off Page Reference shape has pretty similar uses to the On Page Reference, however this Visio shape is used to reference something on a different page. Using an example above, if there were repeatable functions in a Visio diagram, there might be just one page where the details for it reside and then Off Page Reference shape is used to skip to it. This way there is no need to repeat the same set of shapes multiple times in a Visio diagram. This also creates a cleaner, less cluttered diagram.

7. Database

Database shape should be used when designing software processes, as it represents a connection to a database or more specifically a table in that database. For example, say part of a Visio diagram writes a value to a table, then that table should be represented by this shape. This Visio shape should be labeled with the name of the table if there is only one database, if there are multiple databases than the name of the database should preface the table name.