What is Microsoft Visio used for? Diagrams. That’s what Microsoft Visio does, and it does it better than any other app I’ve seen yet. From flow charts to floor plans, there isn’t much it can’t handle. I have to be honest, even I didn’t know much about Visio until recently. But that all changed when I took it for a test drive with the Microsoft Office 2013 Preview.
Microsoft Visio can be used to create simple or complicated diagrams. It offers a wide variety of built-in shapes, objects and stencils to work with. You can also make your own shapes and import them, if you’re willing to do all that extra work. The driving ideal behind Visio is to make diagramming as easy as possible for the user, and I think Visio is on the right track.
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The Visio 2013 welcome screen features a dozen different templates to get started with. Each template equips you with the appropriate menu and objects already open and ready for use. Even more templates can be found in specific categories within the application or from Visio’s online download page.
Visio’s primary clientele have been Enterprise users at the corporate level. If you think about it, it’s not too often that the home user needs to write up professional diagrams. Usually a paper and pen will suffice, because a home user’s diagram isn’t being sent out to an entire department. That’s why Visio has always been considered a program for “serious” diagrams. But it doesn’t have to be.
Visio can be used to create 3D map diagrams, though the built-in tools for this are limited. It works well for simple maps that you might print on a brochure or campus directory.
Another thing Visio can do is pull in live information from an external source, such as an Excel sheet or Access database. This makes diagrams functional. The most recent example I’ve seen involved using Visio to monitor network status across a localized broadband system.
Visio comes packing a lot of built-in shapes you can add to your creation.
Yeah, I really mean a lot of shapes — several hundred in fact. Shapes are organized by category for easy access, but it can still take some time to find the best one for the job just because there are so many to choose from.
Overall, Visio is just a diagram tool, and it’s not a free one either. At $250 for just the basic edition, and $1000 for the premium version, it can easily put a deep hole in your pocket. So unless you’re a hardcore diagram composer, it might not be worth the investment. On the other hand if you’re looking for a tool to make a flowchart or casual diagram once in a while, I’d recommend our guide for making Flowcharts in Microsoft word, or checking out the free webapp Lovely Charts.