What is Microsoft Visio and What Does it Do?

Visio has been part of the Microsoft Office suite for some time now, but it isn’t widely used outside of a corporate environment. Here’s Visio explained.

What is Microsoft Visio used for? Diagrams and flowcharts. That’s what Microsoft Visio does, and it does it better than any other app I’ve seen yet. From flowcharts to floor plans, there isn’t much it can’t handle. Now, being honest, I didn’t know much about Visio until recently. But that changed when I decided to take it for a test drive – right out of the latest Microsoft Office.

Visio Templates Office 2013

What is Microsoft Visio?

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 idea behind Visio is to make diagramming as easy as possible for the user. I think Visio is on the right track for that.

The Visio 2013 welcome screen features a dozen different templates to get you started. Each template equips you with the appropriate menu and objects already open and ready for use. Even more, Visio templates can be found in specific categories within the application or from Visio’s online download page.visio welcome screen

Visio’s primary clientele has 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 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.

table chart with live data

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.

visio map

Pull in Data

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 and current. The most recent example I’ve seen involved using Visio to monitor network status across a localized broadband system.

external data loaded into pie graphs

Visio comes packed with a lot of built-in shapes you can add to your creation.

shapes and wireframes

Yeah, I 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 because there are so many to choose from.

stencils and shapes

Summing Up

Overall, Visio is just a diagram tool, and it’s not a free one either. At $280 for Standard Edition and $530.00 for Professional, it can quickly 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 web app Lovely Charts.



  1. Asif

    Nice Information:)

  2. Lisa

    Awesome article. Very helpful. Great job!

  3. Ervis

    Great article! :)

  4. Venkat

    Awesome article. Easily understandable and very helpful information.

  5. Raul

    can I do like a linear org chart with it? a wallet size pic and short bio? i’m trying to make a capability statement

  6. Ritvij

    Really good article about vision…thanks a lot.

  7. T.Perry

    This is a great article! I read something about Visio in another article and it peaked my interest about what it can do compared to Powerpoint (task being done). I am going to check this out.

  8. Darshan

    Thanks a lot for putting this article. It is very clear and simple

  9. Danny McReynolds

    Hello, I work for the Coast Guard bridge program, and I need a tool to draw bridge structures. At first I thought Auto CAD will be the software, but someone turned me onto Visio. I do not have the software yet because I am still researching. Do you feel Visio is the right tool for me to draw bridges? Thank you.

    • Sean Douglas

      I’d suggest sticking to Auto CAD for those types of projects, this is more of a replacement for things like PowerPoint, it’s more presentation based.

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