A Review of Visio 2010 Step by Step Book

There is a new book out for Visio 2010 beginners, Visio 2010 Step by Step, published by O’Reilly and written by my fellow Visio MVP, Scott Helmers. The book is written in the clear style that is familiar to the series, and should be a useful adjunct to any user who wants an easy introduction to Visio 2010.


The trouble with an application like Visio is that it covers such a large spectrum of drawing types, both measured and schematic, that any introductory book can only cover a few popular ones. This book uses flowcharts, organization charts and network diagrams as examples, which are probably the top three types of diagrams produced using Visio, though I would have liked to have seen an example of  measured drawing, such as office layouts and space plans, shown a little more in depth, but that maybe because of my own background. Trying to distil the complexity of Visio into a simple guide for beginners is not an easy task, but this book achieves that aim admirably.

The beauty of an application like Visio is that it has a depth that can take you from beginner to intermediate to advanced, and possibly to developer, without ever feeling that you know absolutely everything about it. I started my life in Visio in 1996, and I am still learning new things about it. Perhaps I can’t remember what I have forgotten, so, even a beginner book like this can be a welcome refresher.

I guess that there are some people who just use Visio to draw pretty pictures, and this book will help them get the best out of it, but Visio comes into it its own when it is used for structured or data diagrams. This book leads you gently into this area, and, along with the downloadable sample documents, demonstrates why Visio is so powerful.

For those of you fortunate enough to have Visio 2010 Premium, there is even chapters on validation, including a useful introduction to Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) diagrams, and integration with SharePoint services.

Here is a list of the chapters, so that you can see what to expect:

  • Chapter 1 A Visual Orientation to a Visual Product
  • Chapter 2 Creating a New Diagram
  • Chapter 3 Adding Sophistication to Your Drawings
  • Chapter 4 Drawing the Real World: Flowcharts and Organization Charts
  • Chapter 5 Adding Style, Color, and Themes
  • Chapter 6 Entering, Linking to, and Reporting on Data
  • Chapter 7 Adding and Using Hyperlinks
  • Chapter 8 Sharing and Publishing Diagrams: Part 1
  • Chapter 9 Drawing the Real World: Network and Data Center Diagrams
  • Chapter 10 Visualizing Your Data
  • Chapter 11 Adding Structure to Your Diagrams
  • Chapter 12 Creating and Validating Process Diagrams
  • Chapter 13 Sharing and Publishing Diagrams: Part 2
  • Appendix Looking Under the Hood

The ShapeSheet and macros (Visual Basic for Applications) are introduced in the appendix, thus providing a segue way into intermediate use of Visio on the programming side.

An extremely thoughtful and useful bonus are the copious references to web resources for further information that enables you to explore most subjects in greater detail.

There are some omissions though, that I would have liked to have seen mentioned. For example, I could not find any mention of the Duplicate command (Ctrl+D or Ctrl+Drag), even though Chapter 2 does go into detail about Copy and Paste. Duplicate is more efficient than Copy then Paste because it does not use the clipboard.

I would recommend this book to beginners, or even to current users of an earlier version of Visio because it introduces the new Visio 2010 features, so, here are a few links that you can buy the book from:

O’Reilly : http://oreilly.com/catalog/0790145307477

Amazon US : http://www.amazon.com/dp/0735648875/

Amazon UK : http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0735648875

In the interest of full disclosure, I view Scott as a friend, as well as a fellow Visio MVP.

It’s no April Fool

Tomorrow is an important day … it will be my daughter’s 18th birthday! Today was significant too … I was re-awarded as an MVP again by Microsoft. There is a kind of geeky symmetry in these two events … my award is for Visio, and Visio was the first word that my daughter learnt to read because I used to (still do) wear so many branded T-shirts. That should tell you something: I’m a cheapskate; I don’t care too much about fashion; but, more importantly, I like being associated with Visio because it is good … very good.

Some people will queue overnight to get the latest shiny fruit-named gadget, others will only play with toys that the have personally helped assemble. I am happy to be able to use, and occasionally abuse, another person’s work. I am even happier when that person will listen if I make some objective criticisms or make a few wishes. It is their prerogative to accept or reject whatever I say without it affecting our friendship. That is how I feel about my relationship with Microsoft through the MVP award program. I know that others have blogged about their disillusionment, but I am not. even though the numbers of Visio MVPs at the recent MVP Conference was reduced this year (probably the tight economic circumstances), the time we spent with the product team was precious, and worth the expense of the trip.

I am not sycophantic, as anyone who has read some of my comments recently in The Register will see for themselves ( http://search.theregister.co.uk/?q=David+Parker+Visio&site=&psite=0 ), but I do feel honoured by the MVP award. So, thank you, Microsoft: long may you continue to provide useful, extendable, paradigm-shifting applications like Microsoft Visio.

P.S. Thanks for spotlighting me in the first edition of the Visio Impact Newsletter today … I thought it was an April Fool at first! (click here to subscribe).

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