Visio 2010 Strengths and Weaknesses

My fellow Visio MVP, Chris Roth, and I have recently been interviewed by the renowned online magazine, The Register. You can read some of our thoughts at


3 Responses to “Visio 2010 Strengths and Weaknesses”

  1. Chris Mauldin Says:


    Sometimes when additional features are added to a product they in turn identify new weaknesses. Such is the case for Visio 2010. The addition of the BPMN stencil made us all very excited!!! So off we went, building diagram after diagram in the BPMN stencil. We even tried out some tools like Analyst View from Global 360 (excellent product!!!). Everything seemed on track.
    Then we moved to phase two. The BPMN standards allows for the graphics themselves to be modified to allow the diagrams to be more easily read by the non-techies. Our next step was to extend the stencil by making some custom graphics. For instance, a start event that had a picture of a person with a mail cart inside the circle, or a task that had a truck inside the box.

    That is when we discovered that there was no way to change the graphic without losing all the custom functionality and data placed on the stencils by Microsoft. Then we thought “perhaps the graphics are stored externally” and we can copy a shape and change its data to reference a new graphic? No such luck. The shapes are embedded in the stencil (or at least we can’t find them anywhere).

    We understand the new shape would need to have the same dimensions as the old one. Given that BPMN is designed to allow the actual image to be changed. And, many examples of BPMN diagrams do just that to make the diagram more appealing we were stunned to discover there seems to be no way to change them.

    Worst case we could ungroup, modify and then try to replace everything that Microsoft added to the BPMN shapes … but … surely there is an easier way? I could easily see us having a library of 100-150 cutsom graphics for the TASK shape just on the job we are doing right now!!

    End of rant. By the way, if you have any suggestions please forward them. We have already told the customer we will make custom shapes for them.

    All the best,

    Chris Mauldin

    • davidjpp Says:

      There is no reason why you can’t create your oen shapes to work with the Visio BPMN validation rules. The trick is to either copy all of the relevant User and Shape Data values from the existing shapes, or to modify a copy of one of the existing shapes.
      The latter would be the safest rute, but, whatever you do DO NOT ungroup the shape … this will remove the relevant cells. Instead, you should edit the shape by opening the group.

    • davidjpp Says:

      You should not ungroup these special masters, but you can edit them to put your own graphics in. The best way is probably to add them to a document stencil, and then ensure that Match master by name on drop is checked. Then save this document as a template.

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