Enhancing the Built-In Containers in #Visio

The concept of Structured Diagrams was introduced in Visio 2010 to provide core functionality for a variety of the templates in Visio, such as the Cross-Functional Flowchart, BPMN Diagram and Wireframe Diagram. This is primarily evident as Containers, Lists and Callouts and they can be customized (see Custom Containers, List and Callouts ), as shown in some of my previous articles ( see https://blog.bvisual.net/?s=container). One example of this extension can be found in all of the flowchart shapes that placed into a swimlane in a cross-functional flowchart. They have a Shape Data row, Function, that automatically inherits the text entered into the header of the swimlane. In another example, a Visio user can use Insert / Diagram Parts / Container to visually group other shapes together, and update the header text of the container. Well, I often do want my custom shapes to inherit the text of a container, so, in this article, I show how the built-in containers can be enhanced to provide this ability.


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Visio 2010 Container Problems

Update : I have received a corrected response from my friends at Microsoft regarding the use of Spatial Neighbors and Containers, so I have to revise this post from its original. The changes are marked in Red.

The Structured Diagramming API in Visio 2010 is really neat, but there are a couple of problems that I think you should be aware of. The first one is about how shapes can appear to be in a container, but aren’t really; and the second is how the Container type prevents SpatialNeighbors from working … unless you use a new constant.

Let’s start with an example diagram that contains three Process shapes on a Cross Functional Flowchart. Notice that I have select the Process shape labelled A and this has caused the swimlane Function 2 to display a brown highlight … this is a good indication that the Structured Diagramming

API is working, and that Function 2 is a container shape. I have placed two more Process shapes below the swimlanes, and one of them (C) is on top of a SubProcess shape.

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Using the Cross-Functional Flowchart Phases in Visio

The cross-functional flowchart template is possibly one that I use most frequently, and I do like the way that the Function Shape Data value is automatically evaluated from the Swimlane that is is within. But why did Microsoft issue the template without the same feature for the Phases? This article describes how to fix that issue, and is also a plea to Microsoft to correct it in a future release….

So, all of the flowchart shapes contain a Shape Data row named Function, as in the following screenshot, and the value is automatically updated to that entered into the Swimlane header. If the user updates the header text, or moves the shape between lanes, then the value gets updated.



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