Making the most of the Microsoft Visio Toolbar

Paul Elson-Vining helps out


As many of you know, I love my shortcuts and am always looking for ways to reduce the time that it takes to create process maps. So I like to make the most of the Visio tools which can be used to complement Process Navigator.

Because I found it quite difficult to find some of these in Visio 2010, I have created a customized toolbar ribbon. From version 16.4 this has now been integrated into the product.

The custom toolbar/ribbon looks like this:

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In this article I aim to explain the tools included that you may not be familiar with.

Connect Shapes

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The Connect Shapes tool allows you to connect several shapes together in order quickly. Take a look at the following example:

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Using the Connect Shapes tool as instructed will quickly join the shapes together as follows:

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Layer Properties, Size & Position and More Layout Options

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There may be times when you are mapping in an A4 or Letter sized stencil and you have 5 columns of activities but the page only allows for 4. You have a decision to make, do you break the map in to 2, add a drill down or break the rules completely and snake the process down the page? However there is another option which allows the map to fit within the confines of the page and still look neat and tidy.

Looking at the following map, it is possible to manually resize each box and move the shapes along to fit, but that takes time.

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If you resize the Activity boxes and shorten the Connectors you can achieve the same effect.

Here's how to do it. Firstly we only want to view the Activities. To do this select Layer Properties and deselect the Connector and Deliverables in the Visible column to leave only the Activities visible:

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Screen grabNow select all the Activities by drawing a box around them and turn on the Size & Position window. Change the width from 25mm to 23mm. Over-typing this field will resize all the boxes simultaneously.

Then go back to Layer Properties and make the remainder of the shapes visible again.

If you were to perform an auto-layout now, the map would still spill outside the edge of the page. We need to do one final thing and that is to reduce the length of the Connectors. To do this, draw a box around your Deliverables and Activities to select them. Now select More Layout Options and change the spacing options from 7.5mm (which is the standard length for Process Navigator) to 5.5mm. You will need to overtype this value as it is not available from the drop down list. To finalise, click OK and do an auto-layout.

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If the map still does not quite fit you can repeat the process as above and take 1mm from each Deliverable's width.

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Open Stencil

Open Stencil is particularly useful for opening a map when the stencil is missing - when you save the file the stencil will be attached.

Shape Name

If you are doing a Replace Shape on your maps, you need to know the name of the Visio shape, to do this select the shape and click on Shape Name.


When trying to identify shapes on a page, which are say listed on the Non-Triaster Shapes report, use the Find option, tick the Shape Name box and enter your search term. Visio will then highlight the shape.

To install the Visio 2010 custom toolbar select File > Options > Custom ribbon > Import/Export and navigate to where you saved the downloaded file. You do not need administrator privileges.

Note: If you have any customisations in your quick access toolbar already, installing this file WILL overwrite them.

In a future release of the custom toolbar I plan to add the Triaster Auto-layout and Properties tools. Do let me know of any other tools you would like to see added (and why).

Also if you have found any techniques that have saved you time, I would love to hear from you.

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