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Hyperlinks in Process Maps


techHyperlinks in process maps are commonly used to open other process maps, related documents or initiate e-mails. As a fundamental feature of any Process Library, most will be familiar with their use, but not necessarily with some details that may help to explain particular behaviour.

A hyperlink in a Visio shape

A hyperlink is (nearly) always associated with a Visio shape. A shape's hyperlink can be viewed through Visio's Hyperlinks dialog (Insert > Hyperlinks... or CTRL+K). It may have an address that targets a file and a sub-address that targets a location within that file. If the link is to a Visio file, then the sub-address corresponds to a page within it.

Hyperlinks in published HTML

Links from one VDX file to another (Visio process maps) are translated by Process Navigator when exporting to HTML so that the links are maintained between the corresponding HTML pages. A hyperlink that's defined in Visio to target a page, 'MyPage', in a file, 'MyMap. vdx', is translated to target a corresponding HTML file, 'MyMap.MyPage.html'. This is a significant difference between Process Navigator's export and the standard Visio Save as Webpage, where a link from an HTML page will continue to target the Visio VDX file.


Drilling down on an Activity in Visio will automatically set the hyperlink to the intended target. Process Navigator seeks the page which contains the Node of the same name as the Activity, and sets the hyperlink sub-address accordingly. It should be emphasised that the sub-address corresponds to a page name, not the name of the Node, although the two will often match. Whether there is a hyperlink address will depend on the Activity's navigation behaviour setting (the 'Navigation' tab on an Activity's Properties dialog): the default behaviour is to target a page within the same file (so the address will be blank), but the recommended behaviour is external drill-down that targets a separate VDX file. Drill-down also ensures that the back-button on the child Node has a hyperlink that targets the page which contains the parent Activity.

Clicking on an Activity in a map published to HTML just executes the hyperlink. The accuracy of that link is dependent on it having been set properly in the Visio VDX file.

Renaming an Activity or Node

An Activity and its associated Node are matched through name. If one is renamed, that breaks the logical link between them, and they'll no longer be regarded as parent and child. However, if the pages that contain the shapes aren't renamed, and the drill-down isn't refreshed, they will still hyperlink to each other, perhaps giving the impression of a continuing relationship, which was meant to have been broken.

Renaming pages

If a target page of a drill-down is renamed, then the drill-down should be repeated so that the hyperlink sub-address is reset correctly. If it isn't, the link in the published map may target a page that doesn't exist, with the consequent error, but if the target map has been published previously, the link could still target the HTML that's associated with the old page name: exporting to HTML does not remove HTML related to Visio files and pages that no longer exist.

Similarly, if the page on which the parent Activity resides is renamed, the drill-down should be reexecuted so that the hyperlink on the child Node's back-button is refreshed.

Navigation behaviour

If an Activity has a drill-down, the hyperlink should not be set through Visio's Hyperlinks dialog. Doing so would change the Activity's navigation behaviour to 'Link to document'. Even though the target may be the same, the parent/child relationship between the Activity and its corresponding Node would be lost.

Linking to a document

When linking to a document, the hyperlink is commonly set through Visio's Hyperlinks dialog. The sub-address may represent:

  • A bookmark in a Microsoft Word document
  • A page number in a PDF (where the sub-address would be expressed as, for example, 'Page=3') [1]
  • A named destination in a PDF (which requires the named destination to be defined within the PDF) [1]
  • An anchor in an HTML page (where an anchor could be defined as <a name='MyAnchor'></a>)

Factors affecting behaviour

Executing a hyperlink can involve opening an application associated with the file-type or action specified in the hyperlink, and the behaviour can depend on numerous factors such as:

  • The version and configurations in Windows
  • The identity and version of the application
  • The version and settings of Internet Explorer

The behaviour in one environment may not be experienced in another.

To be able to open a Word document at a bookmark requires a configuration associated with the document file-type, e.g. '.doc', '.docx'. This setting, 'Browse in same window', is different when Word 2003, Word 2007 or Word 2010 is installed. The default behaviour when Word 2003 is installed is to open a Word document within Internet Explorer, and to open it at a bookmark if specified, whereas the default behaviour if Word 2007 or Word 2010 is installed is to open the document in a Word application window, but not to navigate to the bookmark [2]. It's usually simple to configure this behaviour in Windows XP, but unhelpfully, the setting isn't as accessible in Windows 7.

Recent support issues concerned a problem where a hyperlink was executed and an application window opened to display a document or create an e-mail. The map page was replaced with a blank page [3]. When the hyperlink target was closed, the browser back button needed to be clicked to return to the map page. This behaviour was found to be influenced by Windows User Access Control (UAC, a feature of Windows Vista and 7), Protected Mode (a security feature of Internet Explorer that requires Windows Vista or 7) and Internet Explorer security zones, requiring a combination that may have been common within a particular organisation, but difficult to identify when trying to reproduce the problem. The solution was to ensure the Process Library web pages were located in a security zone for which Protected Mode is enabled [3].


[1] Link to Pages or Destinations within PDFs

[2] Hyperlinking bookmarks in Word document will not open the document at the bookmark

[3] A blank page is displayed after a hyperlink is opened

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