Visio: More Than Meets the Eye

megtalla site map

Diagramming may be one of my favorite things (besides list-making…and obviously checking things off the list) so it’s no surprise that one of my fave tools is Microsoft Visio.  It’s been a relaxing pastime for me for a long time, but when a coworker recently requested Visio assistance, I realized it’s been a long, long time since I met up with my old friend.

When I was young–back in the days of Encarta Encyclopedia discs–my parents bought some kind of home-builder assistant program, and I would spend hours playing on it and building *things*…not always houses and furniture layout, but manipulate boxes and shapes and creating what I know now would pass for pale Mondrian impressions, but whatever. I started using Visio in high school, and I was hooked.

Professionally, I used Visio much more in previous jobs, particularly where my roles included more process improvement and creativity in general. I use Visio for visualizations in presentations, particularly timelines and Gantt charts, when I’m using a program that doesn’t do those sorts of things well natively (i.e. PowerPoint, which is robust, and Haiku Deck, which is pretty).

I particularly love how Microsoft 2013 gives so many ideas for how to use Visio besides what most people assume it can do…org charts, flow charts, etc. More than charts, it’s a way to organize your thoughts logically, and a visual representation where every action needs to have a reason and a consequence.  Plus, if you’re somewhat design handicapped as I am, making these in Visio is 100x easier for me than attempting to do it in Indesign or another design program. My favorite nontrad-applications for Visio include the following:

Mind Mapping & Brainstorming

Visio calls it a *brainstorm diagram* but it’s mind mapping. It’s a graphical representation of thought processes that can be used for all the same things you would do for mind mapping…problem solving, decision making, etc.  I still do a lot of mind mapping in the margins of meeting notes (because the doodler in me has to keep the pen moving in meetings), but this works to clean it up and make it more presentable:

Microsoft Visio Mind Mapping


I love timelines for publications of all sorts. They’re a powerful storytelling tool (when executed well) and are generally fairly easy to put together, especially in Visio. Visio’s suite of timeline shapes make it easy to build a key, assign colors, and–best of all–it automatically puts the marker where it belongs according the date specified:

Visio timelines

Site Map

I’m always surprised at how many people–and people who make their living as content managers, mind you–don’t know that Visio can do this. When I was a web strategist overseeing a team of content managers, this made audits fly by:

megtalla site map

How else do you use Visio as a stand-in for a design program, or what other program *hacks* do you use regularly?


  1. Have you tried Creately ? If you love diagramming I have feeling you’ll love it. It supports all the diagram mentioned here and has real-time collaboration because it’s totally web based.
    Disclosure: I work for Cinergix, makers of Creately


What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s