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Adding Structure to Your Diagrams in Microsoft Visio 2013

In this chapter from Microsoft Visio 2013 Step By Step, you will experiment with and learn the value of containers, lists, and callouts in Visio diagrams.

Chapter at a glance

Organize shapes with containers

Page 425

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Organize

Add shapes to lists

Page 431

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Add

Build wireframes

Page 441

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Build

Annotate shapes with callouts

Page 448

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Annotate

IN THIS CHAPTER, YOU WILL LEARN HOW TO

  • Comparing containers and groups.

  • Organizing shapes with containers.

  • Formatting containers.

  • Sizing containers.

  • Adding shapes to lists.

  • Formatting and sizing lists.

  • Finding containers and lists in Visio.

  • Annotating shapes with callouts.

In many types of Microsoft Visio diagrams, it is useful to create visual or logical relationships among a set of shapes. In previous versions of Visio, you could use background shapes and groups for this purpose. These capabilities are still available in Visio 2013 as you discovered when you created a network diagram in Chapter 9, “Creating network and data center diagrams” However, Visio 2013 offers three more effective ways to establish relationships and add structure to diagrams:

  • Containers A container provides a visual boundary around a set of objects, but it also establishes a logical relationship between the container and the objects within it: shapes know when they are members of a container and containers know which shapes they contain.

    The key advantage of a container is that while you can move, copy, or delete it and its members as a unit, each contained shape maintains its independence. Selecting an object inside a container only requires one click, which makes it simple to access a container member’s shape data and other properties.

  • Lists A list is a special type of container that maintains an ordered relationship among its members. Each object in a list knows its ordinal position; new objects are not merely added to a list but are added to a specific position in a list.

  • Callouts In previous versions of Visio, a callout was merely a shape that you glued to another shape to add a comment. A Visio 2013-style callout still provides a way to add annotation to a shape, but the callout knows the shape to which it is attached, and the shape can identify any attached callouts.

In this chapter, you will experiment with and learn the value of containers, lists, and callouts in Visio diagrams.

Comparing containers and groups

You can use either groups or containers to visually connect a set of shapes. However, the two have key behavioral differences that are likely to lead you to use one or the other depending on your needs.

In this exercise, you will create both a group and a container, and then you will perform the same set of actions on each in order to examine the differences.

  1. Create a colored rectangle and group it with the network shapes on the left side of the page.

  2. Draw a bounding box around the Branch Office 2 network shapes on the right side of the page.

  3. On the Insert tab, in the Diagram Parts group, click the Container button. The Container gallery opens and as you point your mouse to the thumbnails in the gallery, Live Preview shows how each container style will look with your selected shapes. (Note that the Belt style is highlighted; you will use this style in the next step.)

  4. Click the Belt thumbnail in the Container gallery. Your diagram now shows a set of grouped shapes on the left and a container on the right.

    httpatomoreillycomsourcemspimages1697252.png
  5. Click the Branch Office 1 group once to select it, and then drag the bottom resize handle down to the bottom of the page.

  6. Click the edge or heading of the Branch Office 2 container once to select it, and then drag the bottom resize handle down to the bottom of the page.

    The following graphic illustrates that what you’ve previously learned about groups applies here: resizing the group resizes the shapes in the group. Look at the container on the right, however. The container is taller but its member shapes are unchanged.

    httpatomoreillycomsourcemspimages1697254.png
  7. Press Ctrl+Z twice to undo both resize operations.

  8. Drag two PC shapes from the Computers and Monitors stencil, dropping the first in the open area above the Branch Office 1 network segment and the second in the open area of the container for Branch Office 2.

    httpatomoreillycomsourcemspimages1697256.png
  9. Hold down the Shift key while clicking both the group and the container to select them, and then drag the selection down to the bottom of the page. As the following graphic shows, dropping a shape on a group does not add it to the group—it remains behind when you move the group. In contrast, dropping a shape into a container adds it to the container, so it moves when you move the container.

    httpatomoreillycomsourcemspimages1697258.png
  10. Press Ctrl+Z three times to undo the move operation and delete the two PCs you added.

  11. Click once to select the Branch Office 1 group, and then click the printer in the group. Drag it out of the top of the group rectangle.

  12. Click once to select the printer in the Branch Office 2 container, and then drag it out of the top of the container. The results of both this step and the previous step are shown in the following graphic.

    httpatomoreillycomsourcemspimages1697260.png
  13. Hold down the Shift key while clicking both the group and the container to select them, and then drag the selection down to the bottom of the page. Although you have relocated the printer on the left outside the colored group rectangle, the shape is still part of the group. Consequently, the printer moves when you move the group. On the right, however, dragging a shape out of a container removes it from the container; therefore, it stays behind when you move the container.

    httpatomoreillycomsourcemspimages1697262.png
  14. Press Ctrl+Z three times to undo the move operation and return the printers to their original locations.

  15. Click and drag in the interior of the group and attempt to draw a bounding box around the two PCs below the network segment. The result will not be what you intended. You cannot select the two PCs with a bounding box because dragging within the group shape moves the group (refer to the left side of the graphic in the next step).

  16. Click once in the interior of the container and attempt to draw a bounding box around the two PCs below the network segment. A bounding box inside a container does select contained shapes for the same reason that you could select a contained shape with a single click in step 13: the container background is invisible to mouse clicks.

    httpatomoreillycomsourcemspimages1697264.png
  17. Click once to select the Branch Office 1 group, type San Francisco, and press Esc. Then format the text to 16 pt. and Bold to make it more visible. Because the new text falls directly on top of an Ethernet segment that is a similar color, the text is all but invisible.

  18. Click once to select the container, type Boston, and press Esc. Then format the text to 16 pt. and Bold to make it more visible. Notice that changing the font characteristics of the group makes the same changes to the text on all shapes within the group.

    In the following graphic, the text you added to the group on the left is positioned in the center of the group by default. Because the default position and color render the text invisible, you may want to use the text manipulation skills you learned in Chapter 3, to move the text to a better position.

    In contrast, a container has a built-in header. When you select a container and type text, the words automatically appear in the header. Changing the format of the header text does not affect the text on any shapes within the container.

    httpatomoreillycomsourcemspimages1697266.png

After completing this exercise, you should have a good working knowledge of the properties of groups compared to containers. For future reference, the following table contains a summary of the key differences.

Action

Groups

Containers

Resizing

Contents are resized with the group

Contents are not changed

Selecting an interior shape

Requires two clicks (unless default group behavior has been changed)

Requires one click

Selecting interior shape(s) with a bounding box

Cannot start a bounding box by clicking inside a group

Can start a bounding box by clicking anywhere

Dropping a new shape inside

Dropped shapes are not added to the group (unless default group behavior has been changed)

Dropped shapes are added to the container

Dragging a shape out

Shape is physically outside the group but remains part of the group

Shape is removed from the container

Typing text

Text is placed in the center of the group

Text is placed in the container’s heading