Add Structure to Your Diagrams in Microsoft Visio 2016

  • 1/8/2016

Annotate shapes by using callouts

Many generations of Visio have included more than three dozen callouts that you can use to add comments to any shape on the drawing page. Those callouts still exist in Visio 2016. Figure 13-26 shows some examples.

Figure 13-26

Figure 13-26 Six classic callout examples

However, using classic callouts is often a challenge because fundamentally they are just ordinary shapes. For example, all of the following are common annoyances of the classic callouts:

  • Deleting the shape to which a callout is attached does not delete the callout, which can leave orphan callouts throughout your diagram.
  • Moving the shape to which a callout is attached does not move the callout.
  • Moving a callout disconnects the callout from the shape to which it’s attached unless you know exactly which control handle to drag.

Visio 2016 structured callouts behave more logically, primarily because, like containers and their members, there is an active association between a callout and the shape to which it’s attached.

Just as there is a Container gallery, there is also a Callout gallery, as shown in Figure 13-27.

Figure 13-27

Figure 13-27 The Callout gallery features 14 callout styles

Figure 13-28 illustrates the following ways that structured callouts appear and behave more logically than groups:

  • In the image on the left, selecting a callout highlights the shape to which it’s attached by using a familiar green border. Note that the opposite is not true: selecting the attached shape does not highlight the callout.

  • In the center image, moving a callout by dragging it appears to disconnect it. However, when you release the connector it is still attached, as shown on the right.
Figure 13-28

Figure 13-28 Structured callouts are associated with the attached shape and remain attached even when you move them

Unlike containers and lists, callouts do not have a tool tab that you can use to switch styles. However, you can take advantage of the Change Shapes feature in Visio to replace any callout style with a different one. Figure 13-29 uses Live Preview and the mini toolbar to show how the callout from Figure 13-28 can be changed to the Word Balloon style.

Figure 13-29

Figure 13-29 Alternate callout styles are available via the Change Shapes feature

The following list summarizes the behavior of new style callouts:

  • If you delete a callout, it doesn’t affect the shape to which it was attached. However, if you delete the shape, the callout is also deleted.
  • If you copy a shape that has a callout attached, both the shape and the callout are copied.
  • You can attach more than one callout to a shape.
  • If you do not have any shapes selected when you insert a callout, Visio inserts the callout in the center of the drawing window.
  • If you select more than one shape before inserting a callout, Visio attaches a callout to each selected shape.
  • Callouts respond to themes and variants, so their appearance on the page remains consistent with the rest of your diagram.

To attach a callout to a selected shape

  1. On the Insert tab, in the Diagram Parts group, click the Callout button, and then click the callout style you want.

To change a callout to a different style

  1. Do one of the following:

    • On the Home tab, in the Editing group, click the Change Shape button, and then click the callout style you want.
    • Right-click the callout, and on the mini toolbar, click the Change Shape button, and then click the callout style you want.

To relocate a callout

  1. Click anywhere on the callout or its tail, and then do one of the following:

    • Drag the callout to a new location.
    • Move the callout by using the arrow keys.


  1. Relocate the shape to which the callout is attached.

To detach a callout

  1. Select the callout, and then drag the yellow control from the center of the attached shape to anywhere outside the attached shape.

To delete a callout

  1. Do one of the following:

    • Click the callout, and then delete it.
    • Click the shape to which the callout is attached, and then delete the attached shape.