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2012-12-28

Visio Tips

Some Visio tips that I have come across and I have found to be extremely useful. Mostly in making network diagrams.

Separate Objects for Network Interfaces

This is more of a tip than a skill. It becomes very useful/flexible to use separate objects for network interface connections. This allows you to move the interfaces around without having to worry about new connection points (glue points). It also makes inserting multiple interfaces using the Align Many tip discussed below.

Here's how I normally draw out my interfaces:
Normally the switch is slightly bigger as it usually has more interfaces. Also I tend to use boxes if I'm just making a quick and dirty diagram as opposed to a diagram for documentation. Also, it can be time consuming to find all of the appropriate icons. 

To clean things up a little you can also remove the outline by right clicking the box and going to 
Format > Line > Pattern 00:None

Another thing that using separate interfaces helps with is maintaining alignment when connecting to other interfaces on a remote device and allows you to label the actual line by just clicking on it and typing.

Example of what a connection between two devices normally looks like:

Re-Align Many

This is a trick that I learnt a while ago when making enormous diagrams by hand. Instead of manually aligning interfaces or boxes it's much easier to use some automated distribution tools built into Visio.

Let's work through the process:
  1. Create a standard shape you want to duplicate and align. For example an interface label for a large switch.
  2. What I want to do is align these shapes to the large switch under it. The way we can start doing that is by selecting the interface. Copy it and keep pasting it over and over again until you have enough interfaces. Do not worry about the fact that they're not pasting in the right location and that they're pasting over top of each other.
  3. As you can see my interfaces pasted all over my switch (Oh no!). No need to worry what we'll do now is distribute them and align them so they fit nicely without having to manually place them.
    To do this: 
    1. Take one of the copied interfaces and put it at the edge of the switch. This will be your final interface.
    2. Now we need to use the alignment tool.
      1. Select all of the interfaces. Making note that the shape with the bolded purple outline is the one you want to have the other shapes align to.
      2. Press 'F8' on the keyboard and it will bring up a menu that you can use to align all of the shapes on the same plane using the vertical alignment button.
      3. Select the button I pointed to in the screenshot and press OK. This will align them on the same vertical plane.
    3. The next step is to distribute the shapes evenly using the distribute tool
      1. This tool is kind of hidden in Visio 2007 (maybe not in 2010).
      2. Go to Shape > Distribute Shapes > Horizontal Distribution > Select the Second Button
      3. You can see now that everything is distrusted properly.
    4. You're now ready to re-name and connect interfaces!
Wasn't that much easier than manually placing shapes? Especially when you have hundreds of them to do! There are tons of similar tricks that you can do to make diagramming easier but the above are a couple of the ones I use most frequently to save myself a ton of time.

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