Learn tips and tricks for using the software more effectively. Join Visio MVP Scott Helmers as he demonstrates how to use AutoConnect and QuickShapes to effortlessly build a connected diagram like a flowchart or swimlane diagram. You’ll also learn how to enable and disable the AutoConnect feature.
- [Instructor] Some of the most common Visio diagram types, flowcharts, swim lane diagrams, network diagrams, to name a few, contain shapes that are connected to each other. Autoconnect is a powerful feature for adding connectors and even new shapes to the page without needing to move the cursor to the stencil or the ribbon. The Quick Shapes menu appears in conjunction with autoconnect, and contains up to four shapes that can be added to the page with a single click. Let's start our exploration of these features by spending a moment creating a diagram without them.
I'll start by dragging a process shape onto the page, then add another process shape, and use the dynamic grid to both space and align the second shape. I'll add a decision shape, another process shape to its right, and finally, a process shape beneath the decision diamond. Now I need to connect those shapes to each other. With Visio 2013 and later, I can right-click and use the one-time connector to draw a connector between a pair of shapes, but that is, in fact, a one-time tool.
The cursor has reverted to the pointer tool. What I'm going to do next is use the Connector tool on the Home tab, which is a persistent tool, so I can continue to draw connectors as long as I want. If I forget I'm still in connector tool mode, however, and now I want to grab all these shapes and move them somewhere else on the page, my inclination is just click and drag to create a bounding box, but lo and behold, I am still in connector tool mode, so I've succeeded only in drawing another connector. What I need to do is click the Pointer Tool, or type Control + 1, and now I can indeed select my shapes and move them wherever I'd like.
So far, so good. That's the manual way of creating this portion of a flow chart. Let's look now at how autoconnect adds to our tool set. Let's start our flowchart the same way. Drag a process shape, a second process shape, a decision, and two more process shapes. Now, however, I'm going to take advantage of the four blue triangles that appear when I hover over a shape. Those are the autoconnect arrows.
Simply clicking on one fires a connector across the gap between a pair of shapes. I can continue to do that. They work in any direction, so if I click on a downward-facing triangle, it draws a connector down to the shape below. As an aside, it's helpful to know that autoconnect creates dynamic glue, not static glue, as you can see when I move shapes around. So, if I move this shape, not only does the arrow move, but the connection points of the arrow to its shapes changes as well.
So, that's dynamic glue. Let's do this one more time, but use both autoconnect and quick shapes. I'm going to click the plus button at the bottom of the screen to add a new page, drag the first process shape onto the page, but now that's the only time I'm going to go to the stencil, or the ribbon, for that matter, because when I hover over the autoconnect arrow, I see the quick shapes menu. Hovering over the four entries in the quick shapes menu gives me live preview of what Visio will add to the page when I click, so let's add a process shape, a decision diamond, and two more process shapes.
You can see how easy and fast this is. Very quick way to build out my connected diagram. You might wonder how those four particular shapes got on to the quick shapes menu. The answer is a barely visible line inside the stencil portion of the shapes window. I'm pointing at the gray line now. You'll notice it's between the data shape and above the database shape. It's specifically the top four shapes above that line that end up on the quick shapes menu.
That's why you saw process, decision, subprocess, and document. What if I would prefer to have the Start/End shape be on the quick shapes menu? Simply drag it up into one of the first four positions, and now, when I come back and hover, sure enough, the Start/End shape is right there, available for quick shapes use. What if you don't want autoconnect to be active in your diagram? Or what if it's not operating in a document you're working on, but you'd like it to? There's an option for that on the View menu.
Click the View tab. In the Visual Aids group, notice that there is a menu entry for AutoConnect. Simply remove the check mark, and now, when I hover over a shape, autoconnect does not happen. If I want to reactivate it, add the check mark, and now the autoconnect arrows do appear. It's not that difficult to create a connected diagram when you do everything by hand. But the combination of autoconnect and quick shapes makes short work of creating this kind of diagram.
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- Decoding Visio versions and editions
- Setting Visio options
- Navigating like a pro
- Taking advantage of hyperlinks
- Managing text on shapes
- Annotating diagrams with comments and callouts
- Inserting text display fields
- Working more efficiently
- Mastering Visio keyboard shortcuts
- Aligning and sizing shapes on a page
- Managing connectors and connection points
- Copying, pasting, and duplicating shapes