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PowerPoint and Visio

Learn about PowerPoint and Visio.


I wish to thank John Marshall, Visio MVP for helping me with this page.

About Visio
Visio's Repertoire
Between Visio And PowerPoint
Inserting Visio Content
Visio - PowerPoint Caveats


owerPoint has always had umpteen features for diagrams - charts, AutoShapes with connectors, organization charts and more. PowerPoint 2002 upped the ante with the new Office XP diagram tools - making it possible to create several new types of info-graphics natively within the program. Yet, it is not uncommon to use Microsoft Visio or Project as a source for detailed and specialized diagrams respectively. Both Visio and Project are part of the Office family of application products - and as expected, they work seamlessly with PowerPoint.

We'll examine Project some other time - now let us take a closer look at using Visio content within PowerPoint, specifically using Visio 2002/03 and PowerPoint 2002/03 although most of the ideas should work with version 2000 products as well. Even before that, let us take a look at Visio itself.


About Visio Visio Standard

More Info

Until 1999, Visio was a product from Visio Corporation - in September that year, Microsoft acquired the company in a move to equip its office productivity business with a technical drawing and diagramming application. The actual merger was ratified by December that year. Since then, Visio's transformation has been spectacular - the product now integrates with the Office family of products to transparently provide business users a much better way to incorporate business info graphics into Word, PowerPoint or elsewhere. In addition, Visio also aids as a conceptualization tool with database integration - this facilitates its use in environments like networking, engineering and construction. The program thus integrates in some way or the other with almost all Microsoft products - sometimes as a tool to spawn creativity and at other times as a medium to displayinspired info-graphics.

Visio Professional
More Info

By itself, Visio is a fairly easy program to use - successfully hiding its more powerful features under a basic interface to make beginners feel at home. In fact, if you use Word or PowerPoint often, you'll be productive with Visio almost immediately. There can be no denial to the fact that Visio is far more powerful in its diagramming capabilities than anything PowerPoint can natively offer - but many of you would like to know what types of diagrams Visio can create. That's precisely what we'll examine next.

Visio's Repertoire

Visio repertoire is vast to say the least and it certainly lives to its claim of being a full featured diagramming tool. As soon as you launch Visio, you are presented with a range of drawing choices that include block diagrams, building plans, databases, engineering (electric, mechanical and process) models, flowcharts, forms and charts, maps, visual networks, organization charts, project schedules, software structures and web diagrams.

These were only the default choices - Visio's abilities can be expanded with many more Microsoft and third party extensions that are based on stencils, templates and drawings. Like other Office programs, Visio is also completely VBA enabled.

Getting back to basics, assistance within Visio is available from its excellent help system - which also includes six lessons that get you started with beginning a diagram, moving and resizing shapes, adding text, connecting and formatting shapes and putting it all together. Needless to add, the lessons are highly recommended.

In addition, Visio itself has several wizards - which make tasks easier for beginners. There are also several web sites where you can get more info:

  • The Microsoft Visio homepage is chock-a-block of tips, techniques and support info. While you are there, you can order a 30-day trialversion of Visio on CD-ROM, which also contains excellent tutorial movies and case studies.

  • The Microsoft Visio Viewer is a free download which allows you to distribute your Visio drawings to those who are not equipped with the application.
  • Visio MVP John Marshall's site is a treasure trove of Visio related info - you'll find loads of links to providers of third-party stencils, templates and drawings as well as tons of pointers to other Visio related sites.

  • The DiagramAntics and Wideman-One sites are run by Graham Wideman - a Microsoft Visio MVP.

  • Tom Bunzel shows how you can insert a Visio timeline diagram in PowerPoint.

  • Search posts in the Visio newsgroups archive for all sorts of Visio-related information.


Between Visio And PowerPoint

Now is a good time to decide if you would rather use Visio or PowerPoint's own visual abilities. As a rule of a thumb, this decision is easy - if PowerPoint can cope with the type of diagram you need, using Visio is going to be an overkill. You will find that PowerPoint is well suited for most types of charts, organization diagrams, venn diagrams and related info-graphics. So, when does one use Visio? Read on for some thoughts.

Suppose you want all your drawings to be on scale with industry standard measurements or if you are importing a CAD drawing you want to edit later on - Visio will provide you with all these features and more. You'll also find that Visio content can be reused - a significant reasoning if you require a diagram that's going to be used in all sorts of media like presentations, web sites, documents, e-mail, page layout, spreadsheets, etc. You might also choose Visio as your tool of choice if your drawings need to be database aware and connected - or if you are creating a building plan or route map. Of course, Visio provides you with many more possibilities but you to need to remember that PowerPoint is quite capable on its own - so use Visio only if the advantages are obvious. Having said that, let's proceed with inserting Visio content into PowerPoint.


Inserting Visio Content

You cannot insert Visio content into PowerPoint in Visio's native drawing format. Either you'll need to link to an existing or newly-created Visio drawing as an object - or export from Visio to a graphic format and thereafter import it into PowerPoint. Between the two methods, you'll have to choose the latter if you want to transport your presentation to a system without Visio installed. Let's examine the Insert | Object route:

  1. In PowerPoint, choose Insert | Object. In the resultant dialog box, choose the 'Create New' option and select 'Microsoft Visio Drawing'. Click OK.
  2. Visio opens with the 'Choose Drawing Type' option. Make your selection and decide if would like to use the color scheme from the PowerPoint presentation - thereafter create your diagram.
  3. Click anywhere outside the Visio area to go back to PowerPoint.

The second method is more straight-forward. Although you cannot edit the original drawing this way, the resultant presentation will be more compact and portable:

  1.  Open or create a Visio diagram. Choose File | Save As...

  2. The resultant 'Save As' dialog box allows you to save the diagram to several graphic formats - both vector and raster. In all you can save to 28 formats - we'll choose WMF or EMF since they are the best formats to transport graphic content between Microsoft applications. Both WMF and EMF can also be natively edited within PowerPoint as drawings - although not as diagrams! It can also be thereafter animated.

  3. In PowerPoint, choose Insert | Picture | From File... and navigate to and choose the WMF/EMF file.

There's also a third method - although it merely automates the second method:

  1. Copy your diagram while in Visio.
  2. In PowerPoint, choose Edit | Paste Special and then choose the Picture option in the resultant dialog box after copying a diagram from Visio to the clipboard.

Of course you can also emulate the first method by simply dragging a drawing from a Visio window into a PowerPoint slide.

After importing a Visio diagram into PowerPoint, you might want to animate elements sequentially or recolour some shapes - Microsoft has several tutorials on their site which discuss just that and more:

Visio 2003:

Visio 2002:


Visio - PowerPoint Caveats

Be aware that what may look fine within Visio may seem too crowded or loaded with information in a PowerPoint Slide.

Both PowerPoint and Visio are designed to be viewed and printed differently - for example, a Visio network diagram printed on large size paper may look fine, but the same image in PowerPoint would be a jumble and any fine lines on the drawing will disappear altogether on the PowerPoint slide. That needs to be avoided by making the same information more presentable in Visio itself even before inserting it within PowerPoint. Within Visio itself, you can do some housekeeping by using layers to hide the extra information or use VBA to isolate parts of the drawing.


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