Visio is a great application that gets used at about 15% capacity by most users. (It’s a testament to the functionality in Visio that the 15% still makes Visio interesting for millions of users.) I’ve seen a lot of information-packed diagrams that convey complex concepts. What I’d like to see more of is truly beautiful information-packed drawings – drawings that take advantage of the rest of Visio to add impact to what you are trying to communicate. To that end, I’m dedicating this blog and the next to some tips on how to make Visio drawings look good. Let’s take the easiest way first.
Heard of color schemes? Lots of Visio users haven’t discovered this library of color palettes because the feature is a little buried in the user interface. This feature has been in the product since Visio 5.0c (many moons ago). Open up your latest Visio diagram in Visio 2003 (if it’s not using a technical template like Software or Process Engineering) and right-click on the document itself. The first entry in the right-click menu for the document is called “Color Schemes”, which change the text, line, fill, and shadow for ALL the shapes in your diagram. The Color Scheme dialog gives you eighteen different pre-established schemes that you can apply to your document, ranging from “Sunset” (my favorite) to “Rose” (no comment). Once you apply a Color Scheme to your drawing, by default any new shape you add to the page opts into that color palette.
You can also create a new color scheme or edit an existing one – check the Help file if you’re interested in the details. Color schemes are the fastest, easiest way to apply a different look to your timeline, org chart, or process diagram. Keep in mind that color schemes don’t work on every diagram. For example, if you’re working with a diagram created from the Software category of diagram types, you won’t see the Color Scheme option on the right-click menu for the document. But if you’re using a more business-oriented diagram, go ahead and right-click on the document to see if you can make an instant visual upgrade to your drawing. I'll talk more about other visual effects you can add with a little more work.
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