Using AutoConnect in Visio

Using autoconnect in a workflow diagramThe AutoConnect feature was introduced in Microsoft Visio 2007 and allows very quick connections to be made between shapes on a Visio drawing page.

Enable the AutoConnect feature before using it

The feature needs to be first turned on, and although it is on by default, if another user has switched the function off, it can be reinstated by using the AutoConnect Button on the Standard toolbar (next to the Zoom box) or by using the Tools menu, selecting the Options command and changing the preferences from the General tab.

 

Watch for the blue AutoConnect arrowheads

When the AutoConnect feature is enabled a series of pale blue arrowheads appear around a shape as the mouse is hovered over it.  These can be used in several ways.

  1. By selecting a shape in the currently open stencil and clicking one of the AutoConnect arrows, an identical shape is inserted and connected to the original.  The process can be repeated any number of times and in any direction; if the type of shape needs to be changed, simply clicking another in the stencil makes the switch the next time an AutoConnect arrow is clicked.
  2. To save time in a repetitive drawing the Stamp tool can be used instead.  Just select a shape, click on the Stamp tool in the Standard toolbar and click on the AutoConnect arrow of a shape to make another automatic connection.
  3. When you have shapes already on the page but not connected the AutoConnect feature can be used to “Connect to Neighboring Shape”.  Select the shape you want the connection to be made from and click the arrow adjacent to the neighboring shape to connect them together.

When using these methods to connect shapes Visio will make a Point to Point or a Shape to Shape connection.  The difference can be seen in the size of red rectangle Visio displays; if it is surrounding the entire shape it will be a Shape to Shape connection, in which case the connecting line will default to the nearest available connection point.  If the rectangle is small and only surrounds the connection point itself, Visio is creating a Point to Point connection that allows much more control.  Connections made will be glued so that if either shape is moved the connection is maintained.

To watch a video tutorial of this technique visit Connecting Shapes.

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