Connecting Shapes in Visio

connecting shapes in a Visio flowchartOne of the most basic tasks you can do in any kind of diagram is connecting shapes with one another, and Microsoft Visio provides several methods of achieving this.  The type of connections Visio can create could indicate the relationship the shapes have with one another, for example, or display the linked steps in a process or procedure.

Connecting Shapes with the Connect Shapes command

There are a number of tools available in Visio to enable connections to be made, the first of which is the Connect Shapes command.

  • The Connect Shapes command can be used to connect shapes in a certain order.  To use this tool, first hold down the Shift key then select all the shapes to be connected by clicking on each in turn in the order you want them to be connected.  This is very important, as the way the shapes are connected to each other will indicate the flow of the process.  When you have selected all the shapes, release the Shift key and on the Shape menu, click Connect Shapes.

Connecting Shapes with the Connector Tool

  • The Connector Tool is useful in basic flowcharts when you want to connect shapes that are already on the drawing page.  To use the Connector Tool, first select it from the Standard toolbar, and then hover your mouse over the first shape until you see a red rectangle.  Now you have a choice; you can either click your left mouse button, hold the button down and drag across to the shape you want to connect to, or alternatively click the blue auto connect arrow facing the shape you want to connect to.  Either way Visio will make a connection between the two shapes.  In this example Visio created a Point to Point connection.

Connecting Shapes with Manual Connections

  • Visio also gives you the option to manually insert connection lines between the shape’s connection points by using the Connection Point tool which is available from the drop down arrow to the right of the Connector Tool button.  Each shape in Visio has a number of small blue crosses around its perimeter and one in the centre — these are the shape’s Connection Points.  Using the Connection Point tool allows us to add additional connection points to a shape.

This last feature can be extremely useful where you have a shape that requires many connections.  This could be a circuit diagram, and engineering diagram or possibly a conceptual diagram where there are many nodes.  It is also useful in a Workflow Diagram that uses small graphical images to represent processes, people or functions as these don’t always have connection points where they are needed.

In Visio 2007 a new feature was introduced to make connecting shapes really easy – the AutoConnect feature – and this is the subject of a dedicated tutorial. Visio 2010 goes one better by expanding on the automatic connection feature allowing you to make the process of connecting shapes as simple as one click!

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