Creating a Block Diagram in Visio

A Block diagram can be used throughout industry and in the fields of engineering, management science, criminal justice, economics, and the physical sciences.  It is often used as a simple means of analysing a system graphically to make the process clear, but block diagrams are versatile as well.  There are accepted principles for drawing a block diagram; it should describe the system and its component subsystems in a set of related diagrams in which each block performs a particular function and the block diagram shows how they are connected together.

Using a Block Diagram in Visio

Visio has a range of block diagrams that are easy to produce but still able to communicate a huge range of concepts in a visual format.  For example, they can show the flow within processes in a clear and concise way that allows non-technical people to understand them.  In addition, they can help to illustrate the structure of and relationships between all sorts of elements like ideas, designs, business procedures, manufacturing components, bottlenecks within processes and a variety of other problems.

Creating a Block Diagram

Microsoft Visio enables the creation of a wide range of drawings, from the simple block diagram using basic shapes to more visually appealing diagrams using 3-D shapes with perspective that could be used in presentations. The Block Diagram stencil includes shapes that allow for the production of more sophisticated drawings, like hierarchical trees or onion diagrams, but it is worth noting that the Block Diagram templates have been moved to the General category in Visio 2007.

Block Diagram Templates

Visio Block Diagram templates are popular because people in different industries can use them by utilizing common techniques like dragging and dropping to connect shapes together.  The shapes are simple and the stencils don’t contain any special menus or toolbars, so even novice users can build a block diagram that satisfies many different requirements.

Block Diagram shapes can be easily edited by dragging selection handles, and they are easy to annotate by simply typing in a shape – it is easy to enter Text mode by selecting the shape and pressing F2.

Choosing the Right Template

For program flow charts, information system flow charts, circuit diagrams and communications networks, specific stencils and templates are usually used.  Other than these examples, the range of diagrams that can be created with Block Diagram templates fall into three diagram categories:

  • A block diagram communicates steps in a process and uses geometric shapes such as rectangles and circles, but these can be replaced with shapes that represent a department or piece of equipment.
  • Tree diagrams present information displayed in a hierarchy, for example a family tree or a league table.
  • Onion diagrams describe the relationships of layers that build from a core, for example the layers that make up the earth from its core to the crust.

It is less frustrating for the user if the correct type of template is chosen at the start, although this needs some care as the diagram types Visio offers don’t relate directly to the templates on offer.

Block Diagram Shapes

Every Block Diagram template sets up the same basic environment, so you can use Block Diagram templates almost interchangeably. Each stencil within the Block Diagram family offers some specialized shapes to address specific diagramming needs. By understanding the shapes available on each stencil, you can open the stencils as you need them, regardless of the Block Diagram template you start with.

Basic Shapes

The Basic Shapes stencil in Visio is often used to supplement the shapes contained in the Block Diagram stencils, as it includes basic geometric shapes, arrow-like shapes that can act as connectors, as well as the standard Dynamic connector and Line curve connector.  These, together with the other stencils available make it easy and quick to produce a highly effective Block Diagram in Microsoft Visio.

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