A First Look at the new interface
The first thing that will confront most uses of Visio 2010 is the new “Fluent” interface, and in particular the ribbon. For anyone migrating from an earlier version of Visio without the benefit of having used another Office 2007 product, the learning curve will seem steep indeed.
For those of us who have used other office 2007 products, the ribbon will appear more familiar; however Microsoft have clearly taken on board the feedback from their users because they have reverted to the File menu in 2010 and abandoned the Office button that appeared in the 2007 series.
The Fluent interface
In Office 2010 the look and feel of the Fluent interface is clean and soothing on the eye, with a pale grey colour scheme to the ribbon and a slight drop shadow around the page, and this look is consistent across the whole suite of programs. Whereas some components of Office 2007 were given the Ribbon and others were not, all the components of Office 2010 now use this new interface including Outlook, Project and, of course, Visio.
It is supposed to represent a more intuitive way of accessing commands them the complicated arrangement of toolbars and menus previous versions offered; however, for anybody accustomed to using the menus and toolbars of earlier versions of Office, finding something familiar without any Visio 2010 training can sometimes involve a frustrating hunt.
The New File Tab
The new File menu sits on its own tab identified from the others by its blue colour, and appears by default when the program is opened to show the equivalent of the “Getting Started” page. The layout is carried on from the 2007 version with three vertical columns displayed, and from here a new drawing can be started in a number of ways — from any of the available templates, from an existing drawing, from a sample drawing or from a template on the Microsoft office online website. Alternatively, a blank drawing can be chosen which will have no stencils open by default.
The Quick Access Toolbar
The quick access toolbar sits above the File tab by default, but it can be displayed below the ribbon if required. The drop-down button at the right end of the QAT offers users the chance to customise it by adding or removing buttons — a very handy feature for people who are used to seeing a print preview or a printer icon in a familiar location. Another feature that Visio 2010 shares with its other Office counterparts is the zoom bar in the bottom right hand corner of the window that allows instant magnification, and has icons for Full Screen view and the Pan and Zoom windows alongside. Incidentally, all the previous keyboard shortcuts still work, including those using the Alt key.
The functionality of the software is very similar to the 2007 version, with some modifications; the AutoConnect feature is now a little bit more elaborate, with context-sensitive options automatically offered when the blue AutoConnect arrow is hovered over and drawings can now have groups of shapes displayed in containers, which can be formatted to be visually distinct from one another.
For Process Diagrams, new “Legend” and “Sub Process” features are available for displaying data graphics legends and splitting complex processes into more navigable chunks. Other new features include SharePoint compatibility, operated AutoCAD integration, easy and more accurate pasting and automatic alignment when shapes are added to existing diagrams — another real time saver.
In all Visio 2010 looks like a sophisticated piece of software that finally has an interface compatible with the other members of the Office family; whether the enhancements that Microsoft has made to the previous version will actually be of benefit when using it remains to be seen. It is certain that most users will require some Visio 2010 training before they can get the most from the new version; there is a new series of Visio 2010 training videos due to be released shortly.