Business diagrams made easy

New software helps create flow charts and other diagrams that require linking and arrangement of a variety of objects


This month I'm delighted to tell you about one of the best software packages I've encountered in a long time: Visio, from Visio Corp. of Seattle.

A $149 (street price) product, Visio occupies a special niche in the graphics world. It doesn't make numerical graphs, like Excel. Neither does it prepare presentations, like Power-Point. What Visio creates is are flowcharts, organizational charts and other types of diagrams that require arrangement -- and, especially, linking -- of objects.

For some time I had been using word processing and presentation graphics software to prepare information-flow diagrams for clients. I was somewhat frustrated because routine changes to a diagram -- moving or altering the size of an object, for example -- would require that all lines connected to the object be changed, too.

Visio takes care of this problem, and many more. In a Visio diagram, when any object is moved or changes size, connecting lines are changed instantly. And every object has automatic connection points on its top, bottom and sides. Bring a line anywhere nearby, and it is automatically affixed at the right location.

Visio makes text easy to include, too. To label an object, just click on it and type. The text will appear in the proper size, perfectly centered on the object.

One great feature is Visio's close adherence to the menu, toolbar and other user-interface standards established by Microsoft Office. For anyone accustomed to using Office, Visio is totally intuitive; I have yet to use the manual for reference.

Visio has long been one of the most advanced products available for use of Windows Object Linking and Embedding (OLE). Any Visio diagram can be easily dropped into a word processing document, for example, via OLE. If you are editing the document and want to change the diagram, just double click on it; Visio will come up automatically. Exit Visio, and you immediately return to the document.

And Visio makes installation as easy as possible. A single set of diskettes and CD-ROM include both the Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 versions. Installation (at least, from CD-ROM) takes only a few minutes.

Here are some examples of Visio templates and how they can help virtually any law firm:

Visio's dozens of templates should be able to handle just about any diagraming need you can come up with. For more information, call Visio Corporation at 1-800/24VISIO.

Dana H. Shultz, an Oakland lawyer and certified management consultant, may be reached by e-mail at and on the World Wide Web at