Collaborating in Visio

Collaborating in VisioOur customers say they spend a lot of time coordinating and communicating with coworkers to get their daily work done. Whether you’re working on a simple illustration or a flowchart documenting an extremely complex process, it’s not uncommon to have to go through multiple revisions, get feedback and work with others to get the details right. That’s why we picked collaboration as an area of focus for the new Visio.



Working together

Getting changes from multiple people used to be a chore. You’d send a copy of a diagram to everyone and then update the original to incorporate their changes, which meant tracking numerous copies and cautiously editing the diagram to get the changes right. Or if you shared it on a network or in the cloud, only one person could edit the diagram at a time, slowing down the collaboration. To simplify this, Visio now supports coauthoring.

Setting up coauthoring is as simple as saving your diagram to SkyDrive, SharePoint, or SharePoint Online in Office 365. Once it’s there, whenever two or more people open the diagram, you are coauthoring. There aren’t any special settings to use or steps to take; it just works.

We’ve designed Visio’s coauthoring specifically for collaborative diagram creation. When one person is editing a shape, we don’t “lock” it against editing. Instead we add an icon that informs you that someone else is editing the shape. It’s not a prohibition against editing, just a friendly warning that you should avoid changes that might conflict with the other author’s edits.

Collaboration indicator

Why did we take this approach? Because there are many changes that will never conflict with each other. As a simple example, you could change the color of the shape while I change the text, and neither change would affect the other – the changes will simply merge and result in a shape with new color and text.

But suppose you and I change the exact same thing like the color? When that happens, the last change “wins” and is kept. That’s why we have the icon. It does more than just tell you that someone is editing. Clicking on the icon will show you who is working on that shape, and hovering over their name will display contact information with options to send call, send mail, or an instant message. Now it’s easy to contact them to find out what changes they are making and coordinate your work.


Contact an author

You can tell when other users have made changes and saved them, because you’ll see Updates Available displayed in the task bar at the bottom of Visio . Click on it and you will get the changes others have made and your changes will be saved to the server. You’ll be informed of shapes that have changed with another icon.

Shape changed icon

To let you know if another user deletes a shape, we have a special icon to indicate that.

Shape deleted icon

Just in case someone deletes a shape that you’ve been working on, the deleted shape stays on the page whenever Visio detects that you’ve made significant changes that would have otherwise been lost.

Those are the basics: Put a document on a supported server, open the diagram with others, and start coauthoring, then use the icons to see what is being changed and coordinate your changes and contact other users.

Making comments better

We’ve completely reworked comments. We started by allowing comments to be attached to shapes. When you add a comment while a shape is selected, the comment is associated with that shape. When you move or cut and paste the shape, the comment goes along with it, too. Each shape can have more than one comment, so you can comment on multiple issues or discuss an issue. If you want to make a general comment about the diagram, just add a comment without a shape selected and it becomes a page-level comment. Each page can have its own set of page-level comments that are represented by a icon in the upper-left corner of the page.

Comments have icons you can click to show the comments. (The icon in the illustration is the temporary icon that you’ll see in the preview, but we promise the final one will be more meaningful.) Add another comment by clicking Reply, and then type your comment. When you hover over the name, each comment shows information about its author and has the same contact card you saw above in coauthoring. Also, if you look next to the name in the picture above, you’ll see a little diamond that points down. You can click this to collapse each comment individually to track what you’ve addressed and to make it easier to see unaddressed issues when there are a lot of comments.

Commenting in Visio

If you want to view all of the comments at once, you can bring up the Comments pane by going to the Review tab and clicking on Comments Pane, which adds more ways to view comments. The pane normally shows all of the comments in the document, but you can use the filter to show only items on the current page, comments by specific authors, recent comments, or only the collapsed or expanded comments. Click on a comment and if the shape it’s attached to isn’t in view, your view will move to show the shape, allowing you to use the pane to step through comments easily.

Of course, you can add and edit comments in a coauthoring session, which adds to the power of commenting and gives you one more way to collaborate.

Visio commenting pane

No Visio?

Sometimes you need to get comments from someone who doesn’t have Visio installed. We’ve got a solution for that problem, as well. If your document is saved on a SharePoint server or on SharePoint Online in Office 365, you can open the diagram in your browser. You can then click Comments to open a comments pane, and you can view comments, reply to a comment, click a shape to add a comment to it, or add a page-level comment. Best of all, you can do this while other users are editing the diagram in a coauthoring session in Visio, and they will see your comments the next time they save and get updates.

Visio Services on SharePoint

A brief summary

Working together on complex diagrams doesn’t have to mean a cumbersome process of collating comments received through mail and printed copies of diagrams. The new Visio makes collaborating more simple and powerful because of its coauthoring and commenting features–even users who don’t have Visio can comment using their browser. And when you do need to discuss a change with one of your collaborators, the contact card integrated into Visio allow you contact them with a click. 

Contact us

As always, we’d love to hear about topics you’d like us to cover in the future or see comments about this or other posts.

The Visio Answers forum and the Visio MSDN forum are also available to discuss Visio. And don’t forget to use Send a Smile or Send a Frown to let us know what you think of our changes.