Microsoft Visio, meet Web 2.0

Next version's changes look good; can you wait 'til 2010 for them?

Microsoft's Visio, best known as software for making static flow charts, is evolving into a tool for creating 'live' data-fed diagrams akin to Web 2.0 mashups.

Microsoft also plans to inject business process management (BPM) features into Visio so that charts will not only be able to view processes in real-time, but possibly also able to execute changes in their workflow.

"Right now if you want to execute a process, you have to hand this off to BizTalk or Visual Studio to do all of this coding," said William Golding, Microsoft's director of product management for Visio, in a Tuesday interview.

These features may arrive in the next version of Visio, which is scheduled for release around 2010, according to Golding, who was speaking while at the Microsoft Office Visio Conference. The conference is taking place Tuesday and Wednesday at Microsoft's Redmond headquarters, with about 300 partners and users in attendance.

Visio is part of the Office family, though it is not included in any of the seven Office 2007 bundles.

Nevertheless, Visio 2007 has sold several million copies, he said. The standard version has a street price of US$259 while the pro version retails for about US$559.

All told, Visio has 15 million users, according to Golding. It is most widely used in industries such as manufacturing, professional services and financial services, Golding said.

The number one user within companies, however, remains IT. Golding estimates about a third of Visio's customers are IT staffers, who use the software, for instance, to diagram their network infrastructure and workflow.

Independent software vendors (ISVs) are already adding features aimed at IT staffers. Codima Technologies' autoMap tool (PDF format) can automatically scan corporate networks and create Visio diagrams mapping them and how data flows through them.

Another partner, DataAssist, has a Visio add-on that automatically scans a corporate Active Directory, with all of its policies, and creates a Visio diagram of that. It just released an equivalent called Net Docs for SharePoint that allows Visio to scan a corporate SharePoint infrastructure and map out all of the sites in a tree-like diagram.

Microsoft plans to build some of that intelligence into the next version of Visio by adding support for the Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) standard, Golding said. That will enable users to, for example, automatically model a process and scan it to validate it. Eventually, processes may be managed and changed from the Visio diagram. That would turn the chart into a sort of real-time dashboard that could supplement or supplant systems management dashboards and consoles.

Microsoft is also seeing demand for front-end for business intelligence users who want their data presented in a highly graphical way, he said. Thus, Microsoft plans to imbue its next version of Visio with Web services connectors so that users who lack programming skills can pull in data from databases or spreadsheets to create charts that are essentially updated in real-time, he said.

Golding envisions companies publishing those live Visio diagrams on their corporate intranets. Microsoft is unsure whether it charge client access licenses (CALs) to users that view or manipulate the Visio diagrams.

Despite the mashup-like nature of future Visio diagrams, Golding said Microsoft is not going totally Web 2.0 with Visio. There are no plans to release a 'lite' version of Visio for consumer users, nor release a hosted Software-as-a-Service version.

Already confirmed to be in the next version of Visio is a switch to the "Ribbon" interface used by Office 2007.

A more prosaic feature, a button to automatically align and space Visio charts, actually got the "biggest applause" when it was announced Tuesday, Golding said, acknowledging "there were some pain points in the past to making diagrams look good."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Eric Lai

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?