Oh Visio. Almost any software professional is familiar with the tool. I personally owe my Visio proficiency a major part of my ability to communicate architectural ideas over my 25 years career. From the time it was still a seperate tool and later when acquired by Microsoft and became a part of their Office Pro suite.
With this amount of gratitude, I can say a few words about what Visio is and what it is not.
Such a vetern software in the market with such a great acceptance has lots of good points. Let me name just few:
- Easy to start working with.
- A real productivity booster with the almost endless number of templates.
- Extendable with macros and add ons.
- Tightly integrated with all other Office products.
- Layering options to make part of the diagram static and another on top of it.
No wonder that it was, and still is, the tool of choice for every software architect and other pros.
The Bad – But Improving
- Collaboration – Visio started and was designed as a single user single file tool. Up until recently, in order to collaborate on a single diagram you had to email the file, or place it on a shared drive, to a colleague and get their input. The Microsoft OneDrive as well as other shared drive enable the sharing of files across the internet. But this is not enough for a real-time collaboration, the one provided by Google-Docs and the likes of it. This did not go unnoticed and mutiple companies have developed online tools that enabled real time collaboration for diagraming tools, including Chrome extensions that make it integral into your browser (if you are using Chrome, that is).
- Data Awareness – Visio introduced the data linked diagrams. A huge step forward. However it still requires you to have two sources of data – your Visio and your extenral source and to reconcile among them. Try and build an Enterprise archtiecture diagram with all applications and interfaces and connect it to Visio. Still not an easy task, right?
The Bad – Timeliness
This is the one where I did not yet see any solution. I explained the problem in detail in a previous post. Let me quickly recap – diagramming tools gives you a snapshot of a current state. If you are an IT architect and your software, Database, or enterprise archtiecture is evolving, you need to manually build a set of consecutive diagrams.
UI designers already recognized it and use dedicated tools to build UI interactions and screens. Indigo Studio is my favorite.
If you are building graphics and in the need to add movement, you will proabably go to dedciated tool, or even to the Microsoft own sibling – PowerPoint.
But in case you need to show a diagram with few tens of entities with planned transitions, this is where you may need a dedicated tool. This is exactly why morffy was invented.
This is in the eyes of the beholder. Some like the Microsoft Ribbon and Metro looks. Others, not so much.