Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Visio: How Do You Get to v12 with No Page Duplication?

February 16, 2010

Microsoft Visio is, for better or worse, the primary tool I use for my chosen profession. There are other options, and debates can be had at great length as to the relative merits of them and why one should, or should not abandon Visio. The truth is, I know how to use Visio, I can do almost everything I need or want to in it, and I do not have enough “spare time” to conquer the learning curve of another tool right now.

But this post is not about the wisdom in my choice of tools. It is concerning a phenomenon that I cannot help but think is pretty universal among users of commercial software.  I am just going to use Visio as a handy example.

I am curious how  many of you use one or two software packages for most of your work and find yourselves thinking daily “Does <insert name of publisher here> EVER talk to people who actually use this software?”. In my case this question comes when I want to do the very basic task of duplicating a page in Visio.

For those of you who do not know, Visio uses a tab metaphor for pages much like Excel does for worksheets. Most people that produce wire frames of web sites for example will create a new page for each page of the wire frame and these are each housed on their own tab.

Visio provides nice tools to speed up the propagation of common elements across multiple pages.  You can use backgrounds, or the document stencil to automagically keep elements the same across a range of tabs. However, one of the first things I discovered when I began teaching myself Visio was that there was no built-in function for duplicating an  entire page.

In Visio 2003 (version 11) you could duplicate all of the elements on a page and then paste them into a new page you had inserted. But, lining those elements up in the exact same location became tedious and was less than “user friendly”.  Then Microsoft released Visio 2007 (version 12, seriously version 12?) and guess what … they added a handy little gadget to make it easier to align things when you copy and paste them from page to page … but, no duplicate page feature.

Don’t get me wrong, the little guide points are handy. I use them all the time when duplicating a single element or a group of a few elements from one page to another. But isn’t the idea of copying a page pretty basic functionality?  So I thought it just must be hidden let’s check the Help. Below is an exact quote from the Visio 2007 help file:

Unfortunately, Microsoft Office Visio 2007 does not have a feature for copying pages. You can, however, copy all the shapes on one page to the same location on a new page.

It goes on to have this baffling addition:

Note If you think we should add a “copy page” feature to the next version of Visio, we’d like to know. Just send us a note via the Comment on this Web page form.

Seriously? It occurred to you to ask if we wanted one after you shipped version 12 of the product without one? Has your development team, or user experience team, or software architect, or technical director ever actually used Visio or even interviewed anyone that has?

Before the comments come in explaining that there are Macros out there that will copy pages or questioning what the difference is between copying all the shapes on a page to the same location on another page and duplicating the page is, I know. But trust me, having to deal with macros (many unsigned) is stupid on something so fundamental and until you have worked both with and without a true duplicate feature you will just have to trust me that copying and pasting with guide points is just not the same as duplicating a page.

So now, your turn. Tell me what feature your “favorite” piece of software has managed to leave out even after N number of versions.