Microsoft Visio to Create an Organizational Chart

Defined Purpose and Audience

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This project is a fundamental guide for using Microsoft Visio to create an organizational chart. It is designed for first-time users and people who have limited time, as it focuses most often commonly used features. This guide shows the users how to use Microsoft Visio without relying on technical jargon, by providing simple explanations and lists of numbered steps that tell the user which keys to press and which options to select.

Related Publications

Many related publications can be accessed to learn more about creating an organizational chart using Visio. These include:

Microsoft’s official page for their Visio software.

Visimation, a company that helps other companies use Visio.″’s consumer review of Visio 2000.

2000’s consumer review of Visio 2000 Enterprise Edition.”’s consumer review of Visio 2000 Technical Edition.

Visio 2000: The Official Guide

Microsoft Visio Version 2002 Inside Out Designated Desktop Publishing Software

Microsoft Visio is a complex diagramming tool that helps its users visualize ideas and communicate these ideas with colleagues and clients. The latest version of Visio makes it easy to make a visual impact with diagrams, as well as integrate Visio more closely with other software.

Microsoft Visio is known for its , and customers can also customize and program Visio. A variety of users will benefit from this guide. Beginners will find the data in this report presented in a simple style, while intermediate users will be able to apply the tips and examples presented in this document to take their skills to another level.

Plans for Updates and Production

Visio can be used to produce supporting documentation for all aspects of development, such as project time lines, data flow diagrams, database models, business process diagrams, and Microsoft Windows interface design. My plans for updates and production include creating instructions on how to use Visio for these purposes in a future research guide.

Plans for Testing and Reviews

Creating an organization chart simply by using the indtsructions provided in the reference guide can test this guide’s effectiveness. If the guide is effective and easy to use, it will prove to be useful for a beginner.

Proposed Physical Architecture, Content and Organization

The guide will be a text guide that provides a simple, easy-to-use strategy fro creating an organization chart using Microsoft Visio. It provides a clear definition of the basic functions of Visio, as well as a detailed guide on how users can create an organization chart using this software.

This guide aims to assist users that have little or no previous experience with Visio. Therefore, the terms are non-technical and the steps are easy to follow.

Proposed Reference Aids

The proposed reference aids for this project include technology books, how-to guides and websites of both software companies and information sites.

Sample Pages

Ideally, the organization chart that this guide describes will look like this:

Source: Microsoft Office

Microsoft Visio Reference Guide

I. Overview

Microsoft Visio is a quick, that allows its users to create flowcharts, organizational charts, timelines, marketing diagrams and many other documents. This software features tight Microsoft Office integration that enables users to add powerful drawings to documents and presentations. In addition, Visio is Internet-enabled, making it easy to share diagrams and communicate ideas across a corporate intranet, the Web, and around the world.

Microsoft Visio is a software line of drawing programs designed specifically to meet the needs of business professionals. The key to the program’s success is basically the patented drag and drop SmartShapes system, which makes drawings fast, simple and professional looking.

Users need not be artists to use the software, as they can simply locate a symbol or shape and drag it to the desired page. The object can then be manipulated to meet demands. These are many objects available but users may also create their own.

This SmartShapes technology is a great tool for creating a multitude of diagrams, including organizational charts. The stencil shapes of Visio are an improved version of clip art but can be resized without distortion. Users can connect shapes and place text over shapes. In addition, SmartShapes are compatible with imported documents from Autodesk AutoCAD and Microsoft Word, making this technology an innovative concept.

This guide will show a first-time Visio user how to plan and develop an organizational chart using Microsoft Visio. The SmartShapes stencils will play a role in showing how an organization’s hierarchy can be planned and developed, aiding the user in filling upcoming vacancies, making promotions, and creating new positions. Users will learn how to customize charts according to names and titles. Visio features templates for all types of hierarchical structures.

II. Getting Started

Getting started is easy. After Visio is installed on your computer, access the program by double-clicking on its desktop icon. Once the program is started, you will see a small window that reads “Welcome to Visio 2000” that accompanies the main screen. You can create new drawings or open existing files from this window.

To use Visio features, simply guide your mouse next to either or the options on the “Welcome to Visio” window and click. This will place a black dot near the selection of choice. Next, highlight the file or stencil under the option by clicking on it. Before clicking on the OK button on the bottom of the window, which will take you to a blank page with stencils, it is important to understand a few basics.

Under the “Create a New Drawing” icon, there are only four templates listed. However, many more exist in the program. Click the first listing, “Choose drawing type,” then click OK. This will take you to a new window that contains a Solutions tab. This tab will provide instant access to the available templates in Visio, which are listed in the left-hand half of the window under the Category title.

The “Create New Drawing” window consists of two boxes, one for Category and the other for Drawing type. It is important to observe the four buttons located at the bottom of the window. The button to the left has a question mark on it. This enables you to access a multitude of program help features. The Cancel button closes the window and the OK building is used for finalizing a selection. These three buttons are located on most Visio windows and dialog boxes. The “Browse Templates” button enables users to find templates with the program and outside of it.

To begin, click the “Category” folder to locate the templates in each category. When you select a template, a different pictorial display appears in the right half of the window. These pictures represent a drawing type or template within that folder. For example, if you click “Map,” two pictures will appear under the “Drawing Type” box. The first is called “Directional Map” and its illustrations include trees, a building and a pond. The second picture is of the African continent and it represents Geographic Maps.

It is easy to choose a drawing type. Just click on the picture and then click OK. This will bring up the blank page discussed earlier, as well as the appropriate stencil windows to the document’s left. Simply click one of the stencil title bars to see its contents. For instance, if you choose the Directional Maps template, SmartShapes stencils appear for “Landmark Shapes,” “Metro Shapes” and more. Click the “Landmark Shapes” title bar and the SmartShapes within that stencil expand into view. By right-clicking on a stencil title bar, you can close the stencil or modilfy its properties.

Before exiting this document, you will see that two sets of three common Windows icons are situated at the top right corner of your screen. The top set are used to control the Visio program. The second set is used to adjust the document. The bottom set minimizes, adjusts and closes documents.

Basic Drop-Down Menus

Three drop-down menus are present on the basic Visio page’s menu bar. These are File, Tool and Help. Some of the functions within these features overlap those found in the “Welcome to Visio” window and in the icon buttons. For instance, you can open previous drawings by using the File drop-down menu, the Open button or the “Welcome to Visio” window. This makes accessing the program’s elements quick and easy.

When you click the File menu, you will see two items, New and Stencils, which have black arrows to their right. The New function provides many options, including “Choosing Drawing Type,” which allows you to choose the Category and Drawing Type needed. You may also browse templates.

When you choose the Stencils function, you can open existing stencils or create your own. The Open Stencil option pulls up a window with the Solutions folders and their stencils.

The Tools drop-down menu is another area that a new user must be familiar with. The Tools — Macros section includes the following:

Macros — External modules with Visio capabilities.

for building Visual Basic for Applications programs.

Custom Properties Editor — A popular wizard program essential for modifying the properties of numerous shapes at one time.

Shape Explorer — A search tool that hunts specifically for certain shapes, stencils, templates and wizards.

Numerous wizards and converters — These programs help users to assimilate data into diagrams and charts quickly and easily.

The Visio wizards and converters can be found by selecting Tools — Macros — Visio Extras.

The Options function includes the following:

General — Includes User Options, Color Settings and Enable Screen Tips.

Drawing — Includes Text Options, Drawing Options and Freeform Drawing Settings.

File Paths — Includes path listings for Drawings, Templates, Stencils, Help, Add-ons, Start-Ups, and Filters.

Regional Settings — Includes Default Units and Asian Options.

Spelling — Includes Search and User Dictionaries options.

Advanced — Includes User Settings, Developer Settings and Stencil Spacing options.

When first using Visio, beginner users find that the Help drop-down menu is very important. By clicking on the Help drop-down menu, users can access a variety of Help features that will enable them to troubleshoot their documents.

III. Tasks

Visio is useful for producing flow charts, organizational charts, time lines, and other general business diagrams. This section will discuss creating an organizational chart using Visio.

An organizational chart makes it easy to provide graphical representation of an organization’s people, operations, functions, and activities. For example, a hierarchal chart will show who is the owner, executive and workers of an organization. A chart that maps out the specific data of an organization allows people to easily understand its hierarchy through a simple graphic.

Microsoft Visio is a graphing solution that allows users to create and manipulate data from multiple data sources. It provides the necessary tools needed to create an organizational chart from other sources of data, and lets the user customize it as they desire.

The Visio Organization Chart solution is easy to use. Simply open Visio and select the Choose Drawing Type option. This will open a second dialogue that allows you to select an organizational chart. When this is done, Visio begins and automatically shows you templates for the type of charts that was selected. After you choose a template, a new workspace opens with the Organizational Chart Stencil shown. Basically, you can click and drag any shape from the stencil to begin your chart. If you drag a second shape, Visio will link them and form a relationship.

If you want to create a chart that shows the employee structure of your company, you can make a data file with personnel information and use the Organizational Chart wizard to make the chart.

Choose the option to base the chart on an existing data file. Click Next to continue. The Organizational Chart Wizard uses the fields from your data file to create custom property fields associated with the shapes in the organizational chart generated. Each row in the data file represents information about individual employees. Thus, that row corresponds to one shape in the organizational chart.

In many databases, such as Excel, the fields are organized in columns. The user designates which of the columns or fields will be used in Visio shapes’ custom property fields and associated with each shape in the chart, as well as what is displayed in the shape. For each employee listed, a value is assigned for each of the data fields. Visio places these values into the custom property fields associated with the specific organization chart shape.

For instance, if your data file had a row for an employee named Mary Taylor, her name would appear on the shape that represents her in the chart. In the wizard, her email address can be designated as a custom property field. The shape representing her would include an Email Address custom property field with the value of her email address.

After you have structured your data file so the wizard can use the information it contains, you are ready to generate an organization chart.

On the File menu, point to New, point to Organization Chart, and then click Organization Chart Wizard.

On the first screen, click Information That is Already Stored In A File Or Database, and then click Next.

Follow the instructions on the wizard pages. Click the question mark for help on a particular page.

Basically, you can run the Organizational Chart by selecting it from the menu bar (Tools-Macros-Organization Chart- Organization Chart Wizard). The first screen introduces you to the Organization Chart and the second screen prompts you to choose one of the options. You can either base the chart on new or existing data.

The document discussed here is based on existing data, so choose the first option. Click Next. The next screen will allow you to choose between three data file options: a text or Excel file, an MS Exchange Server directory, or an ODBC-compliant data source.

According to the type of existing file that you want to base the drawing on, choose an option. Click Next. On the next screen, enter the location and name of the information file or choose Browse to find it. Click Next.

Creating an Organizational Chart from Data Entered with the Wizard

It is possible to create an organizational chart with data entered from the Wizard. Simply select the option “Information that I enter using the Wizard” on the second screen. The next screen will ask you to choose a type of file for entering the data. Choose from MS Excel or delimited text and then provide the file with a name.

If you want to create a text file, choose the Delimited text option and click Next. A text file template opens. However, before it does, you will see a message telling you that you should type over the sample text to create your data file. The sample text looks like this:

Name,Reports_To,Position, Department, Telephone

Joe Sampleboss, CEO, Executive,x555

JaneSamplemgr, Joe Sampleboss, Development Manager, Product Development,x6666

John Samplepos, Jane Samplemgr, Software Developer, Product Development, x6667

The first line defines the field types or headings. Each line following is a single record that you write over with real data. The sequence of the data corresponds to the sequence of the headings in the first line. Notice that the CEO actually reports to no one, so the Reports_To field is blank. Make sure you save the file before closing it and returning to the Wizard.

Visio has the capability to update and expand charts. This is important because most organizations grow and change frequently. To handle growth and change, Visio gives you the ability to automatically create a chart based on data from a number of data sources. These sources include Text or Org Plus, Excel, Exchange Server Directory, or an ODBC-compliant data source.

Visio needs some information before it can create a chart based on your data. The Help file documents all the required information but it is helpful to be familiar with this area to prevent errors. The necessary data includes: Company Name, Unique ID (Employee ID) and Unique ID of Employee Supervisor. These fields can have any name, as the wizard allows you to map the appropriate fields to fulfill the requirements. On the chart, you may display one other field of data. For example, the organization chart can show each employee’s title.

A query is used to extract the employee data to be exported. It is important to make sure that you have the three required fields, and you can add an optional fourth. Export the query’s data to a data source, such as an Excel spreadsheet. Visio can then use this data to create the organization chart.

Now that the data is prepared, the Visio Organizational Chart Wizard can be run to automatically create a chart. Open Visio and select the Organizational Chart Wizard, which contains several dialogs that prompt you for the data that determines the chart’s content.

The first screen specifies the chart’s data source. The data can be stored in an existing file or entered directly into the wizard. For instance, leave the first radio button selected and click on Next. The second screen specifies which data file type you want to use. Leave the first radio button selected and click on Next. The third dialog is a browser that specifies the path and file name of the chart’s data. Browse for the exported Excel file and click on Next.

The fourth dialog allows you to map the right fields in your data source to Visio field names. From this query example, select EmpName for Name and ReportsTo for ReportsTo. Leave First Name blank and click on Next.

The fifth wizard dialog specifies the data to be displayed within each data shape on the organizational chart. You can implement the optional field, Title, in this area. For the first line, specify EmpName, and for the second line, Title. Click on Next to continue.

The sixth wizard screen allows you to add custom properties that can be applied to each individual data shape. As you can use Visio for making updates to data, this feature creates storage areas for the necessary data, which users can change and update. See the online Help for more information. Click on Next to continue.

The seventh wizard dialog asks how to break out the pages on the organizational chart. Select the bottom radio button to use Visio to automatically break the pages. For smaller charts, this selection is suitable, but for larger charts, place all the shapes on one page, then use the Page Setup Options (File > Page Setup) to break out the pages more accurately. Click on the Finish button to start the generation of the organizational chart.

Simply follow the instructions on the wizard screens, clicking Next to advance. If you have questions, click More Info for help. As the organization chart is generated, the Wizard stops each time an error is encountered in your data file, displaying a message on the type.

If all the conditions of the data setup are correct, Visio generates the chart based on your specifications. The time it takes to generate the report depends on the amount of data in your data file.

Visio is a great advantage to developers. In addition to creating a complex report, you can also save the Visio chart, edit it, distribute it, or even publish it to the Web.

IV. References

Menus — Located at the top of the screen above the toolbars or by right clicking.

Toolbars — Found at the top of the screen and contain tool buttons for quick execution of actions.

Status bar — Located at the bottom of the screen. Theseprovide useful information for creating a drawing

Accelerator keys — These are not seen on the screen, but provide an efficient way of executing actions.

Dialog boxes — These appear when choosing certain menu items or performing actions. These provide you with many options for making modifications to your drawing. They display in a tabbed index style that combines several options into one box or as singular entities that deal with one specific topic.


Microsoft Visio is a powerful communication tool that allows users to create clear visual representations of ideas, information and systems. This quick reference guide was created to allow beginners an easy yet detailed description of how to use Visio to create an organization chart.

A designed this documentation system by studying and analyzing research guides on Microsoft Visio. There are a variety of sources that offer comprehensive guides to using this software and through compiling and organizing this data, I was able to develop a “how-to” guide that would assist first-time Visio users in developing an organization chart.

Basically, the guide was easy to develop, as there is a lot of information available on using Microsoft Visio. However, I did not find any sources dedicated specifically to using Visio to develop organizational charts. Therefore, the project took a great deal of research. I organized the data in a way that targeted the questions I had about using the software, then answered them through this guide.

By walking the user through the steps of creating an organization chart, this document provides a clear and concise reference guide that is easy to follow. During the description of steps, the terms and features are described in a non-technical manner so that new users will be able to follow the guide with ease.

This guide is broken down into several sections. The Overview section explains exactly what Microsoft Visio is and how it benefits its users.

The Getting Started section is the first step in the how-to guide. This section explains the basic features of Visio, showing users how to launch, operate and understand the software.

The Task section describes what Visio is used for. This section specifically details how Visio is used to create an organization chart. It provides detailed instructions on how to create an organization chart from new or existing data.

With additional time, this guide could include a lot of additional information. Ideally, I would have like to incorporate some ideas for users to enhance and build their organization charts. Organization charts can be modified if the user is not satisfied with the results. This paper could be changed to include a new section on how to change and modified both new and existing data.

In addition to the capabilities described in this paper, Visio can be used to produce supporting documentation for all aspects of development, such as project time lines, data flow diagrams, database models, business process diagrams, and Microsoft Windows interface design. I would like to provide instructions on how to use Visio for these purposes in a future research guide.

Microsoft Visio is an advanced drawing and planning tool that allows users to create everything from floor plans to organizational charts to network diagrams.

Used in conjunction with other Microsoft Office products, Microsoft Visio can bring clarity to presentations and reports. The features included in this application are numerous and it would take hundreds of pages to describe them. The ultimate Visio reference guide would explain each of Visio’s features.


Eaton, Nannette.

Microsoft Visio Version 2002 Inside Out. Microsoft Press, September 2001

Hedke, John.

Visio 2000: The Official Guide. McGraw-Hill Professional. October 1999.

Microsoft Visio Reference Guide