In my current role, I am spending more time, by necessity, in Visio to help define and visualize system architectures and system integrations. There was one thing that always bugged me about Visio that I never really figured out. The issue I was having was when you had multiple connections coming into the same object they all overlapped. This always seemed like a shortcoming that almost every default object only four connection points. As I have been building more diagrams recently this became a bigger problem and more of an annoyance.
Now if you are a Visio expert maybe this is already something you know how to do. However, I did not, so I am assuming this is some person out there I will help out. Because, when I found the solution, I was floored
My first attempt to solve the problem was just to not use the connection points. Every time I needed a connection, I would instead create a line that would just hover away from the object it was pointing to.
Figure 1 – Adding a Line Object
That resulted in something that looked like this:
Figure 2 – Adding Multiple lines to an Object
That worked okay for a little while, but definitely had some drawbacks. The main one was that if I needed to move something then I also needed to move all my arrows. Some of the aspects of drawing the arrows was a little suboptimal as well. So I needed to find another option.
My next line of thinking was that I would have to create my own object. I have tried this in the past a couple times for other reasons and failed miserably so I was reluctant to go down this path. So, I decided to turn to the internet as all good people do these days.
Lo and behold it turns out that there is a super cool feature of Visio that I either never saw or have been ignoring my whole life. I have no idea which one of those is correct, though I am guessing that I probably have just been ignoring it my whole life. It turns out that you can explicitly add a connector to an existing object.
So, how does this cool feature work?
On the Home Tab, in the Tools section click the Connection Points icon which is an “x”.
Figure 3 – Change to adding Connection Points
Now to add a connection point to an object just hold the Ctrl button and click the object where you would like to have the connection point added. Here is an example after I have added some new connection points on the right hand side of the object. Note, I found this easier to when I was zoomed into the object > 100%.
Figure 4 – Adding Connectors on the Right Hand side.
Now after I have added a whole bunch more connectors. I am not restricted to adding them to just the outside edge of the object either. I can add them inside the object and also outside the object. So if I want to have the end of the connector hover outside the object, that is possible.
Figure 5 – Object with a bunch of connectors
So now, adding connectors into the object is super easy and flexible and it gives me a much better visualization in my diagram.
Figure 6 – Connectors connecting to Connection Points
So, now because I am using connectors instead of lines, everything moves then I move object and I get all the other benefits that come with using connectors vs. lines. Contrast that with what it would look like if I had only used the standard connectors on the object
Figure 7 – Multiple Lines with only Standard Connectors
Now, there might be situations where having all the arrows coming into a single connection point makes sense from a visualization to show multiple inputs coming together in a single line. In my scenario representing the distinct arrows made sense. If it makes sense for your diagram now you have a easy way to do it. If you find that you want to save this as your own object it might make sense to move into your custom stencil.