Dev Luv: Are You A Visio Shape Developer?

Which option best describes how you use Visio shapes?

(a) I only use the shapes that ship in the box or that I see in other peoples’ drawings; I don’t make any modification to the shapes when I use them.

(b) I modify existing shapes with color or other formatting changes and reuse those shapes; my changes don’t really modify the structure or behavior of the shape.

(c) I create new shapes using the Drawing tools in Visio or by substantially changing the geometry or behavior of existing shapes.


If you answered (b) but are also interested in (c) or you answered (c), you’ll probably be interested in checking out Visio’s ShapeStudio.


Visio’s ShapeStudio installs as part of the Visio 2003 SDK, and requires the presence of MSDE or SQL on the install machine. Once you install the SDK, you can launch ShapeStudio from the Tools | Addons | SDK | ShapeStudio menu option. (You’ll have to connect to the database that the install program creates for you to get started.) ShapeStudio gives you a shape development environment within the familiar user interface of Visio. If you want to learn a little more about the tool and check out the user interface, the Visio MSDN Developer Center has a new article that provides an overview of ShapeStudio. The Visio documentation team is also working on a ShapeStudio tutorial article for the Visio Developer Center – the step-by-step tutorial should be available sometime in the next few months.


Here are some of the key reasons for why you might want to use ShapeStudio:

1. It can speed up the development of any shape. Shape Studio ships standard behaviors (like Hyperlink) that you can add to a shape without having to create it yourself.

2. It can speed up the development of complex shapes by making it easier to define and reuse custom behaviors.

3. It makes it easier to manage changes and modifications for shapes and stencils.

4. It makes it easier to maintain consistency across shapes. In the past, you may have had two masters that had similar behavior to the end user, but the masters may have been implemented in completely different ways. With ShapeStudio, these masters can now behave the same way and have the same underlying implementation which makes it easier to maintain.


If you’ve already built a large library of shapes, it probably doesn’t make sense to re-implement them using ShapeStudio (there is no utility to convert existing shapes into a ShapeStudio shape with a specification). But if you’re developing new shapes – especially large numbers of new shapes – ShapeStudio can help you maintain a consistent level of quality among your shapes.

-- Mai-lan


This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights