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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Microsoft Visio 2010 - First Impressions

The first thing that will confront most uses of Visio 2010 is the new "Fluent" interface, and in particular the ribbon. For anyone migrating from an earlier version of Visio without the benefit of having used another Office 2007 product, the learning curve will seem steep indeed. For those of us who have used other office 2007 products, the ribbon will appear more familiar; however Microsoft have clearly taken on board the feedback from their users because they have reverted to the File menu in 2010 and abandoned the Office button that appeared in the 2007 series.

In Office 2010 the look and feel of the Fluent interface is clean and soothing on the eye, with a pale grey colour scheme to the ribbon and a slight drop shadow around the page, and this look is consistent across the whole suite of programs. Whereas some components of Office 2007 were given the Ribbon and others were not, all the components of Office 2010 now use this new interface including Outlook, Project and, of course, Visio. It is supposed to represent a more intuitive way of accessing commands them the complicated arrangement of toolbars and menus previous versions offered; however, for anybody accustomed to using the menus and toolbars of earlier versions of Office, finding something familiar can sometimes involve a frustrating hunt.

The new File menu sits on its own tab identified from the others by its blue colour, and appears by default when the program is opened to show the equivalent of the "Getting Started" page. The layout is carried on from the 2007 version with three vertical columns displayed, and from here a new drawing can be started in a number of ways - from any of the available templates, from an existing drawing, from a sample drawing or from a template on the Microsoft office online website. Alternatively, a blank drawing can be chosen which will have no stencils open by default.

The quick access toolbar sits above the File tab by default, but it can be displayed below the ribbon if required. The drop-down button at the right end of the QAT offers users the chance to customise it by adding or removing buttons - a very handy feature for people who are used to seeing a print preview or a printer icon in a familiar location. Another feature that Visio 2010 shares with its other Office counterparts is the zoom bar in the bottom right hand corner of the window that allows instant magnification, and has icons for Full Screen view and the Pan and Zoom windows alongside. Incidentally, all the previous keyboard shortcuts still work, including those using the Alt key.

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