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Using Data Graphics in Visio 2013

Visio 2013 was released recently with updates including the new visio file format .vsdx, easier collaboration abilities and my favorite, the ability to provide data graphics to shapes. In this blog I will be discussing some of the basics of creating and using these data graphics with both internal Visio data and external data sources.

Data graphics in Visio give users an easy way to visualize data. An important thing to keep in mind is that data graphics were not added as a data analysis tool, which is apparent when you try to do any semi-complex analysis with them. For this reason it is important to slice the data exactly how you want it before linking the data to Visio to use.

First, lets start with the basic data graphics available in Visio. To insert a data graphic for a shape, simply click on the shape you would like to provide a graphic to, navigate to the Data tab, and click on the Data graphics drop down in the  ribbon. From here you are able to edit the existing data graphic or create and save new graphics to be used in the future. The menu should look similar to the one shown here:

There are four main graphic types, the first being text callouts, which display the text of a field and its value. The second type is the databar which displays either a bar at some capacity according to a field value and maximum value or a bar chart with multiple fields and values next to each other. It is important to note that you must set the maximum as a static value, and the bar will be shown as a percentage of the field data and that value. Third, there are icon sets which displays an icon based on the value of the linked field, and last there is the color by value option which fills the shape with a solid color depending on the field’s value. For icon sets and color by value,  you can set the graphic based on equality, range of values, less than, greater than, and more.  Some examples of each data graphic type are below.

Text Callout:

Data Bar:

Icon Set:

And color by value:

The data graphics are able to be placed and oriented around the shape in any way, including inside of the shape. These are just a few of the data graphics provided by Visio, but there are a number of different options and details to play around with for each one.

Now that you know what graphics are available, how can we actually link the shapes to data and view the data in a meaningful way? Luckily, Visio provides a very simple way to do this, and it’s almost impossible to miss if you’re looking for it. By clicking on the Link Data to Shapes button in the ribbon while in the Data tab, you can select data from external sources such as Excel, SQL, SharePoint lists,  SQL Azure DBs, and OLEDBs. Personally, I have only used the Excel and SQL options and have never run into any errors.

Now that the external data is in Visio we can link it to shapes. Only one row from each data source can be linked to the same shape, although many shapes can be linked to the same row. It is a good idea to separate your rows into visual units so that you have everything you need and nothing else in a single row. To link a shape to a data row, simply drag the row from the external data window and drop it on the shape. A default data graphic should immediately appear next to the shape displaying some data from the row. From here you are able to customize the graphic to fit your needs. Now that you know the basics of using data graphics in Visio 2013, play around in Visio and have fun creating some of your own!

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1 Comment. Leave new

Rodrigo Fernandez
June 27, 2013 7:56 pm

Does anyone knows of a decent tutorial for creating custom data graphic icons in 2013, I´ve looked everywhere, no luck

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