After a longer preview phase of 6 months, Microsoft released the Production Ready variant of the JavaScript APIs for Visio Services at the beginning of summer 2017, initially on their cloud platform Office 365. Now it is not only possible to display Visio documents, but also to use them contextually and interactively. However, Visio documents can still be edited using the desktop application.

Close the gap

Visio is Microsoft’s standard solution for process diagrams, flowcharts, flowcharts and all other types of schematic diagrams and drawings. Originally its own company, it was acquired by Microsoft in 2000. Visio is part of the Office portfolio in the broadest sense, but must be licensed separately.

Using Visio Service in the Cloud (Office 365) or On-Premise (SharePoint), Visio files can also be made available to users who do not have Visio installed on their local computer. While other parts of the Office Suite (e.g. Word) have been providing APIs for interaction with Office documents or even their editing in the web browser for some time, Visio has not been able to provide these APIs.

These APIs are interfaces that provide direct access to a specific program. It is possible to access services on the Internet and to obtain, modify or change data. With the release of the API, Visio can unlock something to its product siblings in terms of functionality.

It’s moving forward

The embedding of Visio for simple presentation in the SharePoint platforms of our customers – whether cloud or on premise – works well, but no interaction can be generated with it. However, this is increasingly demanded by customers. We are pleased that Microsoft is finally trying to close this gap with the Visio Service APIs.

The interfaces now published offer real added value, especially for QM portals based on SharePoint, where Visio diagrams are frequently used to visualize processes.

With the live switching of the APIs, Microsoft has, for example, published a use case that displays the comments of a Visio document in a comment bar. Another possible scenario is to display details of a diagram component as additional information in a tooltip or info panel next to the diagram.

The Redmond team is counting entirely on the community to further develop the interfaces and incorporate new ideas, which is why the API is also freely available as an open source solution. In order to use the APIs, Office 365 or SharePoint navigate here and must of course be licensed. However, recent projects such as PnP have shown that this pays off.

The quality and stability of the releases has significantly increased since Microsoft’s entry into the cloud business and the stronger involvement of the users of their products as co-developers.

New functions are constantly being added

Despite this publication – the possibilities of the interfaces are still limited. If it is currently only possible to use SharePoint and “read only”, Microsoft promises in future to make the APIs available on the entire Office 365 platform and also to enable editing via API. The date for this has not yet been announced. Microsoft has been pursuing the approach of continuously expanding products on its cloud platform for some time now.

The web version is also by no means a replacement for desktop products. However, this should not be the case at all, because the primary purpose of the interfaces is to provide end users with better, more efficient and more interactive support in their daily work.

Create calibration with Microsoft Visio

To work with Visio, you must first create a drawing. Proceed as follows:

Start Microsoft Visio.
Under “Categories” you now have a large selection of possible drawings that you can create.
These include flowcharts, organigrams, calendars and circuit diagrams.
Select the corresponding drawing and click on “Create”. The drawing layer then opens.

Structure of the drawing layer in Microsoft Visio

After you have created a drawing, the actual drawing layer opens:

On the left side you will find the so-called shapes. These are prefabricated templates that you can use for your drawings. You also have the possibility to create your own shape.
You will find the tools for editing your drawing at the top, just like with all other products from the Microsoft Office range.
In the middle of the screen is the actual drawing sheet on which you can arrange your shapes.

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