Microsoft Visio is a commercial diagramming program for Windows that uses vector graphics to create diagrams. Although Microsoft brands Vision has an Office program, it is not clubbed together with regular programs in the Office Suite like Word and Excel, and sold as a standalone product. Microsoft Vision is a popular diagramming tool and often used in enterprise environments and businesses.
The Vision file format is proprietary, but unlike the DOC, PPT or XLS formats which are compatible with a wide range of competitive office programs, the Visio file format has rather limited support. So viewing a Visio file or editing its contents without Microsoft Visio can be quite tricky.
If your need is limited to only opening and viewing Visio files, then you have a solution – the Visio 2010 Viewer. It is a free tool from Microsoft that allows you to view Visio drawings and diagrams (created with Visio 5.0 through Visio 2010) inside Microsoft Internet Explorer Web browser. You can pan and zoom into the drawing, see properties on any shape and print them. Additionally, you can set drawing-layer visibility, annotation visibility and colors.
This is quite useful when you need to distribute Visio drawings and diagrams to team members, partners, customers, or others, who do not have Visio installed on their computers.
Editing the contents of the Visio file pose a different problem for reasons already explained, but a workable solution exist. You have to install the free diagramming tool ARIS Express.
ARIS Express can import diagrams created with Microsoft Visio 2007 or above. The imported diagram can then be edited in ARIS Express. However, the function is one-way – you can import a Visio file into ARIS Express, but the output cannot be saved as a Visio file. You have to either save the file as ADF – the format ARIS Express use – or export it as an image or PDF.
During import, Visio diagrams of the VDX file type are automatically mapped to the corresponding ARIS model types. As far as possible, the Visio shapes are also converted into corresponding ARIS symbols. If no suitable symbols are available, graphic objects of the Rectangle type (for shapes with frame) or free-form texts (for shapes without frame) are created.
A quick reference sheet that shows all supported diagrams plus the most important modeling concepts for each supported modeling language is available at ARIS Express website.