One of the things I love about Visio is smart shapes. Unfortunately, there are a lot of Visio shapes that are not smart. Including a number of shape collections from Microsoft that are just basic shapes. This is not the Visio team’s fault because Microsoft is a large company and not everyone really understands what a real Visio shape is. It is very easy to create a Visio shape, it is just a matter of dragging an image to a Visio page and Visio will wrap a Visio shape around the image. At this point, this new Visio shape acts like any other Visio shape and can be embellished with connection points and shape data. For most purposes, this is enough.
Real Visio shapes have smarts.
Formulas … The cells within a Geometry Section can contain formulas that react to stretching the shape. The arrow head was an early example of this. No matter how the shape was stretched, the arrowhead point remained at 45 degrees.
NoShow … The Geometry section had a NoShow cell that controlled the visibility of that specific Geometry section. The flowchart shape was an early example. The shape contained a Geometry section for each of the flowchart shapes. Which flowchart shape was visible was dependant on the value in Shape Data Section (formerly Custom Properties). This made it easy to switch, but it meant that the drawing contained redundant information that was not visible and made the drawing larger.
Inter Shape references … One of the powers of grouped shapes is that a shape can refer to a different shape. When you group shapes, you can have the subshape reference a value in the top (group) shape. The downside is that if you ungroup, the references are destroyed.
So what does this have to do with beds? Well, one of my favourite examples of a smart Visio shape was the bed. Unfortunately, in 2013, it got messed up. It was “fixed” in 2016, but it lost some of its’ Visio smarts. Rather than one shape controlled by shape data it is now several shapes, King, Queen, Standard. The bed was a great example of a Visio shape. It was basically a rectangle with rounded corners and the only difference was the length and width. Which would be boring, but it used Visio smarts to have a blanket, turned down sheets and pillow(s).
Before I tried to figure out what was wrong with the shape I decided to find out if those were the only three sizes. I came up with forty sizes including, Bunk bed, California King, California Queen, Crib, Double/Full, Double/Full extra long, Eastern King, Euro King 200, Grand King, Half Queen/Split Queen, King, King Single, Long Single, Olympic/Expanded Queen, Queen, Queen RV, Single extra long, Small Double, Small Single, Split California King, Split Eastern King, Split Euro King 100, Split Euro King 90, Standard, Super King, Super Size Queen, Three Quarter, Twin/Single, Twin/Single extra long, Western King and Youth. Some of the sizes had multiple dimensions.
So, what was wrong with the shape? Other than being a bit more complex that it should, someone in attempting to modify the shape added an extra shape to the main group. I was able to delete this extra shape and the main shape returned to its’ original functioning.
So, how should the shape have been created? A basic Visio shape is limited to one colour, so there should have been a separate shape for the various areas that could have different colours, the pillows, blankets and sheets. In the original bed shape, it seems that it contains two grouped shapes, one for one pillow and one for two pillow. Each group seemed to consist of a pillow, blanket and sheet shape. I did not examine it closely, but that is how it appears. In which case, that would be over kill. I also prefer grouped shapes to use their User sections as an interface to other shapes in the group, so if the group is ungrouped, the formulas are not destroyed and the references in the User cells can be reestablished. I would also replace the use of theme colours with user chosen colours for blanket, sheet and pillows. Using a right click to select the size rather than Shape Data would also be a nice touch.
At some point, I will update the original shape to include right click behaviour and colour selection and post them in the Visio gallery.
So what other shapes are similar, but only differ in overall dimensions? Pool tables! As far as I can find out, there are only four or five sizes. The edges are a standard width and the holes are a standard size. So a pool table would be an ideal candidate for a Visio smart shape. Colour schemes are easy too, green cloth and black rails.
John Marshall… Visio MVP Visio.MVPs.org