This question came up recently and though I have insisted that Visio authors mention that background pages are the Visio way, this goes into more detail.
Word has had the ability to add special text at the top and the bottom of the page called Headers and Footers. They contained information like dates, page number, number of pages and various text like titles for sections or chapters.
In Visio, it was different, the original and the Visio way to handle this information was background pages. The background pages contained information in a title block you wanted to be placed consistently on the foreground page. Each foreground page could contain several background pages. There may be information you want on all pages or information you only want on certain pages.
In the pre computer days, engineering drawings were created on large format vellum paper, a translucent paper. The draughtsperson would create the drawing with dark ink using a T Square, 45s and 30-60s(these are triangles) and other drawing aids. The T Square allowed the draughtsperson to create perfectly horizontal lines and the 45s and 30-60s vertical lines. The 45s also allowed for the creation of consistent hatch marks and the 30-60s helped to create perspective drawings.
To create the consistent title block, the draughtsperson would place a sample title block behind the vellum and trace it. This is where the concept of foreground/background pages came.
The drawing was printed by placing the vellum on top of a light sensitive page and running it through a machine that exposed it to a bright light and then ammonia. That was one of my tasks I had as a summer job (changing diapers is not a problem for me)
Headers and Footers were added to Visio in version 3 because of a request from a large engineering firm. Most office apps print on a single page size, Visio allows you to make a drawing large than standard page sizes and print them on the same size paper or on several physical pages by tiling the drawing. The firm wanted to print oversized drawing on standard letter size paper and have header and footers like Word to be printed on the individual pages.
So, Visio added the bare minimum. For most Visio drawings, they are not tiled when printing, so H&Fs are redundant, but when they are tiled it does give you the ability to mark each individual page.
John Marshall… Visio MVP Visio.MVPs.org