Recently a user asked in the Answers forum about Title Blocks and I figured that, that would be a good beginner’s topic to talk about. The user was familiar with AutoCAD and title blocks, but was having trouble with the concept in Visio. Most Engineering / Architectural drawings have a concept called a Title Block, a bunch of information about a drawing laid out in a consistent pattern and location on various drawings.
Visio does have Title Block shapes, but considering the modifications required to customize it and that creation is relatively easy, I will start from scratch. One of the shapes is in the Audit Diagram Shapes stencil.
A Title block is just a collection of pairs of text blocks that show information about the diagram. Each pair is a label text block (Client) and a value text block (name). In the Title Block shape, each pair is a group shape, but that is not necessary. As Visio Guy likes to point out, keep the shape simple. Actually, the pair of shapes can be a single shape. A text block can contain the label AND the value. In the case below, the text “Date Printed” and the Field “Print Date/Time” from the Date/Time Category is inserted.
The label and the value need not be in a line. You can insert a <CR> after the label text string and the value will be below the label. You can even insert several label and value pairs in the text block.
In some Visio articles/videos, Visio background pages have been referred to as Title Blocks. Though this is one use of a background page, there are more so I prefer referring to them as background pages. On the Design tab in Visio, there is a tab for Backgrounds, but it does not contain any title blocks. Next to the Backgrounds tab is a tab for Borders & Titles. Though there are only a few items in each example, one of them can be used as an example of how to create a Title Block.
So let us begin.
Shape or Background Page?
So, where do you want the Title Block, as a shape on the page or as a Background Page? If you are planning on reusing the Title Block on other pages in the Visio drawing or any other Visio drawing, then a Background page is preferable. On a Background page, the shapes can reflect information like page name or page number from the foreground page it is attached to.
Headers & Footers
A number of the other Office apps have a thing called Headers and Footers. The Visio way is to use background pages. Visio does have H&Fs, but they were added early for a special situation in an earlier version of Visio. The client wanted to print oversized drawings on letter size paper and bind them for archival purposes. They eventually moved to a better system. They wanted the ability to go back to an early version and show what a feature looked at at a time. Since the letter size pages could be blank or almost empty they wanted some way to identify each page with page name, date, page x of y etc. Backgrounds are far more versatile.
Where should the data reside?
The purpose of the Title Block is to reflect information about the drawing, but where should the information be stored? Some of the information is already stored in the Visio drawing like drawing name, author, page name, page number, page scale and various dates. So, should the extra information be stored in the Title Block’s Shape Data section? Maybe the Shape Data section of the shapesheet of the foreground page (ThePage) or the Shape Data section of the document shapesheet (TheDoc).
The general rule is to use the most common location and avoid repetition. So, something like company address can be in the document shapesheet.
The Title Block will be a collection of shapes that contains a label and value or maybe a number of label/value pairs. Since the Title Block is a collection of text boxes, the Title Block should be a group shape. Normally a Title Block has a distinct border. So, there should be a shape for the Title Block and a shape for each entity with a less distinct border. Whether a shape has a border is a matter of taste. When the shapes are grouped, a new group shape is created. Since we need a shape for the border around the Title Block, it makes sense that rather than just group all the shapes, the border shape should be converted to a group shape and then add the other cell shapes to the group.
Caveat: Grouping shapes is not always reversible by Ungroup. If you embellish a grouped shape by adding to the group/top shape, those changes are lost when the top shape is deleted in the Ungroup process. Things like Shape Data or Geometry sections can be added to the group/top shape.
A good place for the extra Shape Data would be on the Page shapesheet rather than in the Title Block shape.
So, let us start by creating the Shape Data for the page. With nothing selected, right click on the page and chose Show ShapeSheet.
Responding affirmative will bring up the Define Shape Data dialog and you can create the Shape Data you will need.
Title Block cell Alignment
The title block can be located in any of the corners or at one of the sides. The elements of the Title Block rather than the page and then the Title Block can be aligned to the page. So, rather than a specific location, the location can be placed relative to the page. Changing the page size will change the location of the Title Block, but it will be in the same relative location to the page, lower right corner, top left corner or wherever you decide to locate the Title Block on the background page.
Since the Title Block shape will be created by a collection of text boxes, Guide Lines would be useful because placing shapes together is not always easy.
To be able to add Guide Lines, Show Ruler and Guides needs to be checked in the View tab.
You can use the Distribute function to space out the Guide Lines.
Once you have the Guide Lines, you can duplicate the text Box and stretch it so it is bounded by the Guide Lines.
To add one of the pieces of Shape Data you added to the page, Chose Field from the Insert ribbon and select Custom formula. Start typing ThePage!prop. and it will prompt you with the Shape Data you created on the page.
Size / Orientation
You may want to have the same title block, but with different page size or orientation. The background page can reflects features of the foreground page.
To handle various page sizes.
There probably be a part 2.
John… Visio MVP in x-aisle