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A guide to Microsoft Visio Data Visualizer add-in for Excel

Liam Bastick explains how to start using Microsoft's Visio Data Visualizer, an add-in that creates flowcharts and organisational charts in Excel.

10th Jun 2020
Director SumProduct
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Excel

The Microsoft Visio Data Visualizer add-in for Excel is a new way to create data-driven high-quality Visio flowcharts, cross-functional flowcharts and organisation(al) charts – all the shapes, connections and data linking – directly in Excel. The add-in uses Office (Visio) Online to create the visualisation.

The Visio Data Visualizer add-in for Excel is now available in public preview and will be generally available in the near future. You do not need a license to use this add-in, however, for additional functionality, such as editing, a subscription is required.

This add-in, it’s not on the Add-ins tab. Instead, navigate to the Insert tab on the Ribbon, and then from the ‘My Add-ins’ dropdown list, select ‘See All…’:

Excel

An ‘Office Add-ins’ dialog will appear. Go to the Store tab and type “Visualization” in the Search box. You should then see ‘Microsoft Visio Data Visualizer (Preview)’ from the list. Click Add to install the add-in:

Excel

After being installed, the ‘Data Visualizer’ dialog will be displayed and prompt you to sign in. If you have a work or school account, you can sign in here, or just click ‘Sign in later’ to skip this step, because the add-in requires no license to use, although Visio subscribers benefit from additional editing capabilities.

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The Data Visualizer add-in comes with three groups of data-linked samples:

  • Basic Flowchart
  • Cross-Functional Flowchart
  • Organization Chart.

Each diagram category provides a few layout styles and theme options:

Excel

Basic Flowchart: Quick start, Horizontal, Vertical, and Hierarchy

Organization Chart

Cross-Functional Flowchart: Quick start, Horizontal, Horizontal (single phase), Vertical, and Vertical (single phase)

Quick start

Organization Chart: Quick start, Vertical, Horizontal, Side by side, and Hybrid

To start, let’s choose the ‘Quick start’ sample from the ‘Basic Flowchart’ group. The add-in will create a sample diagram with an editable sample data table, similar to the one below:

Chart

The Excel workbook must be saved in order to link to the Visio diagram, so let’s save the file and click Done. The chart can also be moved by clicking on the chart box and moving it to the desired location:

Excel

Below is a closer look at the data table, where details have been altered to create our customised flowchart. If you hover the mouse over the column headings, you will trigger ScreenTips of what should be done with the highlighted section of the data table, e.g.

Excel

The flowchart contains six steps, each of which has an ID, caption, dependencies, connectors, shape type and alternative text. It is worth noting that particular attention should be paid to the next step ID and connector label fields. In the example below, step P300 – ‘Product in stock?’ has the next step IDs P400 and P500, together with the connector label ‘Yes,No’. This means the ‘Yes’ label is linked to step P400 and the ‘No’ label is linked to step P500.

With regard to the shape type, the rounded-corner rectangle for Start/End and diamond-shaped box for Decision, for example, may be defined from the built-in cell dropdown list. There are also custom shapes to choose from, which may be customised should you have a subscription license.

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Once editing the data table has been completed, go to the chart box and click Refresh. The flowchart is now created:

Chart

If you want to create another flowchart, you simply need to go back to Insert tab on the Ribbon and choose ‘My Add-ins’ –> ‘Microsoft Visio Data Visualizer…’ since this has now been installed:

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The category dialog appears, so this time let’s create a Vertical organisation chart:

Excel

Similarly, the new sample data table and diagram are displayed, where you can change data and refresh the chart box to create the organisation hierarchy:

Excel

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Ivor Windybottom
By Ivor Windybottom
10th Jun 2020 22:40

Honestly, just keep it simple - use diagrams.net - it's free, open source and straight forward.

I cannot see any point in adding more to Excel to make it do what it's not designed for, especially if you need to buy a Visio licence to make edits.

Trying to shoehorn Excel data into graphical representations is like trying to add a sofa to a bicycle!

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