Visio and InDesign compatibility?

11 Aug 2009 - 12:01pm
4 years ago
17 replies
3694 reads
Jonathan Cohen
2009

Hi all-

I just started working at a firm that uses Visio as its standard
wireframe tool. I also have InDesign on my machine and would prefer
to use this instead. (personally, omnigraffle fan here, but I'm
required to use Windows)

Searches for related keywords, an IxDA discussion search, and another
30 minutes of playing with several file formats haven't helped. I
can't figure out how to convert a file made in Visio to open with
layers intact in InDesign and vice versa.

Anyone know of a way to make these two apps play nice with each
other?

Thanks!
Jon

Comments

11 Aug 2009 - 1:11pm
Maurice
2009

Jon,

Not sure how good this would work, but how about converting to PDF
first.
Here's a little tool I heard about called "PDF2ID", not sure how
good it works.
Hope this helps.
http://www.recosoft.com/

-mo-

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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11 Aug 2009 - 1:12pm
Maurice
2009

Oh...just say the price...kinda expensive!

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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11 Aug 2009 - 2:42pm
Stephen Nitz
2009

Jon,

As you know InDesign is really a page layout program and Visio is a
project management app.

The two will never really mesh, but look at this page for some
suggestions:

http://www.visioformac.com/

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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11 Aug 2009 - 4:26pm
Kim McGalliard
2006

There really isn't a way to do this. Visio doesn't have layers in the same way that the Adobe products do. Really the only thing you can do is save your Visio files (each page/tab) as .gifs or .jpgs and use them as masters or elements (or layers) in your InDesign pages. But then they will just be static images. You can also select items within a Visio drawing and save them off as images as well if you only want to use parts of the interface and not re-draw them in InDesign.

Or you could learn Visio. It's not difficult, and besides the flexibilty that masters give you in InDesign, you can do pretty much the same stuff as with InDesign. It's always better to know more software applications. But if time is of the essence, I can understand with wanting to stick with what you know.

----- Original Message ----
From: Jonathan Cohen <JonathanGCohen at gmail.com>
To: discuss at ixda.org
Sent: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 1:01:07 PM
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Visio and InDesign compatibility?

Hi all-

I just started working at a firm that uses Visio as its standard
wireframe tool. I also have InDesign on my machine and would prefer
to use this instead. (personally, omnigraffle fan here, but I'm
required to use Windows)

Searches for related keywords, an IxDA discussion search, and another
30 minutes of playing with several file formats haven't helped. I
can't figure out how to convert a file made in Visio to open with
layers intact in InDesign and vice versa.

Anyone know of a way to make these two apps play nice with each
other?

Thanks!
Jon
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11 Aug 2009 - 4:52pm
Todd Warfel
2003

On Aug 11, 2009, at 5:26 PM, Kim McGalliard wrote:

> It's not difficult, and besides the flexibilty that masters give you
> in InDesign, you can do pretty much the same stuff as with InDesign.

Visio doesn't even come close to what you can do w/ID for wireframing
and documentation. ID's typography control, integration w/other Adobe
products, and use of Bridge far exceed what you can do w/Visio.

You can use either one, but I'd stick w/ID if that's where you're
comfortable.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
Principal Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
Twitter: zakiwarfel
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

11 Aug 2009 - 5:31pm
Stephen Holmes
2009

Hey, if you are an Omnigraffle user, just export the finished
Omnigraffle files as Visio XML. I'm using the current version 5 of
Omnigraffle BTW. I just bring my MBP to work and do it next to my PC
then transfer files via sneakernet/USB disk. Omnigraffle also opens
Viso files easily for re-editing if you have to keep your Visio in a
repository on the PC network.

It works a treat - with minor caveats on line thickness and word
wrapping that may need to be fixed in the export.

I regularly do large Omnigraffle forms and pages sequences for
usability analysis - I even copy and paste them into MS Word for my
Use Cases and technical specs.

I've never looked back!

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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11 Aug 2009 - 6:15pm
Kim McGalliard
2006

This isn't an argument about which is better because I think they both have their strengths and weaknesses (you can do tons of stuff with Visio, and Excel, xml and macros that you can't do with InDesign). My main point is that any UX/UI/IxD should know BOTH programs especially because they don't work well together, and if you are a consultant, you may often find yourself in a client situation where there are existing files that need to be modified.

11 Aug 2009 - 7:59pm
Todd Warfel
2003

On Aug 11, 2009, at 7:15 PM, Kim McGalliard wrote:

> This isn't an argument about which is better because I think they
> both have their strengths and weaknesses (you can do tons of stuff
> with Visio, and Excel, xml and macros that you can't do with
> InDesign).

Not meant to be an argument. Just a statement of fact that if you're
comfortable using InDesign for wireframing then there's really no need
to switch. Biggest advantage of InDesign is that it's cross platform,
whereas Visio isn't.

Neither Visio nor InDesign were originally designed for wireframing,
but InDesign was originally designed for documentation, which is what
wireframes are, or should be.

Personally, I don't have an allegiance to either one as we don't
really do wireframe documentation—we just go right to prototypes. Our
paper sketches are the closest thing to a wireframe that we have.

While Visio has some powerful scripting capabilities, so does
InDesign. In fact, you might want to check out 8shapes Unify system http://unify.eightshapes.com/
to see what you can really do w/InDesign.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
Principal Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
Twitter: zakiwarfel
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

12 Aug 2009 - 7:58am
Renee Rosen-Wakeford
2008

You can also export each page as a PDF in Visio using whatever PDF export tool you want - I use the one that you can download from Microsoft. Then you put each PDF in InDesign.

Using PDF keeps your images in a vector format, so you you can resize them.

The only other vector format that Visio supports is EMF, but I don't know if InDesign plays with that well. I use EMF to put Visio diagrams in PowerPoint but haven't tried them in InDesign.

Unfortunately, you won't preserve any layers that way, but Visio's layer management is pretty primitive compared to those in Adobe products.

Renée

12 Aug 2009 - 8:27am
Todd Warfel
2003

Seems like a lot of extra work just to get designs into InDesign. Why not just create them there in the first place if your final tool is going to be InDesign?

12 Aug 2009 - 8:36am
Renee Rosen-Wakeford
2008

I agree it's a lot of work, but it might be worth it if you were, say, creating your wireframes in one tool and then annotating them in another. Visio's not that great for annotation, I've found, partially due to lack of good typography and unsophisticated layer management.

Most of the time I still do my annotations in Visio, though, since I'm using that for wireframes and sitemaps. But if it's for a bigger document, such as a pitch document, that's being created in InDesign, it's useful to know how to put drawings from Visio into that document.

Renée

11 Aug 2009 - 3:52pm
David Drucker
2008

I don't think Visio is a Project Management App at all. That would be
something like Microsoft Project.

Visio is a 'Business Drawing' or diagramming program as some put it.
(see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visio )

Also, the visioformac site looks more like an advertisement for
Conceptdraw, as it's the only alternative they offer for Visio on the
Mac, despite the fact that Omnigraffle Pro reads and writes Visio XML
files). In fact, every entry in that site;s blog is about Conceptdraw.

Also Jon's question was about integrating Visio with InDesign (on the
PC, I assume), not the Mac.

11 Aug 2009 - 2:32pm
David Drucker
2008

PDF might work, and I believe that you can export Visio to some other
vector formats, such as SVG (and then convert from SVG to a more
InDesign-friendly format - can't remember if InDesign can currently
incorporate SVG files), but I was never able to get intact layers out
of Visio without having to split files. Depending on your strategy,
you might have to think of the InDesign elements as overlays on the
Visio material, (such as callouts, arrows, etc.) however that might
not be what you are after here. The other strategy might be to take
your Visio file, export a layer at a time (as I did), and then open/
place these in InDesign (or other software).

In all cases, this is a one-way trip; I'm pretty sure that you can't
get anything into Visio once it's exported.

I feel your pain. I hated when I was forced to use Visio even though
I could done far better looking work faster with Omnigraffle.

-D

11 Aug 2009 - 1:09pm
Dru
2009

Great question Jon! I would also like to know the answer and also if
there is a way to open a Omnigraffle in visio (am new to this stuff).

Thanks.

Dru

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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13 Aug 2009 - 12:03pm
Jonathan Cohen
2009

@druid %u2013 thanks, have you tried exporting your doc as a visio xml
drawing?

@maurice, @david %u2013 no dice %u2013 visio doesn%u2019t like pdfs.
Tried all the format options and nothing worked. Thanks though.

@stevenitz %u2013 can%u2019t use a mac at work. =( wish I could
though, apps like coda, textmate, cssedit really helped me up my
game.

@david %u2013 yeah, diagramming for sure, no pixels allowed.

@kim %u2013 yep, I%u2019d need to copy and paste each object/layer
separately. Obviously not going to scale.

@todd %u2013 agreed

@stephen %u2013 that would be great, but I%u2019m not allowed to use
my personal comp at work for anything. Looked into it already. =)

@renee %u2013 all this pdf talk makes me wonder if one of my settings
is incorrect. I couldn%u2019t get a pdf created by one program to open
in the other.

Visio gets the job done, but not without quirks. Alt Shift F6 to
zoom? I can work around its refusal to allow pixels as a metric with
stencils, but Visio forces me to think about regions in inches or
points, which obviously isn%u2019t a digital display language. I
built a persona template yesterday with a ton of guides and when it
came time to make an attributes tab, couldn%u2019t duplicate the
layout. Each guide needed to be manually selected, copied and pasted,
and then moved to its appropriate spot since Visio flung them into a
random place. =) Also, no one wants to navigate through a large
wireframe deck with tabs. Haven%u2019t made a wireframe yet, but I
suspect I%u2019ll miss layers quite a bit.

Anyway, it%u2019s always good to focus on what makes something
usable. Thanks for the responses all!

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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13 Aug 2009 - 12:49pm
Renee Rosen-Wakeford
2008

What are you using to generate PDFs? Are you using the PDF exporter that Microsoft does which has to be downloaded separately or a third party one? When you generate a PDF, do you do it through Save As, Export As or Print? I usually use Save As and do it with the Microsoft one, despite that it's quirky. Files I do with it don't work 100% right in Preview. You can't go forward and backwards using either the visual list of pages or the page back/forward buttons at the top (can't remember off the top of my head which one it is). I know I tried changing some settings, but it didn't make any difference. I suspect it's something like Microsoft hasn't implemented the standard 100% correctly, or else Preview doesn't interpret it 100% correctly. I've also used one of the free third-party ones, but it didn't preserve transparancies correctly. If you're saving things to PDF in order to have a vector illustration that you can put into InDesign, you do need to make sure you're only saving a one-page document. So if you've created things as multiple pages in Visio, just copy and paste it into a new document and save that one out. Hope that helps. If my suggestions don't work, let me know off-list and I can tell you the exact settings I have on my computer at work.

Renée

13 Aug 2009 - 1:10pm
jabbett
2008

Jon--

You absolutely need to setup these macros: http://www.welie.com/visio/index.php

There are copy/paste-in-place macros that make working in Visio so much nicer!

There's also lots of power in Visio's "background" pages -- since backgrounds themselves can have backgrounds... sort of like layers. Put your layout guides in a background and you won't have to copy them around so much.

When I'm ready to review wireframes with my team, I generate PDFs rather than distribute the Visio file -- Microsoft provides a great (and free!) PDF generator add-in for Office -- http://tinyurl.com/2v77sn

I've become very proficient at using Visio for my IxD tasks -- since it's not your lingua franca, it'll take some getting used to, but try not to despair!

Best, Jon

P.S. The next version of Office has a brand new version of Visio (finally!) ... I've done some beta testing, and it's a welcome improvement. Get it as soon as you can.

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