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Microsoft Visio 2010 : Organizing and Annotating Diagrams - Callouts

8/26/2012 5:52:21 PM
Callouts are blocks of text linked to a graphic via a line or other pointing visual. They are used to annotate diagrams without interrupting the flow of the main visual. A classic callout is the word balloon that you see in comics to indicate speech. You also see them in product brochures, discreetly pointing out essential features of a fancy new gadget but not distracting from the glossy visuals.

Using Visio 2010’s New Callouts

In Visio, callouts can be used in innumerable ways to annotate diagrams. In Visio 2010, callouts have been upgraded significantly. They are now part of the structured diagramming features along with containers and lists and are fully integrated into the user interface.

Adding Callouts to Shapes
Starting with any drawing, make sure one shape is selected. This shape will be the target of the callout.

In the Diagram Parts group on the Insert tab, drop down the Callouts gallery. You should see 20 or so callouts, similar to what is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. The Callouts gallery.

Choose one of the callouts to apply to your target shape. You can now move the callout around and type text into it, as shown in Figure 2. If you move the target shape, the callout follows along.

Figure 2. A callout applied to the Fusion shape.

When you select the callout, the target shape is highlighted with a thin orange outline. This highlight is especially helpful for callouts that don’t have a leader line because you can still tell which shape owns the callout.

Duplicate the target shape (not the callout) by Ctrl+dragging or pressing Ctrl+D. You should see that the callout is duplicated along with the target, as shown in Figure 3.


Figure 3. When callout-target shapes are duplicated, callouts come along for the ride.

You can change the style of the callout by right-clicking it and expanding the Callout Style cascading menu. There, you see the same 20 styles shown in the Callout gallery in step 2.

Note there are three more callout-specific menus below Callout Style: Orientation, Callout Line, and Resize with Text. Take some time to experiment with these functions.

Select the callout and notice the yellow control handle at the end of the leader line, in the middle of the target shape.

Move the control handle so that it is over a blank area on the page. You have now disconnected the callout from its target.

You can use this handle to change the callout’s target shape. Drag the control handle so that it is over a different shape. Notice that as you do this, the new target is highlighted with an orange outline, indicating that it will receive the callout and become its target.

Move the new target shape and notice that the callout is now attached.

Using Legacy Callout Shapes

Visio callouts have been around for a long time, but they were much less sophisticated before Visio 2010. Visio treated them as ordinary shapes and didn’t provide any of the special callout behavior we’ve just seen. You were responsible for moving them and duplicating them manually. Nevertheless, these old-style callouts are useful, and you might appreciate the variety. You can find them in the More Shapes menu, under Visio Extras, Callouts. Figure 4 shows a wild sampling from the Callouts stencil.

Figure 4. The poor “Fusion” shape being picked on by legacy callout shapes from the Callouts stencil.

Many of the old callout shapes are 1D shapes, which means you position each end independently, like you do with lines and arrows and connectors. You can glue callout ends to connection points on target shapes and to guides. (Guides can be pulled out of the rulers. They don’t print, and you can glue shapes to them.)

The practical result is that the leader line stays glued to the target, and the text end stays put, which is sometimes exactly what you want a callout to do. Figure 5 shows old style callouts arranged in two columns. Each callout has one end glued to a target, the other end glued to a guide.

Figure 5. Only the glued end of legacy callout shapes move with shapes, which can sometimes be advantageous.

The text remains near the page edges, but the leader lines move with the target shapes. And since the text ends are glued to the guides, each column can be easily repositioned by moving a single guide. Older technology, but still quite useful!

The Callouts stencil has three special callouts that behave much like Visio 2010 callouts, and in some ways are even smarter.

At the bottom of the stencil, you’ll find Custom callout 1, Custom callout 2, and Custom callout 3. You attach them using control handles, and they move with their targets just as the new callouts do. Even better, these callouts can display Shape Data information from their targets—something Visio 2010’s new callouts don’t do. In this case, the “old” callouts are actually more powerful than the new ones. We can only wonder why Microsoft didn’t include the Shape Data field display in the new callouts!

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