If you have used, or are currently using, Microsoft Visio®, you have probably been burned by a high learning curve, limited accessibility, versioning issues, and other common drawbacks of this software.
Lucidchart founder, Ben Dilts, felt that pain himself as he dealt with strict security requirements at a health benefits software company. To ensure compliance, his team would email Visio® diagrams back and forth, but they would have a difficult time collaborating and keeping track of the most up-to-date version.
There had to be a better way.
In late 2016, when Microsoft Office introduced a web-based version called Visio® Online, many organizations thought this tool would solve all their problems. Visio® would finally facilitate collaboration, work on all devices, and maintain a single source of truth—all while offering the same powerful features it always had. Right?
It turns out that several claims made by Visio® Online are more fiction than fact. We’re here to set the record straight—learn five myths about Visio® Online.
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Note: For the purposes of this article, Visio® Online can refer to either Plan 1 or Plan 2. Both subscriptions offer similar functionality aside from Visio® Online Plan 2 including Visio® Pro.
Myth #1: Multiple people can edit the same diagram simultaneously
Microsoft claims that Visio® Online offers real-time collaboration, but even on this web-based platform, the term “real time” is a stretch. While multiple participants can view the same document simultaneously, only one person at a time can edit it. When someone else is working on the diagram, Visio® Online prompts you to go into read-only mode or to create a copy.
This lack of multi-participant editing results in clunky workarounds and versioning issues—issues that many organizations try to avoid by switching to Visio® Online in the first place. For example:
You could get locked out of your own document if you’ve shared it with others. Because Visio® Online doesn’t give you an option to take over editing access, you would need to get in touch with your co-worker and ask them to leave the document if you need to make changes.
In read-only mode, you can’t see updates until you refresh the diagram, so unless you remember to refresh often, you could be looking at an outdated document.
There’s no indication that someone else is viewing the document, so you can’t alert your co-worker that you have made changes or ask if they need editing access.
Visio® Online offers no revision or version history, so if someone makes unauthorized changes or edits the diagram unintentionally, you will not be able to revert back to a previous version.
Essentially, Visio® Online still doesn’t support the idea of a single source of truth because participants could easily be looking at different versions of the same document.
Real-time collaboration in Lucidchart
Lucidchart was built specifically to foster better collaboration and eliminate versioning issues as teams create visuals. Multiple participants can edit the same document at the same time—and all changes sync automatically, a feature that improves productivity since team members won’t have to waste time looking for the correct version or wait on each other to contribute to the document. Collaborators always have access to the latest version of your diagram.
In Lucidchart, you can see who else is viewing or editing your document at the top of the screen, and you will see objects outlined in colors assigned to each collaborator, so you can always tell who is in the middle of making changes.
And you don’t have to worry about collaborators making unwanted changes to your documents. When you share your diagram, you can select whether your team members have editing, comment-only, or view-only access. Lucidchart also provides revision history, just in case you need to revert back to an older version.
Once you’ve built out processes, system documentation, or other visuals, you can store or embed them in the applications you use daily to keep the entire company on the same page. Lucidchart offers integrations with G Suite, Confluence, Jira, Quip, Salesforce, Slack, and other popular apps.
Myth #2: In-app commenting allows you to give or receive feedback easily
Visio® Online also claims to help users collaborate through in-app commenting. However, comments aren’t always immediately accessible to all of the users shared on a document—you must be in read-only mode in order to leave comments or to see that there are comments on a shape.
In addition, Visio® Online doesn’t offer a way to tag users in comments or alert them in any way, which could delay necessary changes or feedback.
Commenting and @mention notifications in Lucidchart
Lucidchart also offers in-editor commenting on an entire diagram or specific shapes, but you can view or add comments at any time. With the locate button, you can easily find the object that is associated with a comment.
Additionally, Lucidchart allows users to include @mention notifications on a comment. By adding the name of someone on your team or any email address, you can alert users to your comment to resolve issues, get approval, or give feedback quickly.
Myth #3: Visio® Online solves the Visio® for Mac problem
Visio® Online Plan 2 comes with Visio® Pro, so a lot of the functionality that Visio® Online claims to have is only available when you use it in conjunction with the traditional desktop software (continue reading for examples). Visio® Online on its own can offer basic functionality—think simple boxes and arrows—but that’s about it. Microsoft admits as much in their prompts: when you go to edit a diagram, Visio® Online gives you the option to open the diagram in Visio® Pro in order to “use the full functionality of Microsoft Visio®.”
Visio® Pro comes with its own set of complications, the main one being that it is only compatible with Windows, so your employees with Mac and Linux devices won’t be able to use it.
And, in a recent survey sponsored by Lucidchart, respondents noted that, on average, 26% of their employees use Macs and 19% use Linux. That’s a large chunk of the workforce that’s excluded from the Visio® Pro user base.
Compatibility in Lucidchart
If you want a web-based solution that’s truly compatible across devices, try Lucidchart. Our cloud-based application and all its features work on any operating system, including Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can even view and edit diagrams on the go with our Android and iOS apps.
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Myth #4: Visio® Online includes data linking
One of the features that you can only access through Visio® Pro? Data linking.
Visio® allows users to link data from external sources to their diagrams so you can visually display up-to-date information and place your data in context. For example, if you’ve created an org chart, you can link information about each employee to their shape.
However, you can’t use data linking directly from Visio® Online.
On a similar note, you can view shape data in Visio® Online, but to add or edit shape data, you will have to switch to Visio® Pro (e.g., on a network diagram, you might want to add data about the particular device, model, network, etc.).
So your workflow would look something like this: You’ll need to open Visio® Pro to work on your document, save your document (Visio® Pro doesn’t have an auto-save option available), and then refresh the document in Visio® Online to see any changes. If you have a Windows device, it’s possible to use this workaround and incorporate shape data into your Visio® Online documents, but you will spend additional time. And if you’re a Mac user wanting to use data linking, you’re just out of luck.
Data linking and shape data in Lucidchart
In Lucidchart, you can link data from external sources, plus add and edit shape data, on any operating system and without having to bounce between programs. Connect to Google Sheets for live updates, or link your existing Excel and CSV files.
Lucidchart can even take your data and automatically generate visuals for you—in our platform, you can import CSVs to create org charts, AWS architecture to create network diagrams, DBMS to create entity-relationship diagrams, and text markup to create UML sequence diagrams.
Myth #5: Visio® Online has extensive shape and stencil libraries
When you use Visio® Online, you’ll be missing out on many frequently used shapes, including icons for:
- Value stream mapping
- Org charts
- Cisco network architecture
- GCP architecture
- AWS architecture
- Floor plans
- Mind mapping
On top of this limited selection, Visio® Online users are unable to import stencils. Again, for access to more shape libraries and stencils, you will have to switch to Visio® Pro.
Shapes and stencils in Lucidchart
Lucidchart has built out shape libraries to benefit every role, including all of the shapes listed above. Plus, our platform offers 1000+ templates if you don’t want to start your diagram from scratch.
If you don’t find the shapes you need or want to use more specific, branded shapes, you can also import Visio® stencils and SVGs and save them in a custom shape library for continued use. Build anything from simple flowcharts to complex technical diagrams in order to communicate clearly and innovate faster.
The choice is clear. If your company needs to collaborate seamlessly on visuals, if you’re looking to better support Mac users, or if you’re moving software to the cloud and don’t want to sacrifice powerful diagramming features, Visio® Online won’t meet all of your expectations. You need Lucidchart.
Talk to our sales team about how Lucidchart can improve collaboration and align with your company initiatives.