It has been a while since my last article here, but Microsoft have not been resting on their laurels with Visio. This year is going to be an exciting one for new features, and one of the first is the release of an official Microsoft Visio Viewer for iOs supported by both iPad and iPhone.
It is so refreshing to see Microsoft’s approach to competitors nowadays, and to see them recognizing that they can learn from others too. For myself, I have been a Microsoft-phile for many years, ever since the mid-90s, when I realized the corporations that I was working with were not content with the presentation quality from the Unix programs that I was using. Everyone knows that Microsoft saved Apple in the early days, but then there followed many years of antagonism between them. Apple then reached a new plane with the iPod, iPhone and the iPad, and Microsoft had to acknowledge their omnipresence in the workforce.
Microsoft have quite rightly seen fit to support iOs 9.0+ devices with their Office apps, but it is unlikely that they will extend support of the Visio desktop client to the Apple Mac. The popularity (sic) of the Windows operating system, and the desirability of Surface Studio for designers only bolster Microsoft’s belief in their own desktop platform. In any case, Microsoft will continue to develop lightweight versions of their flagship Office applications for the web, rendering specific versions for the Mac as redundant.
With that in mind, what do we get from the first release of the Microsoft Visio Viewer for iOs?
Obtaining the Viewer
The viewer is available from the App Store, and the first thing to notice is that entering Visio Viewer in the search does bring back other options as well.
I have tried some of these too, and there could be reasons for using them because the Microsoft Visio Viewer does not have a complete feature set yet, as we will see. It is pleasing for me personally that it is two of my own Visio drawings being used in the details popup.
Opening Visio documents
Visio documents can be opened from the iPhone or iPad device, but it is really intended for opening files from a cloud service. Currently, these services are OneDrive, OneDrive for Business and SharePoint. These following screenshots are from an iPhone 4, immediately after installation, through to the viewing of a Visio document.
It does take a while to load medium to large size Visio documents, and the particular one that I show above took a good few minutes!
The viewer supports the older binary (vsd) file format, in addition to the current Open Packaging Convention (vsdx and vsdm) files. It does not support opening Visio templates or stencils.
The interface is the same on the iPhone and iPad, but obviously, there is a size difference, so I will return to the iPad 2 Air now.
The Visio Document Test
I used a Visio document that has shapes on many different layers, shape data, hyperlinks, links to external data, embedded CAD document, and shapes outside the page boundary. This is how it looks in Visio:
The Missing Features
External data is not currently supported, as was displayed after opening this particular file in the Visio Viewer. Naturally, VBA macros are not supported either, but that is a good thing.
There is no way of selecting any individual shape, which means that shape data and hyperlinks are not yet available. Hopefully, this is something that will be addressed soon.
The Good Stuff
The quality of the image is really very good, and is maintained at all zoom levels. This particular document does not have multiple pages, but if it did, then they would be displayed as tabs along the bottom of the screen.
The first thing to notice is that shapes off the drawing page do not get rendered at all. This can be a useful area to place scratch items.
Panning and zooming with fingers is extremely easy, and, by default, the useful Pan window appears in the top left corner, which displays the current view as a grey rectangle. This area can also be moved with the finger tips, just like in the desktop client. The open cross icon in the top right corner easily returns to full page view.
The View menu can be used to toggle the visibility of the Ruler, Grid and Pan window.
The screenshot above also shows that the CAD file is displayed, as the outline of chairs and desks in each cubicle are visible.
Each of the layers in the Visio document can have their visibility toggled from the drop down menu from the Layers icon. The number of shapes on each layer is also displayed. As with desktop Visio, this count should be viewed with the knowledge that shapes in Visio do not need to be assigned to a layer, and shapes can be assigned to multiple layers.
The magnifying glass icon opens a text search bar, which is fortunately not case sensitive. The first found text will be automatically panned to, and the left/right arrow buttons in the top right corner provides the ability to go to any other matching text.
The Visio document can be shared with others, either as an image, copy or a link, using the Share icon. Presumably, either inviting or copying a link is best, as it can be security controlled and the internet is not weighed down with yet more files being transmitted.
Finally, the File menu provides the ability to save a copy of the Visio document, or to print to a connected AirPrint printer.
This is an extremely welcome app, especially as it is free. The rendering of the Visio page is better than any other Visio document viewer I have tried. However, it does lack some features that would be useful for most users, namely data and hyperlinks.
It feels smooth in use, but loading time for larger documents is slow. However, the ability to toggle the visibility of layers is fantastic.
In short, there cannot be any reason not to install this app if you have an iOs device and use Visio documents. Go to Microsoft for more information.