What makes Visio better than Excel?
September 27, 2010 8:37 AM   Subscribe

What is the advantage of making a flow chart in Visio instead of Excel? I haven't played with Visio much yet, but I'm not seeing anything that's significantly better or easier.
posted by Caravantea to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm no expert, but I'd much rather, by a factor of a zillion, make flowcharts in Visio that in Excel.

Excel is for data. You can drop MS Draw pictures in there, but that's not really what it's for. Visio is for drawing pictures, and includes tons of predefined flowchart shapes and connectors. The connectors will stay connected even if you move the shapes around.

That's just for starters. I'm sure others with more expertise can elaborate.
posted by mneekadon at 8:59 AM on September 27, 2010

Response by poster: But I can do those things in Excel too. The connectors work just fine in Excel. And I had an easier time connecting to an inserted object (picture of a document) than I did in Visio. That's kind of why I'm confused.
posted by Caravantea at 9:07 AM on September 27, 2010

Visio has a lot more features, like lining things up correctly, guides, rulers... if you want to make a simple flow chart, then you might not need those things. I have been a reasonably strong Visio user for a long time and I still occasionally just make a flow chart directly in a Powerpoint slide, even though I could make it much more detailed and re-use it for more things if I did it in Visio.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 9:12 AM on September 27, 2010

It sounds like you're doing very basic flowcharting. In your case, Excel (or Word even) may be just dandy. If it ain't broke...

For a power user, Visio has waaay more tools that will make your life easier. And obviously Visio can do more than just flowcharts (advanced diagrams, etc).
posted by sprocket87 at 9:13 AM on September 27, 2010

Nthing Visio over Excel. A flowchart would be easier to make in Powerpoint than in Excel.
posted by Anima Mundi at 9:20 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Visio is better because flowcharting is what it is designed to do. The reason why Excel seems better to you is because you know how to use it and there is a learning curve with more robust tools. You can make data tables in Word instead of Excel and manipulate images in Paint instead of Photoshop, but in each case the latter tool is much more sophisticated for the task.
posted by Kimberly at 9:46 AM on September 27, 2010

I'd rather beat my head against a brick wall repeatedly than create a flowchart or diagram of any complexity in Excel. It's like trying to remove a 1/2-inch hex bolt with a claw hammer.
posted by Citrus at 10:04 AM on September 27, 2010

Making flowcharts in Excel is like making spreadsheets in Word. It's possible, and the office equivalent of an interesting party trick. But it's not a fun, graceful, or efficient way to do things.

The same is true of flowcharts and Visio.
posted by ErikaB at 11:00 AM on September 27, 2010

Visio flowcharts also contain metadata on all their objects. I can turn a Visio flowchart of a business process into an automated SAP process almost automatically if the metadata is correct.
posted by atrazine at 1:39 PM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've not used recent versions of Viso, (Ok, I've only used a copy of Viso 1.0 that we've been copying to each new computer since out Windows 3.1 386), but isn't making a flowchart in visio just drag and drop? How do you make flowchats in Excel? Can you do everything you need in it, like label each arrow and whatnot? Also Visio used to do it's best to make the path of each arrow clear, so that you didn't have to work to trace it when several crossed, adding little loops and such, does excel do that? (I'm assuming Visio hasn't lost features since 1.0) If not then once you make a moderately complex diagram it will get very confusing.

Is cost the problem? Are there free alternatives to Visio that you could use? Doesn't OpenOffice.org have some sort of diagram program in it?
posted by Canageek at 1:59 PM on September 27, 2010

I'll admit that the idea of doing flowcharts in Excel left me scratching my head, but a quick google shows that Excel does, in fact, have flowcharting tools built in. In which case . . . whatever tool suits your needs is the best.

A friend of mine was required to design a trifold pamphlet for a class the other day--in PowerPoint. By that measure, a flowchart in Excel sounds pretty tame. :)
posted by littlegreenlights at 2:03 PM on September 27, 2010

I have never done a flowchart in Excel, but sometimes do in PowerPoint. I imagine that's a similar experience.

I use PowerPoint for quick, simple sketches, because I'm much more familiar with the tool and can work faster. I go to Visio when I need nice, high-resolution 300 dpi line drawings for printed work. It takes longer because I don't use the tool often, but Visio lets me export the file in various image formats and gives much more control over the size and resolution of the output.
posted by evilmomlady at 6:06 PM on September 27, 2010

Visio is much maligned but is super for what it was designed for, and flowcharts are exactly what it was designed for. In short, you drag and drop shapes where you want them, join them together with connectors, and they stay attached no matter how you rearrange them. I have no idea how you'd do this in Excel, but I know that you can't do this effectively in Powerpoint, or Photoshop, or Illustrator, etc. And you can end up with some very nicely presented documents depending on the shapes you use.

Problem is that you've got to invest a little time learning Visio's UI quirks and sorting out your templates. If you're only drawing one or two simple charts, then why bother? If on the other hand you need to do a lot of this, or need to refactor existing charts repeatedly, then get stuck in, it'll be worth it in the long run I promise.
posted by iivix at 6:00 AM on September 28, 2010

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