Visio can do more than help developers design flowcharts. For examples, we asked members to tell us how they used Visio. TechRepublic members who work as consultants told us that they used Visio for:

  • Designing the layout of a building during a network installation.
  • Helping developers represent business object models.
  • Diagramming equipment layouts.
  • Explaining Voice-over-IP connectivity scenarios.
  • Mapping emergency response evacuation routes.

A number of respondents also said they used Visio to illustrate project progress to team members. Visio’s timeline stencils are an easy way to represent task and project progress. We’ll show you how to use the stencils to create a timeline, represent task completions, and show the starting and ending dates of a particular task.

Visio Viewer

If your team members don’t have Microsoft Visio, you can ask them to download the Microsoft Visio 2002/2000 Viewer so they can view the illustrations you’ve created.

The timeline template
To find the timeline template, navigate through File | New | Project Schedule | Timeline from any page in Visio. When the timeline template opens, you’ll have a variety of timeline stencils to choose from. For this article, we’ll choose the cylindrical timeline. With your pointer, drag the timeline onto the drawing page.

When you place the timeline on the drawing page, the Configure Timeline dialog box will automatically appear, allowing you to set the duration of the task, how you want the task divided—by days, weeks, months, or years—and how you want the dates represented at the beginning and end of the task (see Figure A).

Figure A

If you want to change the timeline’s configuration, you can either right-click on the timeline to bring up the dialog box or open Shape | Actions from the main menu. Like any shape in Visio, if you want to change the shape of the timeline, you can click on the shape and expand or contract the timeline to suit your needs.

Including milestones in the timeline
Now that we’ve created a timeline, let’s include milestones to track the progress of the task. As with the timeline, you choose a milestone shape from the Backgrounds, Borders And Tiles, and Timeline Shapes stencils on the left side of the drawing page.

Because we’ve chosen the cylindrical timeline, we’ll choose a cylindrical milestone. When you drag and drop the milestone on the timeline, a Configure Milestone dialog box will open. For our task, we’ll designate Monday, June 17, for our milestone (see Figure B).

Figure B

You’ll also want to designate what the milestone is. To change the default description, double-click on the date and the text in the drawing page and type in your milestone. Figure C shows the Client Review And Approval milestone we assigned to June 17 as it appears on the drawing page.

Figure C

Attaching an interval
In our timeline, we’ve designated the length of the timeline, chosen the shape, and divided the timeline into weeks. We’ve also included a project milestone—Client Review And Approval—and given it a date. Now, we’ll attach an interval to the timeline so that we can show the process to which the milestone is related.

Like the timeline and the milestone, we drag and drop the interval onto the drawing page. We’ll choose a cylindrical interval to go with our cylindrical timeline. For the interval, we’ll designate a beginning date of June 3, and an ending date of June 17 (see Figure D). As with the milestone, you can establish the interval dates by right-clicking on the interval shape and opening the Configure Interval dialog box.

Figure D

Now we’ll include a description for the interval. Let’s assume that two weeks of our project involves making minor changes to the GUI on the client’s in-house CRM software. Find the Text tool in the menu at the top of the page, click on the interval, and type Application modification: Modify GUI on CRM system in the interval.

Here’s how our timeline looks so far (see Figure E).

Figure E

Of course, you can add more milestones, vary your intervals, and change other elements to suit your project. Timelines can be a useful tool to help keep your team members on track, and Visio’s stencils and tools can help you quickly put one together for your team members or a client.

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