You are probably familiar with how an intranet can become an unmanageable beast. At too many companies, the corporate intranet begins life as small collections of HTML pages on individual computers. These pages are shared among staff members via some desktop tool like Personal Web Server from Microsoft. From there, the intranet grows and is migrated to another server until no one can tell you what is out there. There are lots of good pages of info on it, but no one is sure of its scope.

If you own a copy of Microsoft Visio Professional, you can remedy this problem. In this article, I’ll explain how Visio can tame the intranet beast.

Visio contains a Diagramming Wizard for mapping intranets and Internet sites. With this tool, you can point Visio at a URL and tell it what you want to know about the site. It will scan the site and bring back data about what it finds. It will then represent the site in a Visio Internet diagram. This diagram will show you the relationship between your pages and even between different servers.

How it works
This wizard will collect data on just about any file you can think of. It will see Java applets and scripts, ASP pages, images, image maps, and audio files. You can even define your own file types for it to find. Figure A shows an example of a diagram the wizard created when it was pointed at the Visio Web page on the Microsoft site.

Figure A

To use the Diagramming Wizard, run Visio and then choose Tools | Macros | Internet Diagram | Internet Diagramming Wizard. This will bring up the Generate Site Map dialog box, shown in Figure B.

Figure B

This is the main screen for the wizard. Here, you insert the URL you want the wizard to search. You also specify these criteria:

  • How many levels of links you want to search
  • The number of documents you want to return

Don’t worry if you set these numbers too low. As we’ll see in a minute, Visio lets you expand the search after you run the wizard.

Define your search
In the Options section of this dialog box, specify what kinds of files the wizard should include. You’ll want to be careful with the things you include at first. If you include too many types, your diagram will be somewhat crowded.

The first few times you use the wizard, I suggest you include just HTML and ASP pages. Figure C shows an example of this setting. This dialog box also lets you specify any custom file types to search.

Figure C

Digging deeper
After the wizard is finished, you may decide that you didn’t have it search deep enough in your site. You see files that are at the bottom of the diagram, but you know they have links “below” them. Don’t worry—you can expand your diagram.

In Figure D, you’ll notice the little plus sign at the bottom of the Visio shape. Double-click on this shape, and Visio will return to the URL it represents and search for links. It will then draw them on your diagram. Very cool!

Figure D

The finishing touch
Once you’ve mapped a site, you’ll likely have a large diagram displayed on one giant page. You can break your diagram into smaller pages by right-clicking on a shape and selecting Make SubPage.

Visio takes the selected shape and all of its sub-shapes and moves them to a new page. It even puts a little marker shape on the new page and on the old page to indicate where to find the rest of the diagram.

Within your pages, you can expand and collapse groups of shapes to make your diagram easier to navigate. To do this, just right-click on a shape that has sub-shapes and choose Collapse.
Do you have questions about Visio or Microsoft Project? Post a comment to this article or send a letter to Brian. He can’t answer every letter, but he will write articles about the topics and questions that readers ask about most frequently.