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Microsoft Demos New Visio Features

Microsoft this week is giving users and partners a sneak peak at the next version of its Visio business diagramming package.

The company is showing off the upcoming features, as well as four new add-ins, at its Microsoft Office Visio Conference 2008 this week to a conclave of 250 customers and partners gathered on the company's sprawling Redmond, Wash. campus.

It's no surprise that one of the key upcoming new features will be support for Office 2007's trademark "ribbon" – context sensitive – user interface, which has recently been renamed "fluent."

"The ribbon is key because it allows us to expose more of the functionality of the product," Richard Wolf, general manager of the Office Graphics Division, said in a statement. "The other key benefit that customers will get from the ribbon is a similar way of working to their other Office tools that will make it easier for new users to get up to speed with Visio," he added.

The company claims to have 15 million Visio users worldwide.

Among other new capabilities coming in the next release will be the addition of process management logic to diagrams, Will Golding, director of product management for Visio, told InternetNews.com.

"The next version of Visio [provides] the ability for customers and partners to put in their own logic [into process diagrams]," Golding said.

Microsoft also showed off new add-ins for the existing version, Visio 2007.

"The new add-ins will dramatically ease the challenges organizations currently face in monitoring their IT environments, pinpointing and troubleshooting problems in the network, performing diagnostics on different nodes, testing out configuration upgrade scenarios and allowing IT and development staff to work in closer alignment," Wolf's statement continued.

The add-ins tie into Microsoft's System Center Operations Manager 2007, SQL Assessment and Datacenter Storage Management. The latter pulls data from Microsoft Excel to aid in managing storage infrastructure.

Microsoft is also emphasizing new capabilities introduced last year with Visio 2007, such as data connectivity, which provides the ability to connect multiple data sources to diagrams.

"With data connectivity, users can take this additional data and superimpose it on top of their Visio diagram, so it’s immediately at hand where they’re already working," Wolf said.

Golding did not give a date for the availability of the next version of Visio.

"We tend to release new versions between two to three years from the last release," he said. Since Visio 2007 shipped a year ago, that would put the next version's release sometime in the next one to two years, he added.