How to Create Context Diagrams in Visio

By Shea Laverty

Using Microsoft Visio, you can create IDEF0 context diagrams for your products and projects. These diagrams are a form of flowchart, detailing the appropriate course of action for a particular circumstance. Building these diagrams in Visio is fairly simple, consisting mostly of drag-and-drop operations.

Getting Started

Start by building your project's foundation: the file itself and the title block. Click the File menu in Visio and select "New," followed by "Flowchart" and finally "IDEF0 Diagram." Once the blank document is ready, drag a title block to the drawing page from the IDEF0 Diagram Shapes menu. You'll be given the Shape Data dialog box, which you'll use to enter a node name and set the border offset distance, which determines how far away the block is from the edge of the page.

Adding Activity Boxes

Your diagram will need activity boxes to indicate a function, operation or process that relates to your project. Drag an activity box from the IDEF0 Diagram Shapes menu and place it inside the title block. When the Shape Data dialog pops up, enter a name for the process. You'll need activity boxes for each process or function, so you should start laying out as many as you need onto the diagram.

Using Interface Arrows

You'll need to connect activity boxes to one another via interface arrows. These arrows indicate how two functions interact. An arrow leading into an activity box indicates input, while outbound arrows indicate output. Drag a one-legged connector from the IDEF0 Diagram Shapes menu onto the drawing page and drag the endpoints to the two activity boxes you're connecting. You can add text describing each connector by selecting the connector and typing the description.

Purpose and Viewpoint Statements

Purpose and viewpoint statements indicate the purpose of the diagram, as well as to whose viewpoint the diagram or responsibility relates. Drag a Text Block 8pt onto the drawing page from the IDEF0 Diagram Shapes menu and place it inside the title block. Drag the green selection handles on each side to stretch the text block to the necessary shape, then select the shape. Type the text to describe the purpose and viewpoint of the diagram.