Microsoft talks up new Visio Suite

Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday announced a beta version of its first update of the Visio drawing and diagramming software suite, which the software giant acquired through its purchase of Visio, first announced in September 1999.

Company officials said that Visio 2002, which is scheduled to ship by the end of May, focuses on streamlining the product line while broadening the user base. Although the suite will be available this year, Microsoft opted for the 2002 moniker to remain consistent with the other Office applications, according to Elise Jones, Product Manager for Microsoft Visio, in Redmond, Wash.

The new version includes tighter integration with Microsoft Office applications, such as keyboard shortcuts from Word or Excel; the ability to import tasks directly from Microsoft Project; database mapping; and support for Visual Studio.NET, the forthcoming toolbox for Microsoft's .NET Internet applications strategy. Visio 2002 also shares the same interface as the pending version of Office, recently re-christened Office XP.

Also new in the suite are updates to Visio-related functionality, such as support for more and richer colors, easier importing of graphics from a variety of devices, and enhanced Web publishing.

Beta versions of the Standard and Professional editions are downloadable, and an Enterprise Networks edition will be follow in about 2 months, Jones said.

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