Microsoft Visio ScreenTips

ScreenTips are just like ToolTips that you see in Microsoft Windows software applications when you hover your mouse over a key element of the user interface.

If you pause your mouse over a Visio shape that has a ScreenTip, a little window pops up, displaying informational text for your enlightenment.

ScreenTips are intended as a shape designer feature—a tool for communicating to users how to use the shape, or what it is for. The theory is that a forlorn user will pause in confusion over a shape, and your ScreenTip will pop up and enlighten him or her!

However, there’s no reason they can’t be used to enhance your diagrams creatively in a subtle way. The only drawback is that there is no visual clue that a shape has a ScreenTip in the first place—you have to pause over a shape to find out whether it has one.

Adding ScreenTips to Shapes

Adding a ScreenTip to a shape couldn’t be easier. Just select a shape and then go to the Insert tab. In the Text group, click ScreenTip; then enter your message in the dialog that appears.


Adding a ScreenTip to a Shape
1. Select a shape in any drawing.
2. In the Text group on the Insert tab, click ScreenTip. You can see this Ribbon and button in Figure 1.
3. In the pop-up dialog that appears, type a message and then click OK.
4. Hover your mouse cursor over the shape. You should see your ScreenTip display after a second or two. Note that the shape need not be selected to show the tip.

Strategies for Using ScreenTips

ScreenTips are great because they add value to your drawing without unnecessarily cluttering it. However, they don’t print and there is no visual cue that a shape even has a tip.

If you are thinking about incorporating ScreenTips into your work, consider the following suggestions to make them more discoverable and usable:

  • Get in the habit of hovering over every single shape (no, I’m not serious!).
  • Always append an asterisk (*) to the text of shapes that have ScreenTips.
  • Add ScreenTips only to dedicated “ScreenTip shapes.” For example, you could use small, brightly colored circles that have no text. Users easily see these circles, but your drawing isn’t cluttered by the full text of the tip.
  • Use a Callout shape as a “ScreenTip Shape.” Give it no text and make the word bubble as small as possible. The tip moves along with its target shape, the user sees a small circle or square that indicates a tip, but the tip’s full text doesn’t clutter the drawing.
  • Use dedicated ScreenTip shapes, but assign them to a nonprinting layer so that they don’t show up in printed output.
  • Use the Comment feature from the Review tab . Review comments are visible to the user in a collapsed form but don’t print.

ScreenTip text wraps automatically, but you might want to force a new line manually, say for a title or for some tabular information. The ScreenTip editing box doesn’t accept the Return key by default, but if you hold down the Ctrl key while pressing Return, you can insert new lines as you like.

Headers and Footers

ScreenTips are visible only when you are editing. But sometimes you need information to appear only when printing. That’s where headers and footers come in.

Word and Excel users already know that a header is a line of text that appears at the top of each printed page; a footer appears at the bottom. They are typically used to hold information such as filename, document title, or page number—information that is obvious when you are working in Visio, but not when you are holding the hard copy in your hand.

Visio provides three fixed information areas each for headers and footers. Providing a grand total of six possible fields.

You add headers and footers from the Print Preview tab of the Ribbon, which you can get to via File, Print, Print Preview. Clicking Header & Footer opens the dialog. Note the two columns of three fields in which you can enter information.

You can enter any text you want into each box, and you can also add field codes for dynamic information. Field codes are used for information that might change, such as the filename and date, or information that varies from page to page, such as number or name. Visio has a small set of field codes, but even so, you don’t have to memorize them. The arrows to the right of each text box in the Header and Footer dialog help you to insert them. Table 1 summarizes the available field codes for headers and footers.

Field Codes for Headers and Footers
Field Information Field Code
Page number &p
Page name &n
Total printed pages &P
Current time &t
Current date (short) &d
Current date (long) &D
Filename &f
File extension &e
Filename and extension &f&e


Some users find the set of field codes too limiting. For example, there is no code for the document’s directory. The workaround is to insert fields into shapes, where the choices are much more varied and numerous. You effectively create headers and footers by using shapes placed on background pages. This is described in the next section.


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