My fellow Visio MVP, John Marshall (see https://johnvisiomvp.wordpress.com), pointed out recently that Lucid Software claim to have a Visio for Mac application that offers import and export of real Visio files. Well, although I would love to have a web-edition of Visio from Microsoft, I was interested to discover if the claims are true … so I signed up for a trial. I present my findings below, based on just one Visio document that I have used in this blog before ( see http://blog.bvisual.net/2013/07/08/mvp-sessions-for-getting-started-with-visio-2010/ ). My conclusion is if you use Visio for high quality vector graphics or for any type of business intelligence then wait for Microsoft to do it right! Please do not even consider round tripping Visio files to Lucidcharts and back, because you will be extremely disappointed.
I took an earlier version of this document, without the extra callouts that I added after Microsoft moved the video files to YouTube, which has just two pages and was 673 kb in size in Visio 2013 vsdx file format.
Lucidchart can import Visio files in the pre-2013 binary or XML, or the newer Open Packaging Convention zipped up XML format. I did not bother to try a vsdm file because I cannot see anyway that Lucidchart could claim to preserve VBA macros!
|Lucidchart can import Visio files
|The Visio files can be the pre-2013 binary or XML,
I did not attempt to do any work in Lucidchart after the import because there was no integrity left in the Visio shapes for me to work with. The master to shape instance relationship that I take pains to preserve was gone, as were all of the shape data, hyperlinks and layers. In fact, the composition of shapes was completely destroyed … which makes a Visio shape developer like myself weep with incredulity.
When it came to exporting the file back to Visio I was disappointed to find that my options were restricted to just the old XML format, vdx.
The first thing to notice is that the file size bloated to 1.6 mb, which is approximately 2.5 times the size of the original.
The Lucidchart interface has obviously imitated Visio but does not have any of the smartness or refinement of the Visio desktop application. The graphics and text were roughly translated, but are missing the richness of the Visio originals, and they got even worse when saved back to Visio. I think the images below speak for themselves.
|Original Visio document first page
|First page in Lucidchart
|First page saved back to Visio
Lucidchart seems to handle raster images satisfactorily, but has no clue on how to handle embedded Excel worksheets, which is one of the alternative methods for creating reports from Visio shape data.
|Original Visio document second page
|Second page in Lucidchart
|Second page saved back to Visio
I am not going to criticize Lucid Software for trying, but Lucidcharts contains none of the features in Visio that would make it worth considering as an alternative, not even as a method of viewing anything but really simple Visio files on a Mac or on the web.
What we really want is for Microsoft to provide a web edition of Visio that enables Visio files to viewed, and perhaps lightly edited, whilst maintaining the complete integrity of the Visio document.