The product, an updated version of Visio's earlier product, has enhanced graphical qualities--including smoother lines and more vibrant color--and increased integration with other Microsoft products such as Excel and Active Directory. The beta version can be ordered now, and the complete product will be ready in May, the company said.
The software also contains Microsoft's controversial anti-piracy technology, "product activation," which prevents people from making copies of the software.
This Visio release marks the first product update since Microsoft acquired the company in early 2000 for $1.3 billion. Microsoft announced the acquisition in 1999. The acquisition was not unexpected, as the two companies had been working together for some time.
Being inside the company, however, has given Visio more resources in its product development and sales efforts.
"I think no one could deny that being inside the Microsoft organization, we've had even stronger opportunities to collaborate," said Visio Product Manager Elise Jones.
Using Microsoft's resources, for example, allowed this Visio release to support 13 foreign languages, as opposed to the five supported in the previous release. The product also comes with a new alternative XML-based file format, which enables corporate or third-party developers to import or export any aspect of a Visio diagram.
Also as part of the release, Visio has streamlined its products from four categories to two--Visio Standard and Visio Professional. Visio Standard is designed for business professionals, while Visio Professional offers more comprehensive drawing and diagramming functionality for technical users such as information technology professionals, engineers, facilities managers and software developers.