Resizing Visio Swim Lanes

by tammyvb on October 14, 2011

Ah, “swimlanes!” Gotta’ love the term. Ever tried to resize a swim lane in a cross-functional flowchart in Visio and dealt with the frustrations of the swim lane “swimming” all around instead of resizing? Well, there is a way not only to resize swim lanes, but also, to keep all your swim lanes in the same view, even when the Visio diagram extends beyond a single page. (And FWIW, if you try googling this topic, you will find that Microsoft doesn’t refer to swim lanes as swim lanes – the very unfamiliar term of “band” is used instead. And, no amount of googling resulted in a hit about resizing either with the term “swim lane” or the term “band.” Evidently, it’s a trade secret that Microsoft wants to keep secret!)

Please note: This is specific for Visio 2007 and might be different for other versions of Visio. Googling the terms used in this post and your version of Visio might help you resolve the differences.

1.) Open a blank Visio document.

2.) On the main menu, click File > New > Cross-Functional Flowchart with whatever units and direction you prefer. (In this example, we will use US Units and horizontal.)

3.) Add a single band.

4.) Select the entire band in two steps.

  • First, click on the Title section of the band (the section with the placeholder of <Function>).
  • Second, click on the bottom horizontal line of the band itself. The band should be highlighted as shown in the figure below.


5.) Right-click on the selected bottom band, and then under Format, select Protection and clear the option for Height.

6.) Right-click on the selected bottom band and under Format, select Behavior, and then under Resize Behavior, select Reposition Only.

7.) Select only the Title section and then hold your cursor over the middle button until the cursor changes to a double-headed arrow and the Resize Shape tooltip is displayed as shown in the figure below.


8.) Click and hold the cursor on the middle button and drag to resize the band.

9.) Add the necessary Visio objects to the resized band.

Note: You can resize a band after you have added objects to the band only if the objects are not connected to other objects across bands.

8.) Repeat this procedure for each band that is to be added to the flowchart.

9.) Optionally, if the number of bands will exceed the vertical length of the page display, then under File > Page Setup > Page Size, select Size to fit drawing option. This results in all the bands being displayed on a single page.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

vicky December 12, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Thank you

Maria August 21, 2012 at 7:57 am

A really helpful post. I cannot believe that simple things as this one require so much “effort”. Thanks a lot for the article!

Diane February 21, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Many, many thanks!

ingrid March 6, 2013 at 7:44 pm

AWESOME! thank u!!!!!

Donna March 6, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Thanks. I was afraid I was going to have to resort to writing a macro. What else do you know about swim lanes? Can I add a swim lane on the same page as others but not connected (adjacent?) to them; i.e., with some space between one swim lane and the next? Think of it as a different swimming pool.

Rochelle April 29, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Thank you for posting. It gave me some momentary hope; however, I am working with an existing, extensive cross-functional flowchart.

Andy June 2, 2013 at 1:01 am

This was the most simple and helpful advice after looking all over the place! Thanks!

Joanna July 8, 2013 at 2:48 pm

This is the first good tutorial I’ve found, but my version doesn’t seem to be the same as yours. When I right click on the swimlane, the options under Format are Text, Line, Fill, Allow Themes, and Remove Theme. I have Microsoft Visio 2010. What can I do to see the Protection or Behavior?

JP September 11, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Great tip. It worked perfectly.

MAC January 16, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Thanks a lot this has saved me a lot of effort!

Bill Yarberry March 10, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Very helpful. Also note that the number of characters in the swim lane title (extreme left) will affect the size of the swim lane. Cut down on number of characters and you can shrink the swim lane width.

Mike March 21, 2014 at 8:54 pm

How do I do this in Visio 2010? I can’t reduce the height of the swim lanes, even though they are empty. I no longer see Shape Sheets, Protection or Behavior in the Visio 2010 menu.

tammyvb March 22, 2014 at 5:37 pm
ewa April 15, 2014 at 10:29 am

It was driving me nuts! Thank you so much for this <3

sandhya June 16, 2014 at 7:51 am

Well explained, it helped me fix my issue today. thank you very much .

esko August 28, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Big help, thank you!

rg October 10, 2014 at 12:38 am

Terrific. Exactly what I needed! thankyou!

Regina October 28, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Thank you so much. Very helpful!

Katharine February 11, 2015 at 7:38 pm

This was very helpful.. wish i found this sooner as I have been working on this visio for weeks

Josie February 12, 2015 at 10:14 am

that works really well, I had spent half a day on Visio trying to do that, thank you so much for posting

Kiran February 17, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Thanks a ton, superb…..this post saved me finally, spent half a day searching for this!

jennie taylor April 1, 2015 at 4:03 pm

I would never have found all of that! how convoluted! thank you very much.

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