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Introduction to Microsoft Visio Licensing

Navigating the world of software licensing can be daunting, especially for those new to it. In this article, we'll take you on a journey to explore the licensing options for Microsoft Visio, a powerful diagramming and vector graphics application. We'll cover the types of licenses, acquisition methods, pricing, and more, so you can confidently choose the suitable license for your needs.

Types of Visio Licenses

There are four primary Visio licenses to consider:

1. Visio Standard

Visio Standard is the entry-level edition of the software, suitable for users who need basic diagramming capabilities. It includes a wide range of templates and shapes but lacks some advanced features found in other editions.

2. Visio Professional

Visio Professional expands on the capabilities of the Standard edition, adding advanced features such as data linking, enhanced collaboration tools, and more sophisticated templates. This edition is ideal for users who require more robust diagramming options.

3. Visio Plan 1

Visio Plan 1 is a cloud-based subscription service that offers web-based diagramming capabilities. It's perfect for users who prefer a lightweight, accessible solution without the need for a desktop application.

4. Visio Plan 2

Visio Plan 2 is a more comprehensive cloud-based offering, combining the features of Visio Professional with the flexibility of a subscription service. It includes both the desktop application and web-based functionality.

License Acquisition Options

To acquire a Visio license, you can choose from the following options:

1. Volume Licensing

Volume Licensing is designed for organisations that need multiple Visio licenses. This option provides discounts based on the number of licenses purchased and may include additional benefits such as Software Assurance. Large organisations usually sign a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement and acquire most of the licences this way.

2. Cloud Solution Provider (CSP)

A Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) is a Microsoft partner that offers cloud-based services like Visio Plan 1 and Plan 2. They can help you manage your subscriptions and provide additional support.

3. Retail and Online Purchase

For smaller organisations, you can purchase Visio licenses directly from Microsoft or authorised retailers.

Understanding Licensing Terms

There are essentially two types of Visio licenses or "licensing metrics":

1. Per-User Licensing

Per-user licensing means that each individual user requires a separate license. This is the licensing model for Visio Plan 1 and Plan 2 subscriptions.

Per-user licences allow installing software on multiple devices as long as the user is licensed.

2. Per-Device Licensing

Per-device licensing allows the software to be installed on a single device, regardless of the number of users accessing it. Visio Standard and Professional use this licensing model.

Licensing Visio for Remote Access and Work from Home

When your colleagues and employees work from home or even "work from anywhere", you may want to install Visio on a shared server and let them connect and use Visio remotely. 

Visio Plan 1 

This license does not include downloadable software, so you cannot deploy it on a server. But because it is a browser application, your Plan 1-licensed users can use it remotely in their browsers.

Visio Plan 2

Visio Plan 2 includes downloadable software. It is a Per-User license with the rights for Shared Computer Activation, so deploying it on a shared server is permitted. All licensed users can connect to it remotely. 

To install Visio Plan 2 on a shared server, your system administrator must use Shared Computer Activation only. Any other form of activation is not permitted.

Visio Standard and Professional

Deploying per-device licenses on a shared server is permitted. But it is tricky to manage license compliance, so we do not advise doing so. 

Here is what you must consider:

  • You don't need a license for the copy installed on the server.

  • Instead, every client device – laptop, desktop, or tablet – that your users may use to connect to the server and to use Visio Standard or Professional requires a per-device license.

It is nearly impossible to accurately measure and manage the number of client devices. Therefore, we suggest considering Visio Plan 2 for any remote access needs.

How to Choose the Right License for Your Needs

Selecting the appropriate Visio license for your organisation or personal use involves a few key steps:

1. Assessing Your Requirements

Start by determining your diagramming needs. Consider the complexity of the diagrams you'll be creating, the level of collaboration required, and whether you need advanced features like data linking.

Then, consider the license model you need: per user or device, perpetual or subscription, and whether you need to install it on a server for remote workers. 

2. Comparing License Features

Once you have a clear understanding of your requirements, compare the features offered by each license type to find the one that best suits your needs. Remember to consider factors such as accessibility, collaboration tools, and the availability of templates and shapes.

Managing Your Visio Licenses

After acquiring a Visio license, it's essential to understand the processes involved in managing your licenses:

1. License Activation

Upon purchasing a Visio license, you must activate it to use the software. Activation can typically be done through the Microsoft Office portal or via a product key, depending on the license type.

2. License Transfers and Deactivation

If you need to transfer a Visio license to another user or device, you must first deactivate the existing license. Review Microsoft's transfer and deactivation policies to avoid any issues.

3. Subscription License Renewal

You'll need to renew your license periodically for Visio Plan 1 and Plan 2 subscriptions. You can set up automatic renewals or manually renew your subscription through the Microsoft Office portal.

4. Software Assurance Renewal

If you purchased Visio Standard or Professional licences with Software Assurance, make sure you renew SA on time without any gaps to continue receiving Software Assurance benefits.

Cost Considerations

Understanding the costs associated with Visio licensing is crucial in making an informed decision:

1. Pricing for Different License Types

Visio Standard and Professional licenses are available as a one-time purchase. You may also acquire them with Software Assurance if you want to be able to upgrade them when new versions are released. Software Assurance is also required for shared server installation for your remote workers. 

Visio Plan 1 and Plan 2 are subscription-based. Be sure to research the current pricing for each license type to determine which option fits your budget. But do not take purchasing decisions based solely on the price, as you may accidentally choose the wrong licensing model. Consider your licensing requirements too, and consult with a Microsoft licensing expert.

2. Discount Opportunities

Look out for discounts, promotions, or special offers from Microsoft or authorised resellers. Volume Licensing and educational discounts may also be available for eligible organisations.

Frequently asked questions

Can a user licensed with Visio Plan 1 or 2 install Visio Standard or Professional?

Yes, for Visio Plan 2 only. There are additional limitations:

  • Visio may only be version 2016 or earlier,

  • One installation per licensed user,

  • It's not allowed on remote desktop servers.

Can I upgrade my Visio license from Standard to Professional or from Plan 1 to Plan 2?

Yes, you can upgrade your Visio license, but the process depends on the license type and how you purchased it. For Visio Standard to Professional, you'll need to purchase the difference in cost between the two, but this option is only available when you have Software Assurance. Otherwise, you must buy new licenses.

For Plan 1 to Plan 2, you can change your subscription plan through the Microsoft Office portal.

Are there any free alternatives to Microsoft Visio?

Yes, there are free alternatives to Visio, such as, Lucidchart, and yEd Graph Editor. However, these alternatives may not offer the same level of features and compatibility as Microsoft Visio.

There are also limited functionality free-of-charge licenses from Microsoft:

  • free-of-charge licenses for Microsoft Visio Viewer,

  • free-of-charge view-only access to Visio for the web.

Can I use my Visio license on multiple devices?

Visio Standard and Professional licenses are per-device, meaning they can only be installed on a single device. Visio Plan 1 and Plan 2 are per-user, allowing you to use the software on multiple devices.

Can I transfer my Visio license to another user or device?

Yes, you can transfer your Visio license to another user or device, but you'll need to deactivate the existing license first. Be sure to review Microsoft's license reassignment, transfer and deactivation policies to ensure a smooth and compliant transition.


Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of Microsoft Visio licensing, you're well-equipped to make an informed decision that best suits your needs. Assessing your requirements and researching your options will ultimately lead to a more satisfying diagramming experience and a happier budget. So go ahead, dive into the world of Visio, and unlock your full diagramming potential!