Using Crows-foot Data Modeling in Visio

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Many people prefer the Crows-foot modeling notation to the the Visio default. The crows-foot model is based on the Information Engineering family of systems analysis techniques and is widely used.

This article explains how to set the options in Visio to use this Crows-foot data modeling convention. We will confine the article to that task and assume you already have a model that displays with the default options. We will use our Factory2000 database for an example.

The Visio diagram used in these examples can be downloaded at

Default Visio Diagram

Below is a diagram of the employees and work orders tables linked to the labor table using the default notation. Both relationships are one-to-many. The arrow points to the one side.

Visio Default

Changing the Modeling Notation

Select the document choice under Database | Options.

Document options

That will launch the Database Document Options dialog box as shown. Click the relationships tab and check Crow's feet.

Document options dialog

Diagram with Crow's foot Modeling Conventions

Close the dialog box and observe the model now uses the Crows-foot modeling notation. The little fanout symbols or crow's feet point to the many side of the one-to-many relationships. Most people find this more intuitive than the plain lines of the default notation.

Crows-foot diagram

The double line means mandatory and the circle means optional. This is typical for an intersection table such as labor. We may have employees or work orders with no labor records applied. But a labor record must refer to a valid employee and work order.


We hope you found this short article helpful. It was not intended to delve into database design or Visio in depth. The intent was just to provide the student with a quick reference as to how to establish Crow's-foot modeling in Visio.

Dan D'Urso
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Updated: November 2013
email articles at dhdurso dot org

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Laguna Niguel, Orange County, California

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