BPM-X® Designer for Visio vs. ARIS® Express

BPM-X offers seamless translation of ARIS® model data and diagrams to Microsoft® Visio® and SharePoint®.

The ARIS® Express tool is a cost-free process modeling tool that aims for companies that only have limited budgets available. This article investigates how ARIS® Express match against Microsoft® Office Visio® in conjunction with the BPM-X Designer for Visio add-in.

The comparison table below highlights important key features of business process modeling software in terms of methodology, data exchange capabilities and application features as such. Learn more about Visio® and BPM-X Designer and the solution to bi-directionally link ARIS® with Visio®.

Feature ARISExpress Microsoft® Office Visio® with BPM-X Designer


Has a fixed number of diagram types such as

  • value-added chain (called process landscape)
  • and event-driven process chain (called business process).

There is

  • no way to create new diagram types,
  • no way to modify an existing diagram type by adding or removing symbols,
  • no compliance with your individual ARIS® filter.

Includes an open metamodel to change or add new diagram types. Fully flexible approach to creating your own methodology or to match your project-specific ARIS® filter:

  • Full method capability and ARIS® filter compliant.
  • A library of more than 200 diagram types ready to use.
  • Open metamodel.
  • Dynamic symbol library, extendable.
  • Shape descriptions dynamically created from method language.
  • Visio properties flexibly mapped to any ARIS® attributes (see below).
  • Shape designer

No swimlanes.


Comes with various swimlane diagram types like

  • vertical swimlanes,
  • horizontal swimlanes,
  • table diagram (horizontal and vertical),
  • matrix diagram type.


  • Fixed set of only very few useful attributes such as NAME or DESCRIPTION.
  • Only string data type of fixed length.
  • Unlimited selection of attributes and descriptions, free to be defined within the method.
  • Attributes with data types (string, currency, date, numbers etc.)
  • Own data types with regular expression validation.

Only supports object definitions, no object occurrences.

  • Support of object definitions and object occurrences.
  • Support of object masterdata to ensure proper usage of object occurrences.


No assignment of models controlled by methodology. Only limited linkage to documents.

  • Model assignments are fully supported and controlled by the methodology.
  • Assignments are checked within the allowed method.
  • Unlimited linkage to documents

Data Exchange

  • Only unidirectional import of ARIS® Express models into full versions of ARIS®, e.g. ARIS® Business Architect.
  • No usage of existing ARIS models, that is no import from e.g. ARIS® Business Designer into ARIS® Express.
  • Issues and limitations with merging Express models into full version ARIS models: ARIS® Express handles only definition copies not occurrences.

The BPM-X middleware allows for full model roundtrips between different platforms (e.g. Visio® and ARIS®):

  • Bidirectional model exchange between the Visio® and ARIS® platform with no loss of data.
  • Full exchange of model graphics and model data.
  • Object identities are assured by using the same GUIDs on all platforms.
  • Object definitions and object occurrences are distinguished to allow for a coherent use of masterdata objects (app systems, org units, positions etc.) as occurrence copies.
  • The built-in BPM-X Model Explorer makes it easy to work with nested group structures and to reuse masterdata.

Rather limited Visio import capabilities.

  • This is Visio®.
  • Very flexible and method-compliant import of model contents from a broad range of process modeling platforms (including native Visio® diagrams) by using BPM-X middleware.
  • All enterprise standards and conventions defined in your ARIS® filter will be available in Visio®.


  • Not a Microsoft® Office-like product.
  • It is a Java™-based application without Office look and feel.
  • Visio® is part of the Microsoft® Office suite.
  • The BPM-X Designer add-in extends Visio® to be fully method-compliant with the ARIS® Platform.
  • The well-proven Visio® GUI is completely available.
  • Visio 2003, 2007 and 2010 are supported.


Very limited language support

Full and flexible language support in terms of GUI, method and content languages:

  • Selectable GUI languages, e.g. English, German, Spanish, Japanese, Russian.
  • Selectable method languages, e.g. English, German, etc.
  • All Windows®-supported languages for model contents; Unicode-based with Kanji support.
  • Multiple content languages may easily be maintained within models.


Limited to free form shapes such as rectangles and circles.

Large gallery of master shapes for a variety of diagram types.


No model validations available.

  • Existing validation library with validation rules such as “Shape has to be connected to another shape” etc.
  • Create your own validations with Microsoft® Visual Basic® for Applications (VBA) script language.


No application, method or symbol customizing available.

  • Fully flexible customizing with VBA.
  • Fully flexible method and shape customizing.

While ARIS® Express is a cost-free tool, its capabilities in terms of flexibility and completeness of vision of an accessible process modeling tool clearly lag behind Visio® and the BPM-X Designer add-in. Microsoft® Office Visio® is already available in many companies as it is the de-facto standard visualization solution in the market. With its significant value addition, the BPM-X Designer add-in comes at a surprisingly moderate price which is affordable even for limited budgets.

Learn more about Visio and BPM-X Designer.



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