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Everyday Windows Desktop Support, Advanced Troubleshooting & Other OS Tidbits

The Case of the Missing Visio Menu Bar

Posted by William Diaz on March 1, 2012

When opening Visio, the user didn’t see the common Menu Bar one normally see in Microsoft Office products before 2007. The menu bar contains the literal menu options like File, Edit, View, Insert, so on. There was also the presence of a 3rd party toolbar that didn’t look like it was properly functioning:
Perhaps the Menu bar was disabled. This can be checked by right-clicking in the menu bar area and selecting Customize, then Toolbars.
The option was checked and resetting the toolbars from within this tab and the Options tab also failed to correct. Next, I set off the Microsoft KB and found this article, which simply entails resetting the toolbars by deleting the Toolbars key in HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Visio\. This didn’t work, however, and searching the Internet failed to shed any additional light on the issue. Furthermore, repairing and reinstalling also failed to restore the Menu Bar1.

I asked the user to wait and turned to my lab workstation, where Visio 2003 was installed. Perhaps a Process Monitor trace might help. I was beginning to think that the toolbar was there and we just couldn’t see it. Perhaps it had been moved outside the Physical desktop space by mistake and maybe I could find its x,y coordinates in the registry (which I already covered in an earlier post). I started the procmon trace after opening Visio, grabbed the Menu Bar, dragged it outside the Visio application and then stopped the trace. I didn’t have any luck with position coordinates and started manually searching, instead, for something obvious. There were only a 135 operations and it didn’t take long to find a couple:
Jumping to this location seems to reveal the Visio stores toolbar customizations to a local file named custom11.vsu.
A search locates this file in C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Microsoft\Visio. I’m not sure about the internals yet, so I backup this key before deleting it on the user’s workstation. Afterwards, I open Visio and the Menu Bar is restored, along with the corrected PDF toolbar:
With this fixed, I did a little research into how this Visio stores changes made to the toolbar, specifically in relation to the custom11.vsu. I already know that adding additional default toolbars or toolbar positioning is stored in the State key in HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Visio\Toolbar from the MS article already mentioned. However, customizations, like the addition of custom toolbars or add-in toolbars2 from other products are not stored here, but are actually saved into custom11.vsu, which is why deleting the State key made no difference in restoring the missing Menu Bar.

By deleting the Application key in HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Visio\ instead, you are removing the pointer to call the custom11.vsu when Visio is started, loading only the toolbar data stored in the State key. If a custom toolbar is added or the presence of a 3rd party or after market toolbar is detected when Visio starts, custom11.vsu will be rebuilt, erasing the previous (problem) state, and this change is reflected again in the registry by the population of the CustomMenusFile11 and CustomToolbarsFile11 strings. Alternatively, instead of deleting the registry key, you could just delete custom11.vsu to restore the toolbars to their default state.

1 Some customizations in Office products can be profile specific, which is why repairing or reinstalling may fail to correct issues. For example, reinstalling or repairing Word will not fix an issue with the user’s master template (, because it is a custom file created by Word when the user opens Word for the first time and continues to get modified.

2 Additional add-ins installed by applications can be controlled from start-up by modifying their load behavior in the registry.


One Response to “The Case of the Missing Visio Menu Bar”

  1. Rob Down Under said

    Is this referring to Visio 10 ?
    Is this a fix to show the menu bar (which I presume MS’s young programmers decided to ‘discard’) ?
    Does Visio 10 have the ability to hide the Ribbon (which I detest. I begrudge it taking up space without my permission).
    If it doesn’t, do you have a work around to hide it ?
    Perhaps a ‘managerial summary’ of this page for the common people (including me) would result in more ticks of appreciation from the public (and me)

    Thanks for sharing,

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