That's all changed now. In Visio 2010 Premium, Microsoft has put a real BPMN editor into the box. It understands the semantics and can validate models. It can associate BPMN attributes with the shapes and symbols. It can link parent and child-level diagrams. And it can preserve all those links and associations when models are published to SharePoint, even for users without Visio on their desktop.You can still drag and drop shapes from the palette, but Visio 2010 has a bunch of drawing accelerator features that let you do a lot of the modeling and layout without that. I have to say it's really nice.
For whatever reason, Microsoft decided to launch Visio 2010 Premium based on BPMN 1.2, not BPMN 2.0. Yes, strategically dumb, I agree, but if you are concerned about the diagram and not the xml underneath, there's not all that much difference. There are no process analysis capabilities built in, but Global 360 provides them in a relatively low-cost Visio add-in called analystView. analystView provides a powerful simulation and optimization engine, along with wizard-like assistance for business users to add the process data and simulation parameters necessary to make simulation work. analystView simulation and optimization can integrate with BAM data from G360's BPMS, Process360, creating a natural entry point for Visio users into the world of BPMS. The add-in also provides XPDL export/imp0rt, so you can interchange your Visio BPMN models with other XPDL-aware BPMN tools. I wrote a white paper on Visio 2010 and analystView, and the importance of bringing BPMN standards to the "standard" tools used for business diagrams, and you can download it for free here.
If you are a regular BPMS Watch reader, you probably know that I am partial to Visio-based BPMN tools over most browser-based editors. My BPMessentials training uses a Visio add-in from itp-commerce, called Process Modeler for Visio. It runs on Visio standard, 2003, 2007, or 2010. It supports my BPMN "method and style", has model validation and simulation, and generates documentation from the model. Unlike the native Visio 2010 Premium, it supports BPMN 2.0, and can serialize to either that standard or (in Pro edition) XPDL. I didn't think the Microsoft BPMN editor would be as good, but I have to say it really is. The cost of regular Visio plus itp-commerce is about the same as Visio 2010 Premium plus analystView, so from that standpoint it's a toss-up.
Simulation works a bit differently between itp and analystView. There are things to like about each. If you are willing to define process data models and do a little scripting, analystView is more powerful, and provides advanced resource allocation optimization. On the other hand, itp handles events better and outputs the raw data to Excel for custom reporting. Having two good BPMN tools layered on Microsoft Visio, for me, is better than one. I expect some demand for BPMN training based on the Microsoft editor, so we'll see. Meanwhile, no doubt G360 is pushing Microsoft to get BPMN 2.0 out sooner rather than later.It's safe to say that despite the proliferation of real BPMN tools, the majority of BPMN-like process diagrams that exist in the world have been created in Microsoft Visio. For me, Visio, by itself, was always just a "drawing" tool, not a real modeling tool... In Visio 2010 Premium, Microsoft has put a real BPMN editor into the box.