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Summary:

Drawings and diagrams are playing an increasingly important role in creative, marketing and technical communications. If you are an independent web worker who needs to create diagrams, you need to choose your drawing tools carefully, especially if, like me, you are not a skilled artist

Drawings and diagrams are playing an increasingly important role in creative, marketing and technical communications. If you are an independent web worker who needs to create diagrams, you need to choose your drawing tools carefully, especially if you’re like me — not a skilled artist.

SmartDraw 2010 from SmartDraw.com offers an easy-to-use drawing and diagramming solution for Windows, targeting those of us who aren’t professional graphic designers. It integrates with other tools, and has built-in features for creating diagrams for pretty much any business purpose: charts and graphs; floor plans; flow charts; matrices; mind maps; network diagrams; org charts; storyboards; project charts; timelines; and maps.

The application is available as a direct download from SmartDraw.com and costs $197 (for a single-user license), with a 30-day trial available.

Integration with Microsoft Project

The Project Chart feature includes the editing, formatting and management tools that you might enjoy in other full-featured project management applications. You also have the option to import and export Microsoft Project files. Once you’ve imported a Microsoft Project file into SmartDraw 2010’s Project Chart, you can continue modifying the overall project including time frame, tasks, milestones and properties. You also have the option to view your project chart as a Gantt chart, mind map or time line.

My import tests seemed to hang while SmartDraw 2010 was formatting the charts. Not a good sign, but despite the time it took, I was able to get very clean imports from Project into SmartDraw 2010.

Mind Mapping

Once thought of primarily as a brainstorming tool, mind maps are now used for communicating project requirements, process flows and creating other visualization artifacts. SmartDraw 2010 supports mind maps, though you may find the level of support basic compared to full-featured mind mapping applications like MindJet MindManager 8. I do like how SmartDraw 2010 includes a Mind Map view in its Project Chart feature.

Integration with PowerPoint

PowerPoint presentations do power many business meetings, even though the application lacks robust drawing tools. With SmartDraw 2010, you can plan out your PowerPoint presentations with the PowerPoint Storyboard feature, then import your storyboard directly into PowerPoint to give you a jumpstart on creating your presentation. You also have the option to send many of the charts and diagrams you create in SmartDraw 2010 directly into PowerPoint using a menu option.

Collaboration with Visio

SmartDraw 2010 includes a Visio import filter, which should assist collaboration between Visio and SmartDraw 2010 users working on the same project.

While I tend to gravitate towards Visio for my Windows-based drawing needs, I found SmartDraw 2010 to be an impressive tool with a well-rounded feature set. It should appeal to users who aren’t graphic designers and who need a diagramming tool with a short learning curve.

Have you used SmartDraw 2010? Share your experience below.

By Will Kelly

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  1. targeting those of us who aren’t professional graphic designers.” But costing $197 for a licence? Sounds like they have set their price-point well and truly above the mark.

    Why would a non-professional pay a price like that for a piece of software they would only use on the odd occasion? Seems illogical to me.

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  2. Agree with Luke – is way off price mark – if you’re going to spend that, might as well just buy Visio.

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  3. It i s a wonderful program

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  4. Or you can try this software which seems to have much of the same capability for $50: http://www.edrawsoft.com/flowchart.php

    I found this software reasonably easy to use. Some things could be easier, e.g. fitting the chart to a page for printing better, but all in all, nice software for the money IMO.

    They have a Max version for $99, not sure what additional abilities that offers, the $50 version was sufficient for my purpose.

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