SmartDraw 6 Professional Plus
San Diego, California
Yes, it's another general-purpose drawing package. I've discussed in the
past why I think every developer needs such a package; from design
diagrams to management presentations, sooner or later you'll need to
produce your own graphics. And if you're like me, trying to do so with a
pencil and a piece of paper is a recipe for disaster. So, what does
SmartDraw bring to the developer's desktop?
To begin with, there's a library of 50,000 shapes here (well, I'm not
going to count them, but I'll take their word for it). Now, you may not
ever need a sketched kangaroo (though my toddler approved) or a chair in
your professional presentations, but there are also all manner of
network, software design, engineering, and other professional symbols as
well. I also really appreciated the SmartDraw Explorer, which gives you
a way to look into all the symbol libraries without the bother of
opening and closing templates.
Once symbols have been dropped on a drawing, there are all sorts of ways
to manipulate them: the expected control over sizing, rotation,
grouping, layering, colors, and so on. You can hook shapes and lines
together, and they'll stay together as you move things around, as you'd
expect if you've used Visio or anything else with this paradigm. There
are also quite a number of other smart connectors for building things
like organization charts and fishbone diagrams.
There are other features here that don't match what I've seen in similar
products. Two that impressed me were SmartDrawNet, which gives you a
free online space to distribute your drawings (included when you
register the product) and the Library Builder Wizard, which lets you
easily repackage your own set of symbols for use in the program. There
are also a respectable number of connections with other applications,
from export to common formats to the ability to drop in Office charts
Overall, I'd rate SmartDraw very high on ease of use and on having
plenty of symbols for business as well as technical users. And certainly
it's cost-effective. If you want to try it out, you can download a free
trial from the company's Web site.
Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.