Review: SmartDraw

SmartDraw 6 Professional Plus
San Diego, California
(858) 549-0314

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 and equations.

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.

About the Author

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.


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