Review: SmartDraw 7

SmartDraw 7 Suite Edition
San Diego, California

SmartDraw is a drawing program that features an amazing variety of built-in symbols and impressive ease-of-use at an excellent price. I recently got hold of the latest version and gave it a try. I already liked SmartDraw before this, and now I like it even more.

Say, for example, you need a UML diagram for a proposal. You don't really want to fire up a full UML tool just for this, so you start SmartDraw and tell it you want a new drawing. You get an extensive list of categorized templates. Select the Software Design category and there are dozens of UML drawings, from blank UML documents to fully fleshed-out examples.

Double-click a template to open it. You'll also get a bunch of symbol libraries and a UML Wizard. The wizard is modeless (so you can interact with it AND with your drawing at the same time), and it shows you how to do most basic drawing tasks. Click a button here to go to SmartDraw's online UML Center, which will give you instructions on drawing common diagrams. Or, of course, just start dragging symbols and lines on to the diagram and playing with their formatting.

Want more? There are tens of thousands of symbols in their library. You may never need a medical illustration of scabies, a great horned owl, or an abacus on your drawings, but if you do they're here. You can also easily package your own corporate artwork into reusable symbol libraries.

There are lots of other features here. For instance, you can export diagrams to the Web or to HTML files. You can apply consistent styling across entire drawings at once with the click of a button. You can create floor plans, organizational charts, or Gantt charts (there are in fact less expensive editions focused on these individual chart types).

This new version features an upgraded, more modern looking user interface, improved ease of use, and improved floor planning. Plus it seems like it has more artwork choices, though I'm not sure I ever managed to look at all of the ones in the old one. Anyhow, if you find yourself needing to put together art for presentations, proposals, or just your kid's school, this is definitely worth a look.

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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