Networking

Review: Is Edraw a solid diagramming replacement for Visio?

Jack Wallen puts one of the Microsoft Visio competitors to the test. How does Edraw stack up for professional-looking network diagramming tools?

In the world of business, the vast majority of users are using one Microsoft product or another. When Network administrators are thinking about designing (or documenting) a network, one of the first tools that comes to mind for diagramming is Microsoft Visio. But Visio is not the only game in town. In fact, there are plenty of options available for anyone needing to tackle such a task.

One of those options is Edraw Max; at less than half the cost of Visio and containing an equal assortment of features, Edraw Max might make a great alternative. But is it the tool to replace Visio for your diagramming needs? Let's take a look and see.

System Requirements

  • Windows 2000, XP Tablet PC, XP, 2003, Vista, 7
  • 256 MB of RAM, 20 MB of hard disk space
  • Pentium III, 750MHz processor
  • 1,024 x 768 or better monitor resolution
  • Mouse and keyboard
Cost

The cost of Edraw Max looks like this:

  • 1 license: $99.95
  • 2-5 licenses $95.95 each
  • 6-25 license $89.95 each
  • 26-50 licenses $84.95 each
  • 51-100 licenses $79.95 each
  • 100+ licenses 74.95 each

Who's it for?

Both Visio and Edraw Max can handle the same tasks. Visio, however, does offer the user a bit more power-user focused tools. Because of this, Edraw Max will find itself much more at home with the average user. With Edraw Max you will be able to create presentation-quality diagrams, you just won't have some of the more powerful features like the Macros and Visual Basic Editor tools. Fortunately, Edraw Max is fully integrated into Microsoft Office, so you will be able to add Edraw Max drawings into Office documents. But for standard, well designed and professional-looking presentations and network diagrams, anyone will find themselves comfortable with this tool.

What problem does it solve?

To put this in simplest terms, Edraw Max gives users a Visio-like, professional quality diagramming tool at a fraction of the cost. Because Edraw Max doesn't include some of the more advanced features of Visio, it also gives the less-than-technically inclined the ability to create  professional looking diagrams on par with that of Visio.

Key features

  • Full vector graphics solution.
  • Import Visio XML formatted documents.
  • Drag and drop design.
  • Auto object alignment.
  • Create complex diagrams with built in templates.
  • Interacts with MS Office.
  • MS Office Ribbon-like interface.
  • Real-time previews.
  • Text object support (including line, space, bullets, back color, super/sub script).
  • Zoom slider for quick zooming in and out.
  • Table support.
  • Recolor picture, light and contrast, PNG transparency support.
  • Shape editor for complex shapes.
  • 2000 + clip art included.
  • Hyperlink support.

Click to enlarge.

As you can see, Edraw makes it incredibly easy to create simple or complex network diagrams by dragging and dropping the objects you want into your diagram.

What's wrong?

The biggest problem I have found with Edraw is that opening up previously created diagrams can take a bit of time. How complex these diagrams are will dictate how much time the diagram will take to open. The other issue is that, in order to create properties for an object, you will first have to define customized properties to suit your needs. Although this task isn't difficult, it isn't terribly intuitive...especially for an application that targets average users.

Bottom line for businesses

If you are looking for an application that just about any level of user can take advantage of, and you don't want to shell out the cost for Visio, Edraw Max is an ideal alternative to the Microsoft standard. With next to no learning curve, your users can be creating network diagrams in no time. And, if you don't want to spend the extra cash on the "Max" version, you can opt for the Network-only version and spend only $69.95 for a single user license.

User rating

Have you taken advantage of Edraw Max for your network diagramming needs? If so, what was your experience? Did your users find it easier to use than Visio? Did it meet or exceed your expectations (especially when compared to Visio)? Share your thoughts with your fellow TechRepublic readers.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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