Tech & Work

SmartDraw 2008: The Right Tool for the Job?

The makers of a new business graphics app claim that it's the <b>Right Tool for the Job</b>. But is it really possible for the average user to create top-notch professional business graphics in minutes? Graphic designer <b>Kirk Starr</b> puts SmartDraw 2008 to the test.
The Job

Professional graphic designers like Kirk Starr charge a lot of money to make business presentation materials look great. But what if there's no room in your budget to contract a designer? The makers of SmartDraw 2008 claim this app grants anyone the ability to create top-notch business graphics in minutes.

The Tool

SmartDraw 2008 is a business graphics creation tool. It's basically a drawing program that feels like an office program and integrates well with Word, Excel and PowerPoint. What's more, it does all of the hard work for you and updates data in real time. From charts and diagrams to maps and certificates, SmartDraw can help you ace the presentation and save you time in the bargain.

SmartDraw

We asked Kirk to put SmartDraw 2008 through its paces and tell us if it's the Right Tool for the Job. Here's a summary of what he found. SmartDraw's strengths include:
  • Familiar Microsoft Office-like interface
  • Expansive library of templates
  • Very easy to use
  • Live Maps
  • Exports as PDF
SmartDraw's weaknesses include:
  • Full install is 3GB
  • Live Maps limited to US only
  • PDFs exported are not editable
The Right Tool for the Job?

According to Kirk, he began his assessment of SmartDraw with "a good deal of skepticism, but came to find that in nearly every case, this little drawing program delivered on its promises. Charts, diagrams, timelines, maps, layouts - even flyers, calendars and certificates - were all a done in a snap. SmartDraw 2008 is The Right Tool for the Job."

Read Kirk's comprehensive screenshot review of SmartDraw 2008.

57 comments
Cemart0
Cemart0

the trial period is to short to give it a thorough run thru. and if the rebate is $100. how much does this dang thing COST?

william.ames
william.ames

About 6 months ago I learned to use Smart Draw 6 to do a drawing documenting the GUI functionality of our product. I learned how to do it and was successful; the resulting drawing was well received. I just recently was given the task to do a similar assignment for a new product we were developing. I had found out that I would be able to much better control connecting lines in Smart Draw 2008 and thus purchased an upgrade. I am currently using it for this project. However, there were some disappointments. It appears that they have done away with the intuitive tool bar and replaced it with a "ribbon" thing. The organization of this GUI leaves much to the user's imagination. Such, I can not imagine where the (insert a function) is located in this GUI. When I attempted to find Help that provided examples on using Smart Draw 2008 all I found were examples of the things you could do with it. Even the help that was included with the product did not give examples of the elements (boxes and lines and such), showing only screen shots of the GUI and using words to describe drawing elements. The program does have all the functionality of earlier versions and then some, it is well suited to my task. But if I had not used the previous version first I would have found the GUI of Smart Draw 2008 awkward, non intuitive and just plain cumbersome.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

From what I can see, it is a strippe ddown version of Visio. Now I know Visio has become somewhat bloated but it still offers a very good product. This just looks like a kiddie version of Visio for newbs or something. What about all the custom network stencils and proprietary stencils? If it were freeware maybe

Rndmacts
Rndmacts

This is definitely not the right tool for the job. I can do all these functions using either the built in tools of MS Office, WordPerfect or OpenOffice. And there are free programs out there for doing floorplans or creating org charts and flowcharts. SmartDraw tries to do too many things and in my opinion doesn't do them all that well. If I am going to pay for a package for graphics arts I will use CorelDraw X3 otherwise I will use that which is already available to me. The review or non review reads like the blurb on the side of the box, nothing about the shortcomings of the various modules, and what of its export abilities. A non-editable PDF file is only useful for maybe a slide show viewer, but no good for collaboration. What other formats are supported either for import or export. A very non-enlightening piece of fluff. And TechRepublic please note, shots of the installation are a waste of bandwith unless there is something non standard about the install. Slides of templates are all nice and good but if the reviewer is not actually going to comment on strengths and weaknesses then the review is not a review but free advertising, in fact most of this review actually is word for word from the SmartDraw site.

yhamm
yhamm

"I exported a plethora of different files I'd created in SmartDraw as PDFs and not one of them failed to open for me in Adobe Acrobat Professional 7.0." ......and why would it fail ?? You've already stated that the .pdf can not be edited...therefore its' been flattened already and about as useful as a jpeg to the receiver. The whole concept behind the creation of .pdf files is the ability to edit within another program and the ability for "tweaking" for final output printing. You claim to be this expert in graphics and yet make a claim to greatness for this product while ignoring the obvious limitations. Will it import / export to AutoCad ?....What designer would use a slide-show pie chart program to create a schematic or floor plan layout ? Can this program create a great looking presentation slide show ?....Absolutely. The template selection and additional downloads (for free) can , to me, almost seem like too much of a choice... but how much of the material is propriatory ? What graphic files can be imported and file associations can it export to (could not find the info on the web site) ? This is NOT a graphics, or spreadsheet or layout / schematic designer program. It's a pie-chart presentation program that does it's job (very well)...Period ! Your whole commentary is nothing more than a sales pitch to the "suits" and many of them have no idea of "The Right Tool for the Job". They see something that looks and sounds great, for a real-world price, and think it's a solution for too much. As a program designed for presentation in the boardroom...high marks..but for use OUTSIDE of that boardroom...Do a proper review please before tha Boss expexts us to create output quality work with this program.

techrepublic
techrepublic

I was looking for mind mapping software a while ago. Of the many packages I looked at, SmartDraw stood out because it could do so much else in addition to mind mapping. Until I discovered it's idea of mind mapping is a static map, with non-collapsible branches. Huh? They claim their software is ideal for mind mapping uses and that it is so much better than other dedicated mind-mapping solutions, yet it cannot do that very basic thing that every other mind mapping software can do. Seriously, when you can't collapse the branches then you are severely limited to the complexity of the maps you can create, in addition to other issues with it. Like giving a presentation with it where you progressively expand branches as you dig deeper into the subject. It really would not have been so bad if they just stuck to what they were good at and didn't claim they were better than the other mind mapping software out there. Right there I lost all respect for it.

fvazquez
fvazquez

Sorry, this is for me not a review but only reading from the products box...

cats
cats

Sorry, but this seems a bit too much like an advertisement than a product review. I would like to see more reviews of freeware.

dhenderson
dhenderson

The "photo review" is especially helpful for people that don't realize they are having a commercial rammed down their throats. Even the accompanying text reads like it was pulled from the manual or from the box. Please, do a real review in the future...

Murfski-19971052791951115876031193613182
Murfski-19971052791951115876031193613182

I've been using SmartDraw for a few years now, but have not yet upgraded to 2008. It works, it's not too hard to learn, and the results are good. I have to add a caveat: you're not going to get professional results unless you're a professional. This is a tool, and, like any tool, needs an operator with training and skill to realize its full potential. Just having a good hammer doesn't make you a blacksmith.

mbronder
mbronder

... seriously. You gave this MS Publisher clone top billing?

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

From the description, screen shots etc it looks like this would be a replacement / alternative to MS' Visio drawing program. Visio started out great - I'm talking 10 years ago - when it was small and simple (and not owned by Microsoft). Then it suffered like many packages from creeping featuritis to the point where it was getting quite clunky - and finally, for me the death knell, it was bought by MS and incorporated into Office. It's now so big and "powerful" with a "rich" set of marketing features that you can do almost nothing with it. Maybe SmartDraw is the way to go - back to basics?

admiral_2003
admiral_2003

OK, it all looks very nice - lots of good looking templates (I particularly like the look of the calendars) and the mapping looks like fun, though pretty useless to those of us outside the US. Now for the real-world questions: what (genuinely) does this product offer me that I can't achieve in, say, PowerPoint? How does the output from this product integrate with Office? After all, it's unlikely that many diagrammes or charts will have much of a "standalone" existence. The big question: as a graphic designer, you will unavoidably use this tool with an eye for what looks good. For instance, you will choose background images that work well or - more likely - leave out background images altogether. As an old graphic designer myself, I have seen any number of tools that promise great looking graphics and then fail miserably as soon as they fall into the hands of a "normal" user whose idea of what looks good involves getting as much information, as many colours and as many fonts as humanly possible into the smallest possible space. The engineers' disease, if you will. Your review seems to suggest this product overcomes the limitations of talent. Surely some mistake?

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

Software, that is, that is pretty good but has useless "Help" (Microsfot, anyone?). Sometimes I get so frustrated that I find myself screaming at my monitor and that frightens the cat... I wish I wouldn't do that.

$dunk$
$dunk$

If you enjoy taking 1 1/2 hours to do a task in Visio that takes about 15 minutes in SmartDraw then stick with Visio. As proof, try drawing something equivalent to a medium complexity sequence diagram in both. You'll be quite surprised at the results.

kirkstarr
kirkstarr

I guess the main disconnect I'm seeing is that many seem to feel it is trying to be a clone of Visio. It isn't. It does more than just flowcharts and diagrams; it is not specialized in just that one area. The point I tried to make in the review is that SmartDraw is an intuitive and efficient way for the average user to make above-average presentation graphics. Visio has its specialized niche; SmartDraw reaches out to more people with more tools in one place and a vastly gentler learning curve.

CHRISTINEVT
CHRISTINEVT

Stripped-down version of Visio? Puh-lease. Have you downloaded SD 2008? Ok, seriously?what do all you folks have against SmartDraw? I?ve been using it for years and love it. I?ve used it for everything to create real estate flyers, wedding charts, project charts, flowcharts, calendars?you name it. I got the new version, and the feature with Google Earth/Maps is awesome! Anyway, it?s nice to see SmartDraw get the good recognition it deserves. I venture to guess that most of you haters have yet to try it for yourself?download a free trial at www.smartdraw.com.

rcstan
rcstan

Wow! This topic is hot, but only one mention of a capable Apple platform application...ClarisDraw. I guess that points to the youth of many of the responders. I began with Macintosh in 1984. Multiple Apple-based products were doing all of this more than a decade ago, fully featured, with saved documents formatted for editing, and easy to use.

wb4alm
wb4alm

I have been using SmartDraw since it was first released on FloppyDisks in the Early 1990's. I think some of you "profesionals" are missing the point of what SmartDraw is and what it isn't... It is not VISIO - but it can do a lot of what VISIO does, and without the learning curve. (Yes, I also own a copy of Visio.) It is not AUTOCAD, but it can draw schemetics and floor plans. I know, I use it as part of my Hobbies and as when I'm teaching Electronics or Programmig to my students. No, it cannot be used to send information to a layout "machine: - but it wasn't intended to eiter. I find Smart Draw very usefull to allow me to do a number of different types of drawings, WITHOUT having to wait for a graphics artist to be available. I have used the Output of SmartDraw as a concept drawing to have a Graphics Artist improve upon it for special purpose use. The Artist that I work with thaought this to be a good use of both of our time - as I was able to give him a starting place. Is it for everybody? No, of course not. But it is very useful for many - especially those with limited drawing talents. I'm going to close with a favorite comment from my friend the Artist - "You may have the Tools, But we have the rules". So depending on what the output is going to be used for, says what Tool I use, including the paid services of my friend. 'enuf said.

kirkstarr
kirkstarr

"......and why would it fail ?? You've already stated that the .pdf can not be edited...therefore its' been flattened already and about as useful as a jpeg to the receiver." I've had plenty of flattened PDFs not open in Acrobat because the software that created them sucked at PDF exportation. And if you've any experience in the industry, you know that sometimes people insist on a PDF, even if jpeg will do. "You claim to be this expert in graphics and yet make a claim to greatness for this product while ignoring the obvious limitations... What designer would use a slide-show pie chart program to create a schematic or floor plan layout?" If you're going to attack someone about what they wrote, you might want to pay attention to what you're reading. I never said this was a program for designers (though I do admit I can find some uses for it in my daily grind). This is a program to allow non-designers to make above-average presentation graphics. This fact was stated right in the synopsis. I'm sorry if the fact it actually does what it claims makes me sound like a shill for the company. I'm not. I apologize if I didn't find enough stuff wrong with the program to suit your obviously high standards. And I suppose it's my bad that I didn't see how SmartDraw worked with every other piece of software under the sun. Unfortunately, I don't even possess AutoCad. Lastly, you are right that I could have been more thorough in several areas and your concerns there are valid. For example, it would have been good for me to list that SmartDraw imports jpeg, gif, png, tiff, and other bitmap images as well as eps files. Again, I don't know about AutoCad. Maybe, yhamm, SmartDraw has nothing to offer someone of your lofty status and possessing your amazing skill sets, but for the majority of office professionals out there tasked with making a presentation for the big wigs, SmartDraw is The Right Tool for the Job, period. I stand behind that.

tam
tam

You people are being rediculous. I'm a 60 year old who 5 years ago could barely turn a computer on, so needless to say I'm no computer expert. I have a copy of an older version of Smart Draw and can tell you that it is the easist to use, most valuable program I own. I sat in my chair in the evening just plinking around with the program drawing up floor plans for a dream house. Then I moved on to flow charts, and pretty soon I had the program down. No classes, no manual, no hassels, this program is a beaut and very intuitive. I use it often for creating very useful charts and graphs. I also bought a copy of Auto Cad Light and let me tell you it may be more versitile, I don't know, for it was so cumbersome and non intuitive I never wanted to take the time to learn how to use it. Listen to the Graphic artist and don't treat him as if he would sell out for a review that is of no consequence to him. This program is for real.

kirkstarr
kirkstarr

If it sounds like an advertisement it's only because 1) I'm a graphic designer by trade and this is my first software review and 2) I thought it was an exceptional piece of software that actually did what it claimed it could do. An honest opinion that comes off sounding like an ad can only mean good things about the product, right? :)

kirkstarr
kirkstarr

"Publisher clone" is a grossly incorrect assessment. I assure you SmartDraw can do things Publisher only daydreams of doing.

juhlster1021
juhlster1021

Not even close. When Publisher goes to sleep at night, it dreams of putting on a cape and zooming around looking this useful. I have used Publisher extensively, and when I go to the grave I will look back sadly at such an egregious waste of precious hours. Thank God some poor soul in our office "needed" it so I could uninstall it and wash my hands of it. Seems much more like a Visio clone. And not a bad one, either, though it appears to lack some of the extent of Visio's functionality. The output looks "prettier" from what I can see.

KJ_Mustang
KJ_Mustang

Since when can Publisher draw floor plans and network topologies. I have used SmartDraw for the last 2+ years and think it works great.

danderson
danderson

Our NetStar Unified Communications Platform utilizes 'Open Market' equipment; thus costing half as much as a Nortel or Cisco system, yet is just as feature rich and easier to Admin. I would love to have these guys 'kick the tires' on our product!

emily01
emily01

Don't think it can be alternative to visio, if you explore visio 2010 can come to know many advanced features. Now Creating Dynamic data driven diagrams and publishing them online is possible with visio services. Can check this for more details: http://visiotoolbox.com/2010/visio-services.aspx

MrRich
MrRich

Absolutely! Sadly, they took some of the included stuff in Visio (like network discovery) and put that in add-ons - for additional $$$. The package has become painful-to-run bloatware. It crashes all the time as it sucks the life out of my machine. If you need to use some of those specific tools, then stick with Visio. Otherwise, small and efficient is a big improvement.

MotherHen
MotherHen

One of the reasons our Law school purchased a site license was the crime scene templates. How can you not like a graphics tool which includes 4 different types of blood splatters and a hanging body icon?

kirkstarr
kirkstarr

Great questions. I'll tackle the big question first. I certainly don't mean to suggest that this software (or any other) could replace actual knowledge and experience in design. It is true that a person without a dram of design skill could end up creating some incredibly garish monstrosities in SmartDraw, just as they could with any other piece of graphics software. What I found was nice about SmartDraw was that you started with very pretty templates and you were given tools that augment those templates nicely. The end result is (on average) a better looking graphic created in less time. But you are right: there is nothing to stop one from, say, putting orange text on a bright blue background. When there's software that can make up for lack of design skill, I'm out of a job. With regard to what SmartDraw offers that PowerPoint doesn't, I would have a hard time knowing where to begin, to be honest. PowerPoint is great for running your slideshow presentation, but you're going to create the graphics for those slides far more efficiently in SmartDraw, which then easily exports to Office programs like Excel and PowerPoint. Let me put it to you this way: even with my graphic design experience, if I had a client show up tomorrow who needed a complicated flowchart drawn up for a PowerPoint presentation he was giving in a couple days, I'd be firing up SmartDraw to do it. (Give me more time to perfect the logo design for a different client.) Hope I answered all your questions, admiral_2003.

pi3k14
pi3k14

> the mapping looks like fun, though pretty useless to those of us outside the US. Oh, it is usefull for the rest of us, we don't have the same search capabilities, but you can get a map from anywhere in the world. You shouldn't compare this to PowerPoint, it is more like a generic drawing package with support for flowcharts, floorplans, GANT diagrams, calendars etc. I mostly use it for flowcharts and process diagrams when I need to present a nice overview for someone. hth

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Smart Draw is tryig to be an all-in-one program. Yet it suffers compared to what other independant programs offer (as described in other posts I made here). Personally I don't use Visio much these days either, just for network diagramming when designing structured systems. In that case, I have auto discover tools that automatically diagram a network, all nodes including routers, printers, servers etc. And they are proprietary, for which I have stencils. So in that case, Visio is FAR quicker than manual drawing. It is also touted a a graphic program, however reviewing the products fetures and countless updates and fixes, it still lacks what more robust, dedicated, professional print software offers. As I have said before, if you a looking for a general purpose, graphic program for inhouse brochures, PDFs etc, with flow charting abilities, it looks good. For profesisonal graphic design it lacks. MS seems to be looking for a way to sell Visio to a mroe mainstream audience, as well as finding someway to get into the graphics/publishing game (as MS Publisher is a complete joke of a publishing program compared to it's competitors).

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I have seen it as a stripped down Visio or a a merger between Visio and Publiser. So by making a user friendly version of a flowchart program like Visio, more people will buy into it, add on some basic publishing tasks and you have a easy to use program for the average user to do a bit of both. I don't see it as either a publishing program nor a professional diagramming program though. As you say, "the right tool for the job." I would agree if that job is part time or semi-professional diagramming and publishing work. It is vector based, I'll give it that and it apprently does export eps files, but that's not a feat in itself, how well does it import/export vector and retain layers? Even Photoshop falls short in many cases there too.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Okay, well if we are gonna be kids, I can see how you would completely mistake my post for something it wasn't. Yes, it appears to be a stripped down version of Visio. As for commercial print work, magazines, brochures etc. Smart Draw doesn't stack up to Adobe Photoshop, or my favorite, Macromedia's Freehand and Fireworks. Smart draw is more a merger between Visio and Publisher, nice software for the part timeuser. When you look at the list of fixes for each update, they are such elementary additions for a graphics program. I would sit this in with MS Publisher, a rather limited print publishing program. Not robust enough for camera ready, commercial print work but enough for interoffice work, flowcharts etc. Again, for the average user or office employee, it probably does the job, not that those tools aren't already available from other MS software anyway. For professional print work, it lags. In essence, it's just a user friendly Visio with some basic publishing features.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

NO problem with Apple, I am not a MS junkie by any means, in fact I abhor most of their products and business practices. I have always used Visoi for compatibility, even though Mac no whas no problems with that, though it once did. I actually prefer Mac these days, but as i am used ot Visio and it does what I need, I don't gave a problem with it. My comments were with regards to a stripped down Visio, in which case I would look at Mac's offerings again.

dspira99
dspira99

Im up there myself and have used a version of Smartdraw four years ago as a challange to my manager that I could produce network diagrams that would look as good as the graphics department. He took one look at my sample and said "Now we dont have to wait three days to make a change in our diagrams! The graphics department used Visio.

william.ames
william.ames

I appreciated the review. I had used Smart Draw 6 for a project where I had to learn to use the program and deliver results, a functional representation of the GUI interface for the software that controls our Tim of Flight Mass Spectrometer. It did the job and I consider that I am competent with, though not yet a master of Smart Draw. However, I had a new assignment, the same task but with a new version of our product. One of the shortcomings I found in SD6 was the inability to make connecting lines go where I wanted them. I determined that SD 2008 had this new capability and upgraded. Now here is where this applies to your review. Much to my disappointment, I found that SD 2008 has gone to a "ribbon" interface rather then the more useful toolbar/menu interface in SD6. Sometimes a new product is not necessarily better but only different. A review should compare the new to the older version of a product. Also the Help and tutorials for the new version are not nearly as Helpful as those I used when learning SD6. A review would cover these incidental shortcomings. Thank you for taking time to do a review. Bill

DanFan
DanFan

I have used Smartdraw 6 for several years. It is great for creating quick and easy diagrams. Most operations are drag and drop. I see no need to upgrade as V6 does the job very well for us.

jac_arts
jac_arts

Unless you never exchange files for review and change outside of your organization, it's not a Visio or CAD replacement. The conversion procedure's not worth the time. I find Visio easier to use than SmartDraw. 2 nice less expensive alternatives are eDraw Network Diagrammer and DiagramStudio.

kirkstarr
kirkstarr

Sadly, I am not very knowledgeable in Visio and I didn't test any of the add-ons for SmartDraw. I can say that SmartDraw never crashed my system, nor did it suck up my resources in any way that I perceived as out of the ordinary. At the very least, SmartDraw is going to be immediately usable by folks who might not readily "get" Visio. (But again, I don't have a lot of experience with Visio.)

acozean
acozean

can anyone tell me how to make the TEXT "background" TRANSPARENT so it does not obliterate what's beneath it, like a shape? I YEARN FOR CLARISDRAW - NOW THERE WAS A PROGRAM! any help appreciated. anne

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Firstly, I have agreed with you all along, this is not for professional work, but for everyday user that want work to look more professional. I was correctd by one poster on that because the poster felt it was a professional product, for publishing, which you and I both agree it isn't. When you quoted me, I read uqickly and thought you were referring to your initial comments, which was my oversight. In order to lay this to rest, I'll accept that you haven't misrepresented it, in fact I thought your review was quite articulate and accurate. It's just the perception many have received that is a bit off kilter.

kirkstarr
kirkstarr

I didn't miss it. I quoted that very passage of yours in the comment you just replied to. Go back up one and see.* I started my comment with that quote and went on to show how it sort of validated my review. I understand people have misconceptions about what SmartDraw is, but I thought my review made it clear what/whom it was designed for, so my point is that there is a disconnect about what the job is we're talking about. Neither Photoshop nor Visio are "quick and easy". They aren't readily intuitive to "anyone". SmartDraw clearly isn't for *you* and I would hope my review was clear about that. But is the right tool for the demographic it was designed for. *I know the post shows as being edited, but that was only because I went back to make the title of the comment sound less accusatory. I swear the quote was there the whole time. Honest. :)

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

As I replied to your post above, I know what you're saying and agree. However there are still a few here who feel this is a professional publishing tool, and replacement for Visio, which it is not. In the post where I replied to another posters comment, I clearly stated: "As I have said before, if you a looking for a general purpose, graphic program for inhouse brochures, PDFs etc, with flow charting abilities, it looks good. For profesisonal graphic design it lacks. " So again, perhaps you simply missed it in your haste to correct me. That happens a lot around here,we all do it.

kirkstarr
kirkstarr

"As I have said before, if you a looking for a general purpose, graphic program for inhouse brochures, PDFs etc, with flow charting abilities, it looks good." You just validated my entire review. If you go back and re-read it, you will find that I clearly stated from the get-go that SmartDraw is a way for anyone to make professional-looking business graphics quickly and easily when there isn't a budget for a professional designer like me. This software is for the average user to make above-average presentation graphics. Just look at page nine -- does that woman look like she's a publisher or a presenter? She's a presenter and she's using the right tool for her job.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Adobe and Macromedia were toe to toe for years. Macromedia's Freehand was a bit harder to use than Photoshop but did the same thing. Fireworks is a phenominal match foor photoshop, but designed for graphics, not finished publications. Adobe photoshop was being forced to turn into a more user friendly interface, that's why all teh added Adove products, Webeffects, Illustrator, easy photo progs.etc. THey had to find a way to enter the general user market with high end software, which Macromedia was doing in leapsand bounds. So they bought Macromedia, the MM folk all cringed and cried when Adobe came about, thinking they would ditch it for an enhanced Photoshop, but they dudn't, they focused on MM and mergin it's use with Photoshop, for some odd reason they needed two progs that do the same thing. But I will always stick with MM products, the suite is tightly integrated, right on the toolbars with quick editing accessibility throughout the suite. I also build websites so there is another reason to prefer the Macromedia MX Suite....by Adobe. LOL Nah, Adobe is okay, a bit too cartoony these days but still great software once you edit the interface. As for SmartDraw, I agree with you, a good general purpose product. Some here seem to think it outperforms high end graphics publishing software, which as you know it does not. But it's a good stepping stone into the workd of graphic publishing I suppose. Thanks for the article.

kirkstarr
kirkstarr

Thanks for the intelligent discussion, Oz_Media! Much appreciated. It seems, then, that the disconnect is at the definition of the job itself. As I mentioned in my review, SmartDraw claims "anyone can create great-looking business graphics of all kinds in minutes, not hours". Nowhere in there does it say anything about being a publishing program or high-end diagramming tool. I tried to make it clear that SmartDraw is a tool for *office* professionals to quickly and easily create pretty *presentation graphics*. So you see, from the standpoint upon which my review was grounded, it IS the right tool for the job. That job is not one you are involved in, so the software is obviously not right for you. But I can state unequivocally that SmartDraw is the right tool to accomplish the tasks for which it was specifically designed. This is demonstrated most obviously in the fact that Visio doesn't create Org Charts or Certificates or Fliers or Forms or... you get the idea. And Photoshop is holy. Do not speak thee ill of Photoshop! :-P

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

In your first post you waxed lyrical about SmartDraw. Nothing wrong with that, a lot of people are really enthusiastic about products they own or use. But then you went a bit over the top in the second post. And that repeated exhortation to download a trial copy makes you sound suspiciously like a drone for the company. Sorry, I just call 'em the way I see 'em.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Fair enough, I downloaded, installed and reviewd it, though quickly. It's vector tools and image exporting options are not up to par with competitive products. No professional colour matching, poor translation of layers, eps export is limited etc. My publishers would wonder what I had been doing if I sent them files from this. I often design corporate portfolios for public companies, the colour matching muct be absolute as they have registered marks and colour schemes, this falls short. I use Visio for automatic network discovery/diagramming with proprietary stencils, again this falls short. Perhaps a good all around program for someone who wants a decent suite that includes both worlds but not a professional design app by any means. Than again, Ferrari doesn't make good window blinds, they are a car manufacturer. This has it's place, as a general purpose 'suite' ,just not on my desktop.

CHRISTINEVT
CHRISTINEVT

I have to say, I completely disagree that SmartDraw is a "stripped down" version of Visio. Having used both, I can say that especially with the new version, SmartDraw does lots more?and, at a better price! SmartDraw really automates the process of making flowcharts, flyers, org charts, etc. It also offers lots of bells and whistles Visio does not?ie, the integration with Google Maps, photo editing capabilities, and really cool picture charts. I've used the program to create print-ready ads and the results have always been awesome. People always ask me what graphic designer I use! And, it?s a heck of a lot easier then lots of the other programs out there. Try it and you will see! You can download a free trial at www.smartdraw.com.

kirkstarr
kirkstarr

"[I've] used a version of Smartdraw four years ago as a challange to my manager that I could produce network diagrams that would look as good as the graphics department. He took one look at my sample and said "Now we dont have to wait three days to make a change in our diagrams!" Quite right, dspira99. The point I tried to make in the review is that for people who work for companies that either have no design team or have issues with workflow bottleneck when dealing with a design team, SmartDraw is an excellent solution.

danhoff123
danhoff123

The number of people who think Visio is easier to use than pretty much any other piece of software is a small, small number (outside maybe Microsoft employees). A program like SmartDraw, when used by the general business person, would no doubt be seen as much easier to use than Visio. Not to mention that the number of diagrams, maps, charts, etc. that can easily be created in SmartDtaw 2008 is much greater than Visio. Visio has a small number of features that SmartDraw does not have, but those cater typically to the IT professional themself, not to the majority of users that they support in their organization.

acozean
acozean

that did the trick. appreciate your help! anne

william.ames
william.ames

Open the Fill dialog and select the transparent options.

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