At a Glance
- Great communication tool; Fast; Accurate
- No help search; Menus confusing, Up-sell pressure
Create fast and accurate visuals, diagrams, and other graphics using a drag-and-drop process.
Imagine that your boss asked you to provide a graphic mere
minutes before a meeting. Or you need to add a sales map graphic to
Powerpoint. Or you need to create an accurate engineering diagram.
When you have a graphics project to pull together in a hurry,
accurately, and with some shiny bells and loud whistles, you need a
program like SmartDraw. Billed as the world’s first “visual
processor,” SmartDraw VP works like a word processor, but churns
out graphics rather than words.
SmartDraw VP includes templates for pretty much any graphic
you’d ever need to create–some more usable than others–including
cause and effect models, charts, decision trees, engineering
models, floor plans, flowcharts, forms, graphs, mind maps, regular
maps, network diagrams, org charts, presentations, project
management models, and timelines. Plus it includes unique forms,
drawings, and templates for particular professions, such as
accounting, education, health care, law enforcement, paralegal, and
Once you choose your template, SmartDraw VP automatically
customizes itself to contain relevant items. For example, if you
need to create a floor plan, open a template and the SmartPanel
will supply drag and drop furniture, fixtures, walls, windows, etc.
You can access all of SmartDraw’s library components regardless of
the template you’re using. However, the help menu–which acts like
a step-by-step cheat sheet–while great for modifying a template,
isn’t searchable, which is frustrating if you’re looking for
something outside of your chosen template.
SmartDraw can export HTML; PDF; or BMP, Enhanced Metafile, GIFF,
Metafile, JPEG, PNG, and TIFF, image files. Alternatively, place
your graphic directly into Microsoft Project, Outlook, or Office
Suite (but not the Oracle OpenOffice.org
equivalent). Animated and sequenced presentations are easy to
create in SmartDraw, and export seamlessly into Microsoft
SmartDraw VP uses Microsoft Office
2010‘s interface as a model, including the tab-oriented ribbon
and menu groupings, which is great if you are familiar with Office
2010 and annoying if you’re not. I don’t use Microsoft Office 2010
much, so the Ctrl+Z shortcut got a lot of use until someone pointed
out the swooshy arrow thing that I didn’t recognize as an undo
button. A bigger problem: The pop-up menu items are barely legible
with my 1920 by 1080 pixel screen, and even at SmartDraw’s
recommended resolution of 1280 by 1024.
For one-time fee of $297, SmartDraw VP comes with unlimited
support and a free one-hour SmartDraw team training session,
including Q&A, over GoToMeeting. The company really pushes its
“Platinum Protection Plan”, which cost an additional $50 per year
and gives you priority support, a backup CD, and free access to
patches and upgrades. SmartDraw’s free trial lasts seven days, adds
a watermark to anything you create, and includes printing
restrictions. After downloading the trial, SmartDraw currently
gives you a $100 discount coupon to apply to the cost of purchasing
the full version.
Compared to Microsoft Visio, the industry standard for creating
org charts, mind maps, and infrastructure diagrams, SmartDraw holds
its own for around the same price. What SmartDraw offers that Visio
does not is the ability to customize maps, create accurate 3D
charts and graphs, animate slides for PowerPoint, and generally
draw anything quickly, efficiently, and relatively artistically. If
this is what you need from a visual processor, SmartDraw is a great
SmartDraw VP is less about business administration than about
communicating visually. If you need to quickly create and share
effective, clear graphics, and don’t mind the aggressive marketing
plan and constant push to up-sell, try SmartDraw.