When I was asked to review SmartDraw, the first thing that caught my attention is SmartDraw’s bold claim that they brought desktop power to an online app.
While I only create visuals for an occasional presentation, I am familiar with Cloud applications and they’re often limited compared to their desktop counterparts. Just think about Google’s Spreadsheets vs. Microsoft’s Excel. Google Spreadsheet is great for the occasional data dump and when you need to collaborate with someone, but it certainly doesn’t have the power to format and analyze that Excel does. So I was curious to see how SmartDraw’s new online application would handle being online while making complicated technical diagrams. Without jumping too far ahead of myself, let’s say I was pleasantly surprised.
SmartDraw Software has been around for over 20 years making an easy-to-use diagramming application used by millions of people in 250,000 public and private enterprises around the world, many in the Fortune 500.
This year, they built a version of SmartDraw called SmartDraw Cloud that can run on any device or platform: on Mac, Windows, or Linux.
When it comes to creating visuals, the perception is that it’s difficult and reserved for those with specialized skill and talent. Ask anyone who has ever used Microsoft Visio and they’ll confess that creating complex visuals is a difficult task with a long learning curve.
When I first opened SmartDraw, I was momentarily overwhelmed by the number of options. They definitely didn’t skimp on content. Scrolling through their opening screen, I saw icons and thumbnails for hundreds of templates: flowcharts, network diagrams, strategic planning, org charts, floor plans, and so on. The exact number according to SmartDraw is over 4500.
After a few minutes with the product and trying to make a simple org chart, it’s clear that SmartDraw believes making visuals should be easy, even for a novice like me. They do this through a combination of smart tools and intelligent, automated templates that put the right tools at your fingertips and react intelligently to changes you make like moving or deleting shapes. I had no problems moving a shape from one branch to another. Nothing had to be redrawn or rethought. It was like the program anticipated what I wanted to happen.
Text formatted like I wanted and changing colors and themes was easy. I even inserted a table into one of my org chart boxes. SmartDraw handled the transition from simple to complex without any problems. I was impressed. To circle back around to the initial claim that got my attention about desktop power in an online application, it was easy to forget I was working in my browser.
If you’re thinking about replacing Visio because of usability or cost, SmartDraw is clearly a powerful alternative with lots of templates, symbols, and ease of use that would probably be a breath of fresh air for the average user struggling with Visio.
SmartDraw would also be the ideal solution if your organization has a mixed platform environment. Visio doesn’t exist on a Mac. SmartDraw, on the other hand, can be accessed from any platform and it can import your old Visio files to make the transition not as daunting.
Sharing files is also pretty easy and intuitive. Most apps use sharing as a way to collect email addresses of prospects. SmartDraw does not. You can email a link to anyone without worrying about having them sign up for an account. SmartDraw also hooked into my existing Dropbox account and it can also connect to Google Drive and OneDrive.
If you’ve been looking for a Visio alternative, whether you’re on a Windows or Mac, we encourage you to give SmartDraw a try. It’s better than LucidChart that we discussed earlier while talking about the Visio alternative for Mac. You can sign up for a free SmartDraw Cloud account here: https://cloud.smartdraw.com. You can check their service during free trial to make decision.
SmartDraw Cloud is $12.95/month billed annually. SmartDraw is also available for Windows in three editions, all of which come bundled with a year subscription to SmartDraw Cloud. Standard is $197, Business is $297, and their Enterprise Edition is $497. See more: https://www.smartdraw.com/buy/
SmartDraw also offers a reasonable solution for anyone hoping to move their entire company away from Visio for one low price.