Software for drawing, but not CAD

June 16, 2005
One rule of lean design is that you don't reinvent "wheels."

The process diagram (on the right) is one of dozens in the program's engineering section. Different libraries of symbols are to the left. A few symbols for material handling are at lower left. These can be dragged onto drawings along with piping from other libraries.

The Help file shows how symbols and lines can be positioned and modified.

A fluid-power wizard holds 16 libraries. Picking on any opens a file of components that can be added to drawings.

If a component exists, use it. SmartDraw V7 software accommodates this idea with hundreds of already-drawn components that users drag and drop into flowcharts, organizational charts, floor plans, Gantt charts, calendars, and technical diagrams. Other possibilities include business forms, network and software designs, business process management, and flyers. A few unusual libraries hold drawings for the human body and its parts.

Users can set up a diagram or chart by selecting one already drawn and modifying it, or selecting a page with a title block and filling it with needed components, information, and callouts. I learned the ins and outs of the software by selecting a process diagram and modifying it with additional lines, symbols, and text.

The software is almost easy enough to figure out without referring to the tutorials. That is partly because drawing tips pop up to tell of features and suggest other ways of doing things.

One unusual function lets users add any of 17 different charts to drawings. Just pick a general chart description, such as a 3D pie chart, and several variations come up. Drag the one that looks most useful to the drawing area. The charts are already filled with pseudo information, so you know what it can do or present. A spreadsheet also appears behind the chart with values that suggest changing them will reproportion the pie shapes. And it does.

Dozens of libraries hold hundreds of drawn components. Opening a power-plant diagram, for example, opens a library of mechanical components for fluid and heat power, and piping and instrumentation diagrams. After dragging a symbol or component sketch to a drawing, such as a pressure blower, it can connect to piping or tubing from other libraries. If things are not positioned exactly, picking on the item highlights it for relocation. The developers will let you download a copy of the software for a 30-day evaluation.

SmartDraw V7 comes from
9909 Mira Mesa Blvd., Suite 300
San Diego, CA 92131
(858) 225-3342

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