ConceptDraw Pro 9 - Artistic Abilities Not Required

ConceptDraw's Pro 9 diagram and presentation software promises to help you create diagrams, charts, and more even if you have the artistic abilities of a toddler. By James E. Gaskin

A technical genius unable to communicate clearly is just another nerd confusing the civilians. Visual communications cut through acronyms, technical terms, and convoluted syntax. While a blank page may scare people who claim they have no artistic ability and can barely draw a stick figure, ConceptDraw’s Pro 9 diagram and presentation software can help you create illuminating diagrams, charts, maps, computer networks, flow charts, organization charts, and SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) analysis displays faster and better than you could draw them by hand, even if you had talent.

Installation and Setup

We downloaded the 21-day free trail software bundle that included Pro 9, as well as MindMap 7 and Project 6 from the ConceptDraw.com website. Installation into Windows 8 was straightforward, although there were a fair amount of updates to apply, as if the downloaded file was the exact same as the boxed version that ships on disc rather than an up-to-date compilation.

Our software included dozens of templates in the library, each of which included a handful to hundreds of objects to place in our drawing. ConceptDraw also uses the Solution Park portion of their website, accessed through the Solution Park tab in the program, to update libraries and add new ones. For instance, if your business is more outside than in, you might want to download the Nature pack that includes samples, templates, and libraries of vector graphics clipart of geography and weather.

Using Pro 9

The opening screen of Pro 9 looks a bit like a diagram. You can uncheck the box to skip this diagram intro in the future you want (see the checkbox by the cursor).

We first checked out the Samples and Templates option and opened the program to see a long list of templates on the left, contextual help and descriptions on the right, and thumbnails of the sample objects in the middle. The Computers & Networking template is highlighted in this screenshot. The highlighted template on the top left of the center section, Active Directory Diagram, includes a handful of samples in the bottom portion of the center area.

Since tracking Active Directory information often gets skipped because it’s tough to keep current, we selected the Active Directory Diagram sample and moved it to the center work area. We edited the text of the headline to “Active Directory – Acme, Inc.” as an example of preparing a customer document.

Everything in the center work area can be moved, modified, or deleted, and have more items added. It’s hard to see because the symbols and type shrink as you shrink the application window, but we changed the items in the Computer User and Group Policies window at the top left and center. It’s easy to change the default “Client 3 Organizational Unit” as in the top right object to “John Doe Accounting” as in the top left object. We also dragged in an extra volume as well as a Print Queue into the top center object.

The information in the border to the right can be changed from Dynamic Help (default) to Pages (track the various pages in the current diagram), Layers (1-3), Behaviour (interaction with lines and boxes, how to select, how to group, and what happens when you double-click), Information (size, position, diagram information like name, layer, and ID).

Starting with a blank page is far less scary when you have plenty of drag-and-drop symbols to get you started. In this case, we’re still in the Computers & Networks template library, but are placing individual symbols from the Cisco Basic symbol group on the page. We first put a Router with Firewall at the top left, then a Wireless Router to the lower right of that, and are selecting a Workgroup Switch to add to the page.

Next we added some laptops for the Wireless Router, then some PCs for the Workgroup Switch. While you might think that meant seven drag-and-drop operations, Pro 9’s “Smart Behavior” makes it simple to place multiple copies of a symbol. While dragging, just hold down a Control key, and every time you click another copy of the symbol will be placed in the workspace.

If you have Auto-connection mode turned on, each new symbol will be connected in either Chain or Tree mode. Forgot to turn on Auto-connection? No problem – just select the objects to be connected using the select tool, then click on Chain or Tree in the top ribbon-type display. While objects are still selected you can also change the type of line (Smart to route around existing objects, Spline to create those snakey lines, or rounded corners with a selectable radius) and all will change at once. No hand-drawing of lines, ever.

Text you add to identify connecting lines stays on the longest portion of that line whenever you move objects around. In fact, everything you add sticks to objects unless you specifically separate them, and you can group a subset of your objects so you can move and modify them as if the set was a single object.

Finished? Print in a variety of ways, or create a presentation. No reason your PowerPoint slides have to be full of text anymore. Just don’t cram 73 objects connected by 212 lines on a single page like so many presenters do.

Conclusion

ConceptDraw Pro 9 can become a time-sink as you discover you can make diagrams better than you’ve ever done before. As you look through the hundreds of included objects in various libraries and sample sets, time will zoom away from you. But with just a little practice, you can start making diagrams that look better than anything your company has ever seen.

Pricing: $199 direct, available through multiple online sources besides ConceptDraw. Volume and academic discounts are available. Resellers should contact Lifeboat Distribution (http://www.lifeboatdistribution.com/)

More reviews from the ConceptDraw Suite! See ConceptDraw Project 6 Review | ConceptDraw MindMap 7 Review

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