I’ve been using SmartDraw since 2003 when I first looked for a Visio replacement to create diagrams and other visual graphics. My initial search had me looking for something cheaper than Visio, and at the time, SmartDraw was about 75% cheaper. I purchased SmartDraw 6, actually wrote an unpaid endorsement for the product and became a beta tester for SmartDraw 7, for which I received a free copy of that version – a good deal. I’m also an affiliate which means that I can refer potential customers and receive a small commission for my efforts. Since SmartDraw is a small company with what I consider a good product, I don’t mind this relationship.
After downloading 2007, I found it to be a quantum leap beyond the previous versions. It is much more intuitive and I was creating floor plans in minutes (my next task on our Commons project). I had tried with the previous version but it was a heck of a lot more work. I should add that if you create drawings in the new SmartDraw 2007 you won’t be able to open them in SD version 7, even though they each have the same *.sdr extension.
So what are the pros and cons here? First, SmartDraw has reduced their free trial period from 30 days to 7 days. I don’t think that this is enough time to really evaluate it. The 30 day free trial for version 6 helped me to decide to purchase it. As for price, SmartDraw 2007 is currently selling for $197 ($100 off until 7 Nov). That compares with Visio Professional at $499 or $199 for Visio standard. We cheapskates also have another free, less featured, online product available called Gliffy, and yes it does floor plans. Anyway, you have several choices.
From feedback on this post as well as some e-mails I’ve received, I’d say that one of SmartDraw’s main drawbacks is that it’s not flexible for people who do intensive graphics, and they may prefer something like Adobe Illustrator. Personally, I use Gimp (free & open source) if I need to do any serious graphic editing. A couple of people have said that they are having difficulty removing SmartDraw from their Windows PC’s but I didn’t experience any problems. SmartDraw is a good tool if you need more than an online application like Gliffy, but you don’t create large diagrams that may need two monitors. Basically, SmartDraw is a mid-level application, with lots of built-in features that advanced users may find a pain (similar to the way that professional photographers don’t like automatic cameras).
Tony [see comments # 26, 27, 28 & 30)] has set up a Google Group, Drawing-Smartly, to discuss drawing programs (including but not limited to SmartDraw). I think it will be a better medium than this blog post, so please join if you’re interested in learning more
Final (I hope) Update: There is now a SmartDraw Blog to voice your opinions.