I am a reasonably advanced user of all sorts of graphics tools and recently bought Visio, against SmartDraw, as I had hit a problem with my previous tool OpenOffice Draw.
OpenOffice Draw strengths are the consistent use of styles, which makes it easy to add structure to collections of objects; the intuitive powerpoint like use of multiple pages in a document; the XML document structure which we leverage through scripting; and the fact you can make it accessible to everyone everywhere. However the graphics rendering is 1990's, the text entry is primitive, the PNG rendering is locked into 72dpi, and the connector drawing is not only weak but can get corrupted on saves.
SmartDraw's strengths in the 3 hours that I used it were that it was user friendly, and the stamping multiple objects tool really did work. However I found the excessive advertising noise obtrusive, the help hard to get at and not that useful, and in the end I don't really need the extra automation as I am not in the business of simply cranking out chains of boxes. The graphics interactions also bothered me as they had some of the klunkiness of OpenOffice, for example in the way that it responded when you grabbed objects, and in the drawing of connectors.
It took me about an hour to redraw an improved version of my SmartDraw work from opening the Visio box. The connector drawing in it is really great, as are the text management and object alignment tools, and will save me a huge amount of distracting edit time. I'm looking forward to playing with the polygon union and the database diagram creation tools! Having used the two tools (SmartDraw / Visio) in rapid succession my most important comment is that the interactive graphic feel of Visio is much smoother and more accomplished, quite independently of how the buttons are laid out etc..
My only gripe is that it's not a package that we can afford to distribute to everyone, which strongly restricts what it can be used for.
I would recomend you try FastStone image viewer. I have tried many and this one is not only free (although I have contributed donations many times) but it does everything you want from one screen easily and intuitively. You use the four sides of the screen to pop up varios cammand groups. It is so quick.
Hi -- this was simply a blog -- not an article or an advert -- just my off-the-head thoughts. I agree that for me Visio is well worth the money -- I have years of experience with it plus I have already paid for two Visio 2010 licenses.
Re why is this in a "quality engineering magazine" -- there are a lot of engineers out there who simply want to make professional looking presentations without a huge learning curve. I mean, have you sat through a typical presentation created by an engineer (other than myself) -- they need all the help they can get -- for them I think SmartDraw might be worth looking at -- the folks at SmartDraw where kind enough to give me an online demo and I thought I'd pass what I'd learned on.
Regards -- Max
Was this an advertisement or an article? I am still trying to understand why it is in a "quality" engineering magazine.
You pay top dollar for Visio for the same reason you pay more money for Mentor PADs, Altium Designer, etc. versus DipTrace, EasyPCB, PCB123, etc. You "MAY" be able to do almost anything with the low end packages, but at what ultimate cost? Usually your time. For me, time is money. I don't have a lot of it. I have likely recovered the cost of a higher end PCB CAD package in one contract when I look at the time I have saved and not to mention avoiding just one error that could set me back weeks.
Visio may not be mission critical software, but the results are still important.
That said, not being a mechanical CAD specialist, I do not have a strong need for the latest in Autocad and hence purchased a lower cost package mainly for viewing and making minor changes and markups.
For you who it seems drawings are mission critical, stick to Visio. If you make 100 drawings a year, that works out to $3.33 / drawing assuming a 3 year update cycle. Assuming it takes an hour to make a drawing, you are likely getting many times that value in salary/commission.
What is your time worth?
If you're looking for 3D capability without too much of a price tag and don't like Google Sketchup, then you are where I was 6 months ago. I settled on Alibre. They have a amazingly good free version as well as some tempting paid for versions. It may not be what you are looking for, but it sounds like it just might be.
I tried Google Sketchup but was not happy with the user interface. I really was looking for a more 3D capable package than Viso provides but Sketchup was too hard to get to work right given my need to fix sizes and relationships. I was hoping that it would be easier than a full blown 3D CAD tool, no luck. I will continue to use Visio but will always be looking for the next best thing..
I just ran across this amazing program a few weeks. MS bought them several years ago and they offer their product for free - Creature House Expression 3. Even though it is several years old it has features I have not seen in today's tools.
There is a user group at: