SmartDraw 2010

CNET Editors' Rating 5.0 stars

Spectacular

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  • 2.0 stars

    "Like having both hands tied behind my back"

    December 21, 2010  |   By flatsix_dc

    Pros

    -Possible to create aesthetically-pleasing diagrams
    -Symbols are easy to search for, and are relatively numerous
    -Simple (but see the Cons)

    Cons

    -Simple, as in you have scarcely any control over configuration
    -Shortcut key bindings are a gigantic mess, totally unconfigurable
    -Sales and marketing tactics are incredibly consumer-unfriendly

    Summary

    I've used SmartDraw 2007, 2009, and now VP (called 2010 here). I prefer 2007 over the newer ones, but I'll restrict my comments here to 2010. This is a profoundly frustrating application to use. In short, I hated it.

    Configuration options? Spelling on and off, some other spell-check stuff. That's about it. Simply incredible. (And, honestly, who needs spell-check in a diagram?) Absolutely nothing else can be configured. Shortcut keys? Sorry buddy.

    And that's a problem. Standard windows shortcut keys like Ctrl+Left and Ctrl+Right for skipping from word to word while editing text are mapped to some crazy auto-shape-insert feature that will wreck your diagram. You can't change this. Maddening! At least Ctrl+Z is correctly mapped to Undo so you can unwreck it.

    That huge ribbon? Sorry, it's either there or it isn't.

    In the end I requested a refund using their frankly hilarious, and totally undocumented, refund procedure (email support requesting a refund, then await hilarious instructions... unlike any I have ever seen for software).

    SmartDraw's philosophy appears to be: "By giving the user a choice in configuration of application behavior, we (i.e., SmartDraw) would be admitting that we couldn't figure it out ourselves." I'll grant that, very often, software designers have a better understanding of use cases and user interface design, but many aspects of application behavior cannot be judged like this, and that's why a philosophy like that is rubbish. The broken and unconfigurable shortcut key mappings are a perfect example. Terrible work, folks.

    Finally, their sales tactics really rub me the wrong way. When I had 2007, I was suckered into upgrading to 2009. Mistake. I couldn't figure out what I had just paid for. After I rebuilt my computer, I lost the downloaded install for 2009. Oh, too bad. Because 2009 had by then (early 2010) been replaced by 2010/VP, and it's *impossible* to download an old version, even with a valid license key. I'm not talking about continuing support for 2009. I'm talking about making the install available for download. I had a heated exchange with their tech support, in which they flatly refused to help, since that product had been replaced by 2010. Basically, "Upgrade or $*^% off." And they do this every year. So don't lose your installer.

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