The Compass DeRose Guide to ConceptDraw™
This page was written by Steven J. DeRose, and was last updated on 2003-03-22.
ConceptDraw is a great drawing package for diagrams, presentations, orgcharts flowcharts, schematics, family trees, and so on. It's a lot like Visio™ but I think it is better, and I've put up this page to make it more accessible. It's available from Computer System Odessa.
Some of the especially good features of ConceptDraw include:
- It runs on just about every platform you could want.
- It has built-in support for FTP.
- It has many libraries of pre-drawn symbols for many domains: network, process, chemical, and electrical engineering, web design, business and marketing diagrams, floor plans, electric circuits, UML, database structuring, special libraries of connectors and measuring tools. etc. This includes both raster and vector data: so you have national flags as well as flowchart connectors and boxes.
- It has the great feature that you can change an existing figure from one library symbol type to another, while preserving it's associated text, connections, and style/format features. This is an incredible time-saver.
- It's loaded with nice details like "make all the selected figures the same size/style/..."
- It has pretty extensive functionality that you can attach to hyperlinks, which can originate at any object.
- It has much more sophisticated concepts of snapping, glueing, and grouping than many other products. You can pick just which kinds of things are eligible for snapping to; create your own gluable points; glue to invisible guide lines. Besides the normal group/ungroup, you can combine figures, causing them to become not just a group that moves and scales together; but an actual compound figure with unified properties (line, fill, etc) for all its parts.
- It let you get direct access to all the properties of objects via a spreadsheet-like interface. You can lock an object's rotation, X or Y position or size, etc; reposition and restyle the associated text box; and many other things directly. Looking at the table also makes it much easier to figure out what's really going on in complicated objects.
- It costs far less than Visio (especially if you buy the lower-end version at $149 US); as far as I can tell, the only difference is that you get fewer libraries.
- I've been using it for well over a year, for some very complicated diagrams, and I don't recall it having crashed even once.
- Although it doesn't write out SVG yet, it does write an XML form that you can then adjust with XSLT or other tools; and they provide a free downloadable viewer so you can put diagrams on your Web pages without having to convert them to JPEG all the time.
I have only run into a few problems so far, and Software Systems Odessa has been very responsive to my tech support questions and suggestions.
While the documentation is great for reference, it doesn't include a "Quick-Start" guide, so I am starting one here. The interface is logical enough that I got a long way just by intuition -- but I missed a few of the very best features and occasionally got frustrated thinking they had left out a really crucial feature -- usually it turned out I had just missed it. So I adivse that you actually read the documentation, or at least skim through it.
Perhaps the most important of these is the "smart connector" button: select a bunch of figures and click it, and it does the right thing to connect them. Major time saver once I discovered it.
I strongly recommend making this for your primary drawing package. Nearly all the diagrams on my Website have been drawn with ConceptDraw, and I have no significant complaints or problems with the system.
Oh, I should mention that I have no relationship to the company except as a (very) satisfied customer.
Some sample drawings and libraries
A set of symbols for use in drawing genograms.
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