A Red and Green Compass Rose, logo for the Compass DeRose Guide Series. The Compass DeRose Guide to ConceptDraw™

This page was written by Steven J. DeRose, and was last updated on 2003-03-22.

This is gradually becoming a quick-start guide to ConceptDraw™, an excellent draing package available on many platforms from Computer Systems Odeassa.

Note: As far as I know the interface is essentially identical on all platforms. But I myself use ConceptDraw on Mac OS X.

Some random tips

Use the smart connector tool rather than specific types of connectors.

See the section below on configuring, set up all the options the way you like, save that as a template, and then make it your default template.

You can drag a "guide line" out of either ruler. This is useful for getting a lot of things to line up evenly and stay that way. You can set snap and glue so things snap to guidelines.

When you want to re-use a color from the palette, count the number of rows down and across where it's found; otherwise you'll likely pick an adjacent color sometimes, instead of the one you really meant.

When you select a bunch of objects, a "primary" one is marked with green handles. If you do a "make same size/style/..." commant on the set, the primary object is the one that will control the others.

If you're using the multi-tree figure, trying to move it can easily end up with you rotating it instead (I haven't figured out why yet). If that happens, go ahead and move it where you wanted, then select the rotate tool, hold down shift to constrain it to horizontal or vertical, and rotate it back to normal. Everything should come out fine.

You can glue a connector not just to points on the perimiter of a figure, but also to the center. This is useful if you may move the figure enough later that you'd want a different glue point. But if you do this, the connector really does start from the center, so you probably don't want an arrow or anything at that end; and you probably want it to be behind the figure (if it shows up on top, select it and hit Cmd-B to move it to the back).

Setting your drawing size is done under File/Document Properties..., under the Page tab. You can freely draw really big stuff, and ConceptDraw will neatly chop it into page-sized pieces on printing, or scale it to fit within a certain number of pages, at your option.

Fixed grid is nicer if you edit at various zooms, because your snap-to positions don't change. HOwever, fixed grids print, so you may want to turn the grid off before printing.

Many toolbars correspond closely to particular menus, despite having different names.

If you don't like the figure you choose for some use (say, you want to change to a different figure for all your callouts), select the figure you want to change to (either an example of it you've already drawn, or the figure's icon in a library), then shift-select all the instances you want to change to that type. Then choose Edit/Substitute and they'll all change to the new type of figure, but keep their original style (line, fill, font, etc), content, attachments, etc. This feature alone may be worth the full product price.

Nudge figures slightly by using the arrow keys; that way you don't have to turn off snapping to adjust a figure off the grid. Shifted arrow keys move things faster.

If you get confused, check to make sure you haven't accidentally switched to the "rotate" tool. To get back to the normal selection tool, click it in the drawing tools toolbar, or hit CMD-1 (CMD-2 will get you the rotate tool).

Remember that holding down Shift while you do something, generally constrains it. For example, dragging one end of a line with Shift down keeps it vertical or horizontal (or perhaps 45 degrees is allowed too...).

If you don't like the available line-widths, select the relevant objects, pick Figure/Show Table..., and set any value you like there by typing it in. Unfortunately you can't do the same with line styles (say, by giving a list of lengths for segments of a dashed line). By the way, a thick border line has its thickness centered on the nominal boundary location of the figure. So if you're using snap and glue, the center of the line will be snapped to its location, not either edge.

Configuring it to start:

Set these preferences:

Go to ConceptDraw/Preferences/Default (or Edit/Preferences..., which is exactly the same thing), and choose your default units of measure (imperial or metric), and default page size (you can set any page size you want for particular documents -- if your printer isn't big enough, ConceptDraw will neatly separate the drawing and print the pieces).

Go to View and turn on the options you like. I prefer having Rulers, Grid, Guides, Connection Points, and Connection Points in Groups.

Go to View / Toolbars / Customize to make the ones you want visible (you can also set them individually from View/Toolbars itself). I prefer these settings:

Main toolbar off

This has the usual File menu items. I find Cut/Copy/Paste much easier using the standard Command-keys; and the other tings are not things you do all the time, so save the screen space.

Drawing tools off

This provides the selection arrow (what you mostly want). All the same stuff is available in the Tools menu. Other than the selection arrow, you probably won't use these items much, so I wouldn't keep it visible.

The File/Document Properties... dialog also provides many useful settings, mostly involving how large drawings are printed. However, to set the page size for a large drawing, you need to go to

Later you'll want to go back to the Preference/Default dialog, and specify a file to use as a template -- then when you create a new file, it will start out with all its settings the way they are in that template file.

Major Drawing and Page options

To change the page size,



Find the "Smart Connector" and "Direct Connector" buttons. They're at the beginning of the "Additional Tools" toolbar, which you can switch on fromthe View/Toolbars... menu. These two connnectors will do most of what you need, pretty much automatically. By using them, you can skip even learning about most of the other connector types in the libraries.

A smart connector

Aligning things neatly

Managing colors, line, font, and fill styles

The "Additional Tools" toolbar is also important because it gives you buttons to turn on snap (moved objects snap to reasonable places like connection points, gridlines, etc (you can control many parameters of snapping, but the defaults are usually just fine), and glue (fixed attachment to attachment points on figures, so that when you move the figure the connector stays connected. To me this is the single most important feature in a drawing program.

You can add more attachpoint points (for gluing connectors to), by using the "Connection Point" tool in the "Drawing" toolbar.

When you open libraries, you don't get a preview of what's in them. But there's a PDF file that shows them all -- print this out and keep it as a handy reference, even though you'll get to know the libraries you commonly use quickly enough.

First thing on creating a new document, set the font size larger (it defaults to 8 pt), pick your preferred font, and set the grid to Fixed instead of Non-fixed (Under Tools/Grid...).

Back to home page of Steve DeRose or The Bible Technologies Group. or The Bible Technologies Group Working Groups. Or, contact me via email (fix the punctuation).