When I received SmartDraw, I honestly believed I would be reviewing a computer program that was totally geared to the business world. My husband does have a small side business, and I thought this would be a neat product to try out...as his official "secretary" of course. Plus, one of my twin daughters enjoys anything to do with computer graphics, so I decided this program would benefit and foster her growing skills. I had no idea of the vast and almost innumerable possibilities that awaited us when I installed the program!
Yes, SmartDraw does have many, many business graphics including flowcharts, organization charts, floor plans, presentations, office layouts, mind maps, sales territory maps, Gantt charts, network, and marketing options but there is so much more! As a homeschooling mom, I was pleasantly surprised to find hundreds of charts/graphics that will assist me in my school planning and home management areas as well.
I love the calendars, certificates, maps, landscape plans, and hundreds of blank forms for everything from to-do lists, to timelines and graphs, to financial planning records. You can use the pre-drawn templates, or you can create your own. I especially appreciated all the "heavy educational content" options in the areas of astronomy, biology, chemistry/labs, math and physics, and Venn diagrams. What a super resource that was hiding in the simple little tri-fold cd case! Plus the documents/charts can be exported to any Microsoft Office program, and you can create a PDF with a single click. Amazing!
I’m also a budding genealogist, and I was so happy to discover all the "family tree" charts that were included. With very little effort on my part, I can plug in the names of ancestors and descendants onto the available charts to create a wonderful resource to use in my research.
Although I didn’t explore each and every feature of SmartDraw, I can honestly say that I found the program somewhat easy to figure out and use. Of course, a good working knowledge of the computer and the ability to use toolbars common to most word processing programs would be helpful. However, there is a very comprehensive user’s guide on the CD-rom, in addition to unlimited, live, free support included.
This product is designed to run on the following operating systems:
Now on to cost. I was a bit shocked when I discovered the price of SmartDraw 2008 on their website. It retails for $197.00! I double-checked that fact several times just to be sure! In this case, I guess you get what you pay for—an almost limitless resource for charts, graphs, graphics, etc. Older versions sell for a fraction of that cost, but I honestly don’t expect many homeschooling families can invest that much money on graphics software. However, there is a free trial download on www.smartdraw.com, so that’s a nice option if you’d like to give this product a try. Plus there were several links on the website for educators that direct you to academic resellers where students/faculty/schools can get SmartDraw at a discount. The lowest price I found was $119.99.
- Windows Vista
- Windows XP
- Windows 2000
Although the program may be cost prohibitive for many people, I will say that SmartDraw is an excellent resource...not only for businesses, but for homeschooling families as well.
—Product review by: Amy M. O’Quinn, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2008.
Wow! My whole family loves exciting graphics, and we found a goldmine of tools in SmartDraw! SmartDraw was created as a business graphics program so that anyone could create professional-looking graphics in minutes. But trust me, it goes way beyond just business graphics. The program retails for $297 through the company, but we purchased the Education Edition (which is a full edition plus extra educational templates) for $49 through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op (www.homeschoolbuyersco-op.org). SmartDraw starts with more than 100 types of charts and diagrams, including flowcharts, timelines, organizational charts, calendars, flyers, floor plans, worksheets, maps, and many, many more projects. For each type of chart or diagram, you can start with a blank template that allows you to very easily enter your data and have the computer do the hard formatting work. Or you can choose from hundreds of sample templates that can be quickly adapted to your own needs. Everything from fonts to graphics to colors is customizable so that you can make your project look just the way you want it.
Let's look at a sample to illustrate the power of this program. Perhaps I've asked my son to prepare a topographical map of our county. He can pull up the blank map template and enter our zip code, then choose satellite or road map, or a road map over the satellite map, then select to highlight our county. He can add labels, such as where our house is located, or any special landmarks. The project takes maybe ten minutes and results in a beautiful satellite map with all of the necessary information. Or if I wanted to write a lesson plan, the Education Edition of the program provides 12 different samples that can be quickly adapted to my specific style and needs. Or maybe you are using timelines and want to have an easier way to represent your information. You can use SmartDraw to easily draw a timeline including a variety of different types of labels and add relevant pictures to increase interest in the project. There are also many excellent projects ready to use, such as a very clear periodic table, charts of the major constellations, parts of a eukaryotic cell, or a food pyramid, or Mendelian genetics, and the list goes on and on. There are some wonderful worksheets, such as compare and contrast maps, a wide variety of Venn diagrams, idea maps, pie charts, sequence charts, family trees, certificates for a job well done, garden plans, home and auto maintenance lists, and many, many more. Basically SmartDraw can help you make a professional-looking project from anything that you can represent graphically, and it also has many tools to help you brainstorm and organize data. The number of ways this can be used by homeschoolers is limited only by your imagination. The company's website (www.SmartDraw.com) has excellent examples so that you can see the quality and versatility of SmartDraw before buying the program. They offer a free trial period (if you want to download the product to see if you like it) and a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you have nothing to lose!
The list of cons for this program is really, really short; so let's tackle that first before talking about the pros! I can be a pretty quick critic of computer programs which often seem to be written by someone who has never actually used that type of program, but I found SmartDraw to be exceptionally well-designed and incredibly versatile to use--no complaint there at all. I also love that they have made an Educational Edition, because while the program was designed for business uses, it fits so naturally with educational needs. Perhaps my one complaint would be that I would love to see even more templates designed for homeschool use. Yes, that is pretty greedy because it is so rich in educational content, but there are some very useful templates that could be added (such as more worksheets and templates for lapbooks). They could also set up a way for users to post and share their own templates.
It would take ten pages to describe what I like about this program, but let me hit some of the highlights. First, it is very well designed, very intuitive to use, and extremely powerful in its capabilities. One of the problems we have found with different graphic programs through the years is that they tend to be either easy to use (but not very powerful) or very tedious to use (but really powerful). SmartDraw has done an excellent job of keeping the program amazingly powerful with an incredible array of options, templates, and functions, while still making it easy enough that even fairly young children could sit down and produce a striking project. With traditional graphics programs, you have to basically design everything, and some programs have better tools to help than others. SmartDraw starts with the basic template that has everything you need for that particular type of project already built into the template. So you spend your time organizing your data instead of trying to format your project! Just about everything is customizable--from font and shapes to one of my favorites, the color themes. You can change the entire color theme with a few easy clicks. And when your project is complete, you can print it, email it to someone, save it in a variety of popular formats (such as PDF, BMP or JPEG), or even export to programs such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or WordPerfect. There are some great tools on the SmartDraw website (www.SmartDraw.com) such as tutorials, Working Smarter ideas, and an Encyclopedia of Business Graphics.
SmartDraw is by far the most amazing graphics program I've ever had the privilege of using. If you want an easy-to-use but extremely powerful graphics program that can do everything from print a worksheet to create a detailed PowerPoint presentation, you would be hard pressed to find a better option!