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September 12, 2007

Comments

Stéphane Bergeron

Thank you for the review of SmartDraw 2008. I am very new to the world of mind mapping myself and have done a lot of trials and reasearch before settling on an application that fit my needs as I understand them.

I am a Web designer and developer and I immediately saw the benefits of mind mapping to channel creativity, plan projects, create documentation and client deliverables as well manage the process.

I've purchased your tips & strategies eBook and I'm looking through the MindJet Project Management JetPack right now. Yes, the mind mapping application I settled on is MindManager.

All this to put my comments on SMartDraw 2008 in perspective because it's one of the applications I tried. I agree with you that its mind mapping abilitites are lightweight at best. But for me, SMartDraw might have been a compelling choice anyway as it is a great alternative to Visio for flow charting and diagramming which is oftent part of the planning phase of Web projects. SmartDraw is a very capable and elegant applications in that respect and you just have to look at its competition to see how much so.

But in any case, what turned me off SmartDraw as well as other "pure" mind mapping applications is their very weak export features. For several of them, Microsoft Office integration is limited to exporting a static bitmap image of your entire map (or diagram) inside a Word or PowerPoint document. No outline, not native objects, nothing but a static image.

In comparison, the better mind mapping applications have detailed Word export (MindManager was the best I tried in that respect), great Powerpoint export, MS Project native files and in some cases, even interactive maps. In that category, MindManager, PersonalBrain and FreeMind are amongst the best.

At the end of the day, the real power of mind mapping for me is to be able to "masssage" or reuse the information entered in maps in other forms. What's the use of tagging topics with icons, add notes or relationships when that data is not esported in a meaningful manner to other forms?

Anyway, I'm sorry for the long comment but for me, exporting features are the most glaring weakness of many mind mapping and diagramming applications. It can be forgiven when the app costs $29.95 (Varatek's MindApp) but not when it costs over $300 (SmartDraw).

Thanks again for the review and for this site. It's a great mine of information for a mind mapping newbie like me...

Paul Stannard

Thanks for the nice comments about SmartDraw 2008 Stéphane, but I'd like to correct you on the actually very strong export features from SmartDraw to Office and other programs.

SmartDraw has "one-click" buttons that transfer your whole drawing to Word, PowerPoint and Excel with (as the name suggests) a single click, but you are are not limited to this.

Normal selection, followed by copy and then paste will transfer any part of your drawing to Office or any other program that supports Paste.

The format used to transfer the image is also not a bitmap. Its an either OLE object, or Enhanced Metafile, depending on the client. You can use Paste Special to paste in a variety of formats if you choose.

You can also export to PDF (with a one-click button) without the need for Acrobat. SmartDraw supports many other export formats including EPS, JPG etc.

The latest PowerPoint 2007 uses a bitmap to represent an OLE object and so SmartDraw 2008 switches to EMF format using the one-click button to avoid this. This was not true with SD 2007, so perhaps this was what you observed.

Stéphane Bergeron

Thanks for your corrections Paul. Indeed, most of my trial time was spent with SmartDraw 2007 and not 2008. I tried 2008 briefly on another computer and at that point, strong mind mapping features were becoming a much more important criteria for me. In that respect, SmartDraw does well but really cannot compare to the top mind mapping applications.

To clarify my comments about exporting, you have to know that, for me, inserting a WMF or EMF inside a word or Powerpoint doc is no more helpful than a bitmap. If I add links to a diagram or mind map and export it, I need those links to be active in either Word, Powerpoint or PDF format.

For example, when I export a map from MindManager for example, I get a real text outline of the map's data, links are working, icons are exported separately and embedded by themselves and I even get a Table of Content (TOC) if I want. I can also map all outline/topic levels to specific header styles in any Word template I choose from the MindManager Word exporter. In other word, I don't get just 1 solid "image" of my map in whatever format (bitmap or metafile). See the difference? See the added benefits in flexibility, especially when it comes to giving clients deliverables to sign off on like a project specs document? MindManager's PowerPoint's export is equally detailed.

Unless I really missed something obvious, even SmartDraw 2008 doesn't offer this kind of exporting flexibility and if it does, I'd really like to know how.

But otherwise, SmartDraw is indeed a very nice application and I have not entirely given up on it yet because it could really be useful to me as well for "regular" diagramming and flowcharting work. Thanks again!

Paul Stannard

You are correct that SmartDraw does not export a text outline to Word Stéphane, but this a great suggestion for an enhancement. Thanks, we'll take a look at this.

As a business graphics program, that can be used for much more than mind maps, what SmartDraw does do well is export images to Office. [Just as well, or even better we believe with our one click buttons,than Visio].

Thanks again for the suggestion.

(BTW, I keep saying "we" because I am the founder of SmartDraw.)

Stéphane Bergeron

Nice to make your acquaintance Paul. You may not know this but I've already had a good email exchange with someone on your staff (Craig Justice) after I sent some comments through your site during my SmartDraw trial.

If you are interested, I would love to talk to you further because I have other ideas that would make SmartDraw better than Visio in other areas for a lot of people in the Web design business, (information architects, designer, user experience designers, etc) but if the focus of SmartDraw is more as a general public aimed business graphics app and you do not want to spread its scope much more then you may not have much use for my ideas.

I would not want to hijack Mr. Frey's blog any further for this though so, if you are interested, just send me a message here:

http://www.pixelyzed.com/contact.cfm

Lorin Sutton

With regard to Mind Mapping, I actually chose to go with SmartDraw because it offered a mind mapping component plus so much more. Unfortunately, upon using SD for mind mapping, I found that it really wasn't very helpful. There are three areas that I think would significantly strengthen SD's offering though.

First, I strongly reinforce Stephanie's suggestion to provide an export to outline format. Without the ability to reduce the mind map to an outline, it is nearly impossible to print or share a larger map with my colleagues. (Even those who do use SD find it difficult to navigate in map mode all the time.)

Second, there needs to be a smoother ability to manage objects with relation to one another. I found a number of times when I went to move a node from one location to another and instead it just broke off becoming another main topic. Very clunky.

Third, offer a way to number nodes and child nodes.

Although SD does a fine job of emulating a working mind map, IMHO it fails to really capture the base functionality of one.

Thanks for your consideration.

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