ConceptDraw V is the latest version of the versatile drawing application. It offers a simple way to make business and technical diagrams, floorplans, sketches, and much more. It has extensive libraries of elements that can be included in diagrams – everything from maps and flags to resistors and furniture.
Odessa has completely overhauled much of its interface and graphics engine. The original was a bit clunky, but a massively useful application all the same. It has come a long way since then, but there are still niggles that remain.
The new interface was a much-needed improvement, but it’s still weighed down with a humungous amount of options. Its functionality is a double-edged sword because while it’s good to be able to do all these things, the more there are of them, the harder it is to find the tool you need. This is less of a problem once you become au fait with the interface, but that could take a while.
Another new addition is Autosave. Preferences can now be set to automatically save at intervals as short as a minute. This might seem excessive, but I had cause to use it rather more often that I should have. In testing, ConceptDraw Professional V crashed. Once is bad; twice is very bad. I crashed at least half a dozen times in the course of the day – and that’s just not on. A version-five product simply shouldn’t do this, so I decided to take another look at the version history. It turns out that the last version of ConceptDraw Pro was version 1.8, but now it’s jumped to 5.
This kind of jump isn’t unprecedented: Illustrator skipped a few numbers on its way to version 10, and other apps have done the same. But the thinking behind ConceptDraw’s massive leap is rather odd, and more than a little naïve. The last update was three or so years ago, and since then there have been some big changes – the new graphics engine, new interface, and so on. The guys figured that they had made so many improvements in the three years that had they released each update as it was made, they would be on version five now. Sorry – it doesn’t work like that. Nobody releases four whole-version upgrades in just over three years. This is ConceptDraw 2.0. It’s a fine upgrade, but it has enough bugs to warrant a 2.1 bug fix version at the double.
Whatever version this really is, it’s a powerful application. It’s easy enough to stumble around and get the pictures you want, but more-advanced users have access to tremendously useful features.
It has a built-in scripting language that enables access to databases. This will be a boon for corporate power users and anybody else with a scripting talent. Advanced users will also enjoy the ability to create custom styles, making it easy to keep diagrams looking consistent.
Another feature guaranteed to keep corporate users happy is support for XML for Visio. This lets users exchange documents seamlessly with Visio, which is a Windows-only diagramming tool. However, the use of Macs in corporate environments is relatively rare.
That said, there are dozens of libraries in 20 categories, so if you’re looking for something it’s likely to be there somewhere. There’s a lot to be said for having everything, even if it isn’t of the finest quality.
I really want to love this program. It’s made by a nice bunch of people and is capable of great things. It’s a shame that this release is marred by bugs – though the company has promised me that it’s working hard to eliminate them. The usability of the application is much improved, and the high-end database features are still in there. This could be the answer to many problems.
I would recommend waiting for this application to be finished properly, which I expect to happen soon. Once the bugs are ironed out it will be much more useful. Until then, there are other diagramming applications such as OmniGraffle that you might want to consider. OmniGraffle is a lot more Mac-like: it has a beautiful Aqua interface, is genuinely intuitive, and produces lush images. It doesn’t have some of the high-end features or the vast libraries of ConceptDraw V, but it depends what you’re looking for. For simple beauty, OmniGraffle wins; for raw power, ConceptDraw V nudges ahead.