Review: ConceptDraw PRO

I have reviewed ConceptDraw PROJECT and MINDMAP.

The third and final piece in the ConceptDraw Office suite is ConceptDraw PRO. This, according to the vendor, “is a powerful diagramming and drawing tool that enables users to effectively visualize and communicate information and processes.”

It’s a fancy drawing package, a bit like SmartDraw.

It’s software that produces professional-looking graphics and diagrams like flowcharts and network diagrams, instead of you relying on clip art for your presentations.

The media kit also says that it can be “used as a project whiteboard to represent necessary business and project-related data. It also provides project teams with a comprehensive tool to create WBS and track project status on a highly interactive dashboard.”

Interactive dashboard? That sounds great! There’s also an example of a project indicator presentation in the reviewer’s guide, which shows completeness and complexity in a very nice donught diagram. But I couldn’t find any reference to dashboard in the help, or in the templates. I also couldn’t find anything related to creating a work breakdown structure.

I wasn’t sure if it was me looking in the wrong place, or if the software had been oversold. You could use the pie chart feature to make a dashboard yourself, but it’s a lot of hassle (I tried) and it’s hardly interactive. I thought the purpose of a dashboard was to facilitate real-time status reporting, and designing your own graphic each time certainly doesn’t do that.

In fact, you need to have PROJECT all set up and populated with a stack of data, and then PRO will sort out your reports for you. And here is where ConceptDraw PRO really comes into its own.

You can produce dynamic reports from PROJECT and it will automatically create attractive graphical representations of any given time, in PRO. I maintain that alone PRO is not as good as other tools out there, but the ConceptDraw Office suite is designed to be highly integrated, and this is where you start to see the benefit.

I switched to trying to build a Gantt chart. I don’t know why anyone would want to use a graphics package to build a Gantt chart when there are project management tools out there that do it so much better.

The most annoying thing with this was that every task was added above the previous task, so if you think in a start-to-finish sequence like me you end up having to reshuffle all your tasks into the right order or your project schedule is effectively upside down.

It was hard to work out the keyboard shortcuts, but the Insert key (should have guessed!) gave me a new task. Delete didn’t delete it, though.

The end result was a shocker, although it looks odd partly because the whole project is scheduled to take one day as there is no automatic linking of dependencies:

This is version 8.0.3 of the software, and I still think there are plenty of improvements that could be made. Part of the problem with all graphics packages is that it takes a while to get used to the interface. I still struggle using PhotoShop, and I’ve had that for ages.

However, it is very portable. One of the common features of all the ConceptDraw Office packages is that they are highly compatible with other tools. You can export your graphics and documents into html format, a variety of image formats, or create .pdf documents on the fly. With PRO, you can also apparently use Presentation Mode to create full-screen presentations “without any need for other applications” (i.e. PowerPoint). I couldn’t find out how to do this though and again the online help was no use.

I only have a 30-day trial licence, but frankly that will be enough. I will be sticking to SmartDraw in the future as I really couldn’t get on with ConceptDraw PRO.

Right to reply: I shared this review with the team at CS Odessa, and they sent me a presentation that pointed out how that “supporting information is manageable between all 3 applications.” The interactivity between applications “supports delivery of information  in an optimal visual manner for specific audiences.”