Visio vs. Smartdraw - Best software for flow charts on an intranet


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SmartDraw is a much better, and cheaper, choice.

FYI - From the List serve:


From: Nancy Jennejohn
Date: Tue, 31 Jul 2001 10:25:59 -0500
Subject: Re: Flowcharts on Intranet /Lewis/Humphries

From: "Edwin Humphries"

> From: Peter Lewis
> We have created our Processes in Visio 2000 Flowchart format.
> We are now looking for the best method to distribute them over our
> Intranet. We have a webpage that represents our Quality Manual and
> would like to link from that page to the top level flowchart and then
> have further links to other flowcharts and text documents.
> We are presently looking at three options;
> 1. To import the flowcharts as GIF files into a webpage for each. 2.
> Save each as html. Creating the hyperlinks first in Visio. 3. Save as
> pdf. Creating the links in Adobe Acrobat.
> Any comments or information on the best approach would be most
> welcome.


Having been down this path, some learnings:

* Don't use the GIF export facilities in Visio, they're appalling. Use the HTML export - it still results in GIFs, but with much better consistency.

* Don't use the HTML files that Visio generates unless you can ensure that all browsers are frames capable and have full Javascript support turned on. Also The Visio files are generic, and may not be compatible with how you want to use them or the company's style.

* Don't create the links in Visio. They are often misplaced by quite a degree.

* When using Visio-generated GIFs in a browser, ensure you have graphics editing facilities, as they generally need cropping to remove an errant wide border. Also, if you're trying to match different pages in terms of size, you may need to resample graphics to get them to match up.

I can't comment about Acrobat (other than size of files, as they're TIFFs), but our process to use HTML is: export the file as a HTML page from Visio; import the GIF (only) into a DreamWeaver file template; crop the graphic using PhotoImpact, then save it using PhotoImpact's SmartSaver (to cut the file size down by around 75%), create the links using Dreamweaver's built-in Image Map Editor. This creates files that are very compliant (run on just about every browser), small and fast loading, and very consistent in layout and appearance.

Best Regards
Edwin Humphries


Fully vaccinated are you?
Related comment:


1. GIF. Pros: handles graphics well, and simple graphics are small and will load relatively quickly. Cons: except for simple graphics, files tend to be large and take a long time to load.

2. HTML. Pros: tends to load quickly. Cons: I don't think it handles graphics directly. However, if VISIO will export in this format, it's worth considering.

3. PDF. Pros: handles graphics well, and no apparent penalty for large, complex graphics. Cons: no penalty for large, complex graphics means no benefit for small, simple graphics. Viewing requires launching the viewer, which adds to download time. Also, documents do not seem to "scroll" the way they do in the other formats.

4. JPG. Pros: I think it handles graphics more efficiently than GIF. Cons: Maybe it doesn't handle graphics and/or VISIO will not export in this format. If VISIO will export in this format, it's worth considering.

Bottom line: it might be worth your time to export a representative selection of flow charts in all formats that VISIO allows, and then simply compare them to see which works best for you.

Doug Pfrang


I have been using Acrobat to distribute documents, drawing, etc. internally and it works quite well. The file sizes are reasonably small, especially when any graphics are involved. One advantage is that the pdf file can be created from any application and the user needs only to have Reader to look at the document.

Even B and C sized AutoCad drawings seem to scale down without much loss of detail.

Mike Arthur


Fully vaccinated are you?
Date: Wed, 1 Aug 2001 16:00:06 -0500
Subject: Re: Flowcharts on Intranet /Lewis/Pfrang/Humphries

From: Edwin


I have to disagree with some of the points you've raised here (sorry to get technical):


GIF is limited to a 256 colour palette but it can be defined to as little as Black & White (2 colour) or any point in between. JPEG must always be 12 million colours (the name says it: the file format was developed by the Joint Photographic Experts Group), and when a graphic has only two colours, it still extends it to a 12 million colour palette.

Both are compressed formats, but GIF also provides its compression "losslessly", whereas JPEG degrades the image in the compression process (and achieves greater compression as a result).

GIF also allows for the use of transparent backgrounds (allowing greater formatting flexibility), whereas JPEG does not.

For normal flowcharts, where it's unlikely more than about 16 colours will be used, GIFs are quite satisfactory. The problem is that Visio always exports GIFs with a 256 colour palette, ensuring that each pixel of the graphics requires 8 bits to describe it; reducing it to 16 colours reduces this to 4 bits, which almost halves the size of the file.

If Visio would export in PNG format, it would be even better, as it losslessly extends the advantages of the GIF format to 12 million colours, and with better compression.


You're right in one sense, that HTML files link to graphics, without containing them. This has the advantage of keeping file size to a minimum whilst still allowing quite good use of graphical effects - witness the internet.


The file size, when compared to intelligently written HTML/GIF combinations, is around 5 times bigger; that combines with the viewer load time, as you've pointed out. However, if printing a document (e.g., a form) is a priority, then PDF is your best bet - it's still less than half the file size of the original (e.g., MS Word) file, and has the advantage of greater security: most PCs have Word, and if you're downloading the Word file, people can change it before printing; however, very few people have the PDF Writer, and the changes you can make are quite limited anyway.

Best Regards
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