Kelley Rating (one asterisk = lowest, five asterisks = highest):

  • Ease of navigation, design of interface and learning curve *****
  • Instructional documentation and help system ****
  • Carries out the goal of the product as advertised *****
  • Overall usefulness *****

 

SmartDraw 2012 is described by its publisher as a Visual Processor that is more than a traditional diagram and graphics creation program. The program basically gives you the ability to prepare the usual flow charts, as well as mind maps, organizational charts, PowerPoint charts, timelines and much more. The latest versions contain substantial improvements including: enhancements to plan, compose and manage PowerPoint presentations; compose visuals to assist in meetings; construct internal visual communication for your organization; and prepare project management visuals, including mind maps. It includes handy templates and clip-art to assist in the efficient preparation of effective visuals. Pre-prepared templates are available for a wide variety of uses and the program can also be used as a stand-alone drawing tool. Your work can be saved in the standard graphics formats including JPEG, PDF, HTML and AutoCAD Interchange. You can even add photos to your organization charts.

 

The program comes in the Standard Edition, covering the above described features, the Business Edition, that enhances the creation of PowerPoint presentations and allows users to integrate their visuals with SharePoint and the Enterprise Edition, that adds the ability to import from and export to Microsoft Project’s file format and to import from Microsoft Visio.

 

Project charts have been enhanced to work efficiently, even with a large number of tasks and projects that have an extensive time frame. Project charts automatically fit on a single page with an intuitive floating toolbar that lets you control the level of detail and scroll through large charts. Other features allow you to create timelines using newly overhauled automatic controls, with events and tasks automatically lined up.

 

SmartDraw 2012 also integrates with PowerPoint. It allows you to easily add a visual to PowerPoint with built-in automatic sequencing. You may even create an entire PowerPoint presentation in SmartDraw 2012.

 

Collaboration is a major element of this software. The new “Assignment” view lets you see who is doing what on a project, with the progress for each task, and with the task color coded to show its status. It also displays the person assigned to each task and the duration of the tasks entered.

 

The categories available that are relevant to the Trusts & Estates practice include: “Charts & Graphs,” “Flowchart,” “Hubs,” “Meetings,” “Mind Map,” “Network Diagram,” “Org Chart,” “Presentation,” “Project Chart,” “Timeline,” and many more. For the specialized estate practice, SmartDraw offers prepared diagrams and textual pages for “Estate Planning,” “Inheritance Planning,” “Tax Planning,” “Transfer of Assets” and “Trusts.” “Estate Planning,” for example, includes diagrams illustrating basic A/B trust planning, an estate planning checklist, an estate planning mind map, probate and living trust funding comparison and a list of estate planning steps. “Trusts” includes diagrams of charitable lead and remainder trusts, credit shelter trust, dynasty trust, irrevocable life insurance trust and a diagram of types of irrevocable trusts. You may alter or build on any of these pre-prepared visuals.  Under the “Paralegal Practice” category, the charts include, “Glossary of Terms for Estate Planning,” “Handling a Conservatorship,” “Handling an Estate Matter,” “Probating an Estate” and “Types of Trusts.”

 

How Does It Work?

 

The SmartDraw 2012 screen displays a list of the program tasks by category, including ones you have recently visited and popular categories, in a narrow left hand pane (called the SmartPanel). The right hand pane displays visuals of the various processes available at each category. Navigation is intuitive and visual with extensive use of graphics. You initiate activity by clicking on a task in the SmartPanel or by launching a pre-constructed visual and typing text into it. Each element of the visual you are working on is automatically sized to fit on one page for more efficient designing.

 

When you click on a process, the screen reveals a left hand pane of resources with which to build a visual for the process, a right hand pane where the process visual is displayed where you may work on it and a ribbon at the top of tools that you may apply as you construct your visual. The right hand pane for each process offers a SmartPanel, which is a series of shortcuts to aid construction of your visual and a Library of components to apply to your visual. Above the top ribbon is a horizontal list of activities that let you refine the design of your visual; insert pictures, notes, hyperlinks, objects, equations or Excel charts; adjust the components of the page you are working on, such as rulers and grids; enter a table; open or capture pictures and graphics; export to PowerPoint; and add comments to your visual. You may export your visual to Microsoft Word, PowerPoint,  Excel and as a PDF file.

 

For example, in the “FlowChart” category, the SmartPanel lets you choose shapes, create paths to shapes and adjust the spacing between shapes. From the “Home” ribbon you select the components of your diagram, including color, arrowheads, line configurations, text, styles and fill details. You can easily enter new steps to the diagram and direct their positioning from the SmartPanel. When you add a shape, the program places it correctly on the page of your visual and draws a line to connect it to the previous step. You may select colors, line weights and typefaces or overall themes, as you choose.

 

The “Mind Map” enables you to plan projects, allocate tasks within a project and convert the results into a project (Gantt) chart. The program provides a comprehensive view of the status and progress of each chart for project management.

 

What About Help and Support?

 

Clicking on “? Help” in the upper right corner opens a context sensitive help pane on the right side of the screen that provides extensive instruction and information on whatever process you have open on the screen.

 

Support is available by email at any time or by telephone during working hours.

 

A guided tour video may be launched from the SmartDraw 2012 home page, and videos displaying specialized functions of the program are also available. From the “Training” page on the SmartDraw 2012 website you may view step-by-step instructions on creation of the various types of visuals presented by the program, as well as a comprehensive encyclopedia with descriptions of each of the visual functions of the program. You may also arrange for a live training session.

 

The publisher maintains an extensive blog that is indexed by recent posts and by categories.

 

Where Do You Get This Product?

 

SmartDraw Software, LLC
9909 Mira Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92131
Phone: 800-768-3729 (toll-free)
Phone: 858-225-3300
Fax: 858-225-3385   

Website:  http://www.smartdraw.com/

 

Pricing is $297 for the Standard edition, $397 for the Business edition and $597 for the Enterprise edition. You may download SmartDraw 2012 for a 7 day free trial.

 

Bottom Line

 

SmartDraw 2012 is both intuitive to use and unusually comprehensive in the visual creations that it furnishes. It provides you with a wide variety of tools to create visually appealing presentations and task management schemes. 

 

 

Trusts & Estates magazine is pleased to present the monthly Technology Review by Donald H. Kelley—a respected connoisseur of the software and Internet resources wealth management advisors use to further their practices.

 

Kelley is a lawyer living in Highlands Ranch, Colo. and is of counsel to the law firm of Kelley, Scritsmier & Byrne, P.C. of North Platte, Neb. He is the co-author of the Intuitive Estate PlannerSoftware, (Thomson – West 2004). He has served on the governing boards of the American Bar Association Real Property Probate and Trust Section and the American College of Tax Counsel. He is a past regent and past chair of the Committee on Technology in the Practice of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.

 

Trusts & Estates has asked Kelley to provide his unvarnished opinions on the tech resources available in the practice today. His columns are edited for readability only. Send feedback and suggestions for articles directly to him at don@dhkelley.com.