FlowCharter 7's templates ease chart-building

Pros and cons:
+        Easy run-through chart checking
+        Lots of templates
+        All chart text together in data window
–        Needs more computer equipment icons


Real-life requirements:
Win95 or NT, 16M RAM, CD-ROM drive, 75-MHz or faster processor


Flowcharting programs have been around as long as computer graphics. Most are just
advanced drawing programs with few intuitive links between elements, so that each new
chart has to be designed pretty much from scratch on paper.


Micrografx Inc.’s FlowCharter 7 is different. The program has templates for the 12
most common chart types, from pyramidal organization charts to complex personnel-resource
diagrams. FlowCharter 7 users have an automated starting point no matter what they want to
diagram.


Once a basic chart structure is in place, entering the data is surprisingly easy. The
best way I found was with the data field viewer, which opens in a separate frame and lets
you assign text to each object in the diagram. Like a master list of information, the data
field viewer makes editing charts fast and easy.


All the text information stays together in one place, making it far simpler to scan for
mistakes or changes than when the chart information is spread out over multiple computer
screens.


You can also resort to the usual method of entering data directly into the flowchart
objects. Click on a decision diamond and type, “Is the e-mail working?” to enter
a yes-no choice into the chart.


One of the coolest features will check completed charts for accuracy. Just as you test
a new computer program by running it, or a portion of it, FlowCharter runs your flowchart
as a sort of program. It interactively steps through, answering logical questions and
making sure the links are valid.


I found that running through flowcharts I had created made them much easier to
understand. They ceased to be words on paper and instead became an interactive decision
tree. I even found a mistake on one chart that forced an infinite logical loop.


As a bonus, FlowCharter 7 has a Web page mapper. When I typed in the uniform resource
locator of the page I wanted to map, FlowCharter began to follow the links. After about a
minute, it displayed them all in chart format.


FlowCharter 7 comes with a fair number of shapes for building charts. An extensive
technical palette has special items such as one-way circuits and numbered-pin outlets.


I would have liked to see more computer clip art. Some programs let you place, for
instance, the exact shape of a Hewlett-Packard Co. Vectra PC in a diagram. FlowCharter had
pictures of ducks, horses and a birthday cake that I can’t see fitting into any
flowchart.


If you hate charts, FlowCharter 7 will not convert you. If you use them often or have a
huge project that needs mapping out into digestible fragments, FlowCharter is a good place
to start. 

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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