You could use text to tell a story but according to an old Chinese proverb, a picture is worth a thousand words. (Actually, that proverb is constantly misquoted. The character in the original Chinese does not mean a thousand or even ten thousand words, but simply very many.) Studies show that people learn and retain information six times faster if they have pictures.

Pardon the wordy lead-in but what we’re talking about here is a new look at SmartDraw. This program has been around for decades and it was originally designed to create corporate organization charts. It later was advanced to do flow-charting – you know, breaking large projects into pieces and keeping track of who’s doing what and when they’ll be finished. The new SmartDraw flowcharts can show progress and problems, step by step, with pictures.

Beyond flowcharts, it creates other “business visuals–” project management charts, PowerPoint-style presentations, and so on, with timelines, sales maps, pie charts and. 67 other elements. Everything in the 2013 version can be shared with others, just by emailing them a link. In the bad old days (like last year), the charts were only clickable to people who also had SmartDraw on their computers. Now everything can be viewed online, even PowerPoint-style presentations.

Charting Your Brain:  We used the program to create what the company calls a “mind map.” This is a brainstorming layout that uses visuals to help organize your thoughts and solve problems. You enter information in expandable boxes shown on-screen and lines are drawn between the ones that seem to be connected. An unlimited amount of information can be poured into each box. The map realigns itself when you delete or move a box and automatically redraws the lines between boxes. Novelists might find this approach useful.

There’s a 7-day free trial version of the $197 program at smartdraw.com.


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