Unless you're a professional illustrator, sophisticated drawing programs such as Adobe Illustrator may be too complex, not to mention too expensive, for your needs. ConceptDraw 1.5.5 is an inexpensive drawing application that lets you do traditional drafting, technical diagramming, and even Web-page development. It includes novel features not normally found in drawing programs, such as a programming language, and runs equally well on both Mac and Windows platforms.
ConceptDraw's suite of drawing tools is both eclectic and practical. You can make ordinary line drawings with CAD-style dimensioning; technical charts; painted objects with solid, shaded, and gradient fills; and documents with mixed drawing styles in multiple layers. ConceptDraw's Smart Connectors feature -- not found in more expensive programs, such as Illustrator -- lets you draw flowcharts and organizational diagrams with interconnecting lines that follow objects when you move them, with lines automatically rerouting around other objects in the diagram.
ConceptDraw's objects are much more functional than those of traditional illustration programs. Each object has an associated table of properties, so, for example, you can associate a resizing control handle with an object that lets you directly manipulate the object's size, orientation, and other characteristics.
ConceptDraw's programming language features mathematical operators that let you use objects to solve numerical problems or to control user interaction. For example, you can create a 3-D chart that automatically graphs data values from a file the user selects. You can also redefine the meaning of double-clicking on any object -- to execute a ConceptDraw program or to link to a URL. By creating templates and predefined projects, you can encapsulate a set of ConceptDraw documents into a ready-to-run application.
ConceptDraw includes a library of nearly 2,000 predrawn objects organized into task-oriented libraries; you can add to these libraries or create your own. The program can import and export a variety of formats -- PICT, BMP, JPEG, metafile, GIF, HTML, and EPS -- and can interact with other programs through Microsoft's Object Linking and Embedding. You can even e-mail documents from within ConceptDraw. The program's HTML export lets you design and output all the components of a Web page.
The program is very responsive, and its functions are well-organized in a series of tool bars. However, the process of opening and closing documents was often very sluggish, taking a minute or more on a 500MHz G3.