by Gordon Sellers
If you are familiar with ABC FlowCharter, be aware that the product name has changed. The company has dropped the "ABC" moniker and added the company name.
Micrografx FlowCharter 7 is one of the most complete flowcharting programs; carry-over features from previous versions include shape numbering, intelligent line routing, automatic insert/delete shape, and reconnect line and automatic line crossovers. Data fields can be "assigned" to shapes and lines to track information relevant to the diagram representation. The data values for the associated shapes appear on the diagram, along with a shape that holds summary information for the whole chart. Hierarchically linked levels of diagrams can be created for "drilling down" into a process. The data fields on all levels can be summarized up to higher levels. Further analysis can be done in the statistical charting tools, included with the product.
There are more than 3,800 predefined symbols organized into task-specific collections, such as standard ANSI, network and technical symbols, and clip art. All symbols are accessible via a new Media Manager, which provides easy navigation through the symbols and allows users to browse and keyword-search to locate a required symbol quickly. Customized symbols and personal collections can also be created.
In addition to drawing flowcharts, process maps, organization charts and other types of business diagrams, FlowCharter offers a platform for creating customized diagramming environments. Customized templates, shapes and applications can be created and distributed throughout an organization. Templates can be used to constrain layouts and save user settings such as page-formatting information.
Micrografx FlowCharter 7 has more than 500 published OLE (object linking and embedding) automation APIs (application programmable interfaces) and events, and includes Visual Basic script with a built-in script editor. Using the APIs and Visual Basic, customized applications can be developed for on-line tutorials, decision support tools, front-end graphical displays for production monitoring, front-end graphical forms to query corporate databases and as an integrated component of any Microsoft Office 97 application.
Micrografx FlowCharter 7's new Living FlowCharts functionality allows users to transform finished diagrams into ones that others can interact with on-screen. By clicking on the Run Flowchart icon from the standard toolbar, people can use their mouse or keyboard to navigate through flow diagrams interactively.
By selecting the Run Flowchart icon on the toolbar, a user interacts with shapes and data fields in a flowchart via a series of dialogues that represent each shape in the diagram. Each line coming out of a shape represents a path that the Living FlowChart can travel. Each path is offered as a button in the dialog for the user to choose from. Additionally, data fields can be assigned to shapes and lines.
The Shape Action Wizard allows Living FlowCharts creators to apply the most likely scenarios to flowcharts by applying actions to shapes and paths. This allows flowchart users to look at a dialog and make decisions, or make the charts run automatically based on user input.
Also new are CoolSheets, templates that provide predefined structured diagram layouts requiring users only to drag-and-drop shapes into a grid, type in their text and connect shapes with lines, if necessary. Users can then edit their diagrams with FlowCharter's new illustration tools.
Other new features include the ability to edit shape properties directly on-screen, a start-up dialog, an arbitrary shape and text rotation tool, and a full complement of drawing tools.
Minimum system requirements: For Windows 95: 486DX or faster; 8 MB RAM (16 MB recommended); 32&endash;86 MB hard-disk space; VGA or better monitor; CD-ROM drive. For Windows NT 4.0: Pentium processor, 16&endash;24 MB RAM; 32&endash;86 MB hard-disk space; VGA or better monitor; CD-ROM drive.
Price: Retail price is $299.95. However, an upgrade is available for $129.95. Upgrade pricing is available to people who own prior versions of ABC FlowCharter or any competitive diagramming or flowcharting application. Micrografx FlowCharter 7 comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.